How Alcoa Canned the Cost of Recycling

Alcoa is one of the world?s largest aluminium smelting and casting multinationals, and involves itself in everything from tin cans, to jet engines to single-forged hulls for combat vehicles. Energy costs represent 26% of the company?s total refining costs, while electricity contributes 27% of primary production outlays. Its Barberton Ohio plant shaved 30% off both energy use and energy cost, after a capital outlay of just $21 million, which for it, is a drop in the bucket.

Aluminium smelting is so expensive that some critics describe the product as ?solid electricity?. In simple terms, the method used is electrolysis whereby current passes through the raw material in order to decompose it into its component chemicals. The cryolite electrolyte heats up to 1,000 degrees C (1,832 degrees F) and converts the aluminium ions into molten metal. This sinks to the bottom of the vat and is collected through a drain. Then they cast it into crude billets plugs, which when cooled can be re-smelted and turned into useful products.

The Alcoa Barberton factory manufactures cast aluminium wheels across approximately 50,000 square feet (4,645 square meters) of plant. It had been sending its scrap to a sister company 800 miles away; who processed it into aluminium billets – before sending them back for Barberton to turn into even more wheels. By building its own recycling plant 60 miles away that was 30% more efficient, the plant halved its energy costs: 50% of this was through process engineering, while the balance came from transportation.

The transport saving followed naturally. The recycling savings came from a state-of-the-art plant that slashed energy costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Interestingly enough, processing recycled aluminium uses just 5% of energy needed to process virgin bauxite ore. Finally, aluminium wheels are 45% lighter than steel, resulting in an energy saving for Alcoa Barberton?s customers too.

The changes helped raise employee awareness of the need to innovate in smaller things too, like scheduling production to increase energy efficiency and making sure to gather every ounce of scrap. The strategic change created 30 new positions and helped secure 350 existing jobs.

The direction that Barberton took in terms of scrap metal recycling was as simple as it was effective. The decision process was equally straightforward. First, measure your energy consumption at each part of the process, then define the alternatives, forecast the benefits, confirm and implement. Of course, you also need to be able to visualise what becomes possible when you break with tradition.

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The Matrix Management Structure

Organizations exploit matrix management in various ways. A company, for instance, that operates globally uses it at larger scale by giving consistent products to various countries internationally. A business entity, having many products, does not assign its people to each product full-time but assign those to different ones on a part time basis, instead. And when it comes to delivering high quality and low cost products, companies overcome industry pressures with the help of many overseeing managers. In a rapidly changing environment, organizations respond quickly by sharing information through a matrix model.

Understanding the Matrix Management Structure

A basic understanding of matrix management starts with the three key roles and responsibilities that applies in the structure.

  • Matrix Leader ? The common person above all the matrix bosses is the matrix leader. He ensures that the balance of power is maintained in the entire organization by delegating decisions and promoting collaboration among the people.
  • Matrix Managers ? The managers cooperate with each other by defining the respective activities that they are responsible for.
  • Matrix Employees – The employees have lesser direct authority but has more responsibilities. They resolve differing demands from more than one matrix managers while they work things out upwards. Their loyalty must be dual and their relationships with managers must be maintained.

Characteristics of a Matrix Structure

Here are some features that define the matrix management structure:

  • Hybrid Structure ?The matrix structure is a mix of functional and project organization. Since it is a combination of these two, matrix management is hybrid in nature.
  • Functional Manager ? When it comes to the technical phases of the project, the functional manager assumes responsibility. The manager decides on how to get the project done, delegates the tasks to the subordinates and oversees the operational parts of the organization.
  • Project Manager ? The project manager has full authority in the administrative phases, including the physical and financial resources needed to complete the project. The responsibilities of a project manager comprise deciding on what to do, scheduling the work, coordinating the activities to diverse functions and evaluating over-all project performance.
  • Specialization ?As the functional managers concentrate on the technical factors, the project managers focus on administrative ones. Thus, in matrix management, there is specialization.
  • Challenge in Unity of Command ? Companies that employs matrix management usually experience a problem when it comes to the unity of command. This is largely due to the conflicting orders from the functional and project managers.

