Once Upon an Uptime: ABB “Future-Proofs” Aluminum Mill’s Production Capabilities

September 07, 2023 by Damond Goodwin

ABB is working with Novelis to increase the reliability and productivity of its largest hot-roll sheet processing mill in the U.S.

ABB, a top robotics, control, and automation manufacturer, is also an innovative supplier of variable frequency drives (VFDs). ABB’s reputation for engineering excellence is well known. Producing everything from small, low-voltage drives to multi-megawatt medium-voltage drives, ABB has extensive experience applying its technology across many industries, including metal manufacturing and fabrication.


ABB Works With Novelis to Upgrade Hot Rolling Sheet-Fab Operations

Novelis is a top global aluminum manufacturer and recycler. In late 2021, the company announced plans to invest $130 million to significantly upgrade its Oswego, New York mill, the company’s largest facility in the U.S. Looking for a partner to meet its extensive optimization goals, Novelis engaged ABB to optimize the facility.


About Novelis and the Oswego Mill

In its press release, Novelis said it wanted to upgrade its operations to meet growing customer demand for sustainable, aluminum flat-rolled products. The plant supplies aluminum sheet metal to many different industries including:

  • Automotive
  • Canning 
  • Baking
  • Construction
  • Marine
  • Aerospace

According to Novelis, the multi-million dollar investment includes upgrades to Oswego’s hot reversing mill motors and drive train, hot-finishing mill coolant systems, as well as enhancements to its batch annealing capabilities. Novelis' goal is to reduce energy use by 10 percent by 2026 in pursuit of more sustainable, reliable operations. Novelis explained their investment is intended to further strengthen the plant's prominence as a leader in recycling post-industrial aluminum waste by increasing the amount of recycled aluminum across its product lines.

To “futureproof” the mill, ABB is targeting and replacing obsolete or outdated equipment with new:

  • Switchgear
  • Transformers
  • Medium voltage drives
  • Medium voltage synchronous motors
  • Motor control centers
  • Auxiliary controls


One of ABB’s medium voltage synchronous motors destined for Novelis’ Oswego mill. 

One of ABB’s medium voltage synchronous motors destined for Novelis’ Oswego mill. Image used courtesy of ABB


ABB Variable Frequency Drives in the Metal Industry

Featuring direct torque control (DTC), ABB drives deliver precise speed and torque control without sacrificing performance. ABB’s drives also capture and reuse braking energy, something that helps promote energy efficiency and reduce costs for manufacturers. 

All of these things are important, especially to those in metal forging, sheet-rolling, and fabricating businesses, that require the highest levels of reliability and productivity. According to ABB, it hopes to help drive sustainability through more efficient equipment while enhancing safety and optimizing production at the same time.

According to ABB, many of Novelis’ customers come to them specifically to supply circle-cut aluminum plate in bulk. These “disks” of aluminum are produced by rolling the red-hot sheet to a precise thickness and then stamping or cutting out the circular forms. Although this all sounds simple, there is considerable motion control required to fabricate circle-cut plate. Next time you bake a pie in an aluminum pan made in the USA, think of Novelis.

To cover all the bases, ABB incorporated more than 400 modernization references to specifically tailor a package that meets Novelis’ needs and business goals. All control and equipment upgrades, said ABB, are being carefully integrated into current control system components, including non-ABB control devices. With the help of ABB, Novelis expects the project and upgrades will be ready for commissioning by the end of 2023.


A look at the ABB ACS6080 drives destined for efficiency at Novelis' hot rolling facility in Oswego, New York.

A look at the ABB ACS6080 drive ready to deliver new efficiency to Novelis' hot rolling facility in Oswego, New York. Image used courtesy of ABB.


Plant and facility engineers worked closely with ABB’s experts to help streamline and execute the modernization program. As the world's largest aluminum recycler, Novelis maintains that its supply chain delivers on all its sustainability commitments, which both the city of Oswego and its customers no doubt appreciate. "By investing in modern, energy-efficient upgrades in Oswego, we aim to sustain and grow important partnerships with our valued customers," said Tom Boney, EVP and President, Novelis North America. "These upgrades also strengthen Novelis' ability to thrive in Oswego as a great place to work and a partner to the community."