Types of Matrix Structure

The matrix management structure can be classified according to the level of power of the project manager. Here are three distinct types of matrix structures that are widely used by organizations.

  • Weak Matrix ? The project manager has limited authority and power as the functional manager controls the budget of the project. His role is only part-time and more like a coordinator.
  • Strong Matrix ? Here, the project manager has almost all the authority and power. He controls the budget, holds the full time administrative project management and has a full time role.
  • Balanced Matrix ? In this structure type, both the project and functional managers control the budget of the project. The authority and power is shared by the two as well. Although the project manager has a full time role, he only has a part time authority for the administrative staff to report under his leadership.

Successful companies of today venture more on enhancing the abilities, skills, behavior and performances of their managers than the pursuit of finding the best physical structure. Indeed, learning the fundamentals of the matrix structure is essential to maximize its efficiency. A senior executive pointed out that one of the challenges in matrix management is not more of building a structure but in creating the matrix to the mind of the managers. This comes to say that matrix management is not just about the structure, it is a frame in the mind.

Introduction to Matrix Management

A leader is responsible to empower his people and get the best out of them. Yet an organisational structure can either help or hamper performance. Worst, it can make or break success.

Looking at the fast-changing world of the global economy, whatsoever slows up and obstructs decision-making is a challenge. Hierarchical management is rather unattractive and functional silos are unlikable. Instead, employees desire to create teams equipped with flexibility, cooperation and coordination.

Recognising that companies have both vertical and horizontal chains of command, the matrix model is created. The concept of this principle lies in the ability to manage the collaboration of people across various functions and achieve strategic objectives through key projects.

Consider this scenario:

Ian is a sales executive of a company. His role is to sell a new product under the supervision of a product manager. The manager is expert about the product and she is accountable to coordinate the people across the organisation, making sure the product is achieved.

Moreover, Ian also reports to the sales manager who oversees his overall performance, monitors his pay and benefits and guides his personal development.

Complicated it may seem but this set-up is common to companies that seek to maximise the effect of expert product managers, without compromising the function of the staffing overhead in control of the organisation. This is a successful approach to management known as Matrix Management.

Matrix Management Defined

Matrix management is a type of organisational management wherein employees of similar skills are shared for work assignments. Simply stated, it is a structure in which the workforce reports to multiple managers of different roles.

For example, a team of engineers work under the supervision of their department head, which is the engineering manager. However, the same people from the engineering department may be assigned to other projects where they report to the project manager. Thus, while working on a designated project, each engineer has to work under various managers to accomplish the job.

Historical Background

Although some critics say that matrix management was first adopted in the Second World War, its origins can be traced more reliably to the US space programme of the 1960’s when President Kennedy has drawn his vision of putting a man on the moon. In order to accomplish the objective, NASA revolutionised its approach on the project leading to the consequent birth of ?matrix organisation?. This strategic method facilitated the energy, creativity and decision-making to triumph the grand vision.

In the 1970’s, matrix organisation received huge attention as the only new form of organisation in the twentieth century. In fact it was applied by Digital Equipment, Xerox, and Citibank. Despite its initial success, the enthusiasm of corporations with regards to matrix organisation declined in the 1980’s, largely because it was complex.

Furthermore, the drive for motivating people to work creatively and flexibly has only strengthened. And by the 1990’s, the evolution of matrix management geared towards creation and empowerment of virtual teams that focused on customer service and speedy delivery.

Although all forms of matrix has loopholes and flaws, research says that until today, matrix management is still the leading approach used by companies to achieve organisational goals.

The General Data Protection Regulation & The Duty to use Encryption

The General Data Protection Regulation, abbreviated to GDPR, raised a storm when it arrived. In reality, it merely tightened up on existing good practice according to digital security specialists Gemalto. The right to withhold consent and to be forgotten has always been there, for example. However, the GDPR brings a free enforcement service for consumers, thus avoiding the need for third party, paid assistance.

The GDPR Bottom Lines for Data Security
Moreover, the GDPR has penalties it can apply, of the order that might have a judge choking on his wig. Under it, data security measures such as pseudonymisation (substitution of identifying fields) and encryption (encoding including password protection) have become mandatory. Businesses must further respect their client data by:

a) Storing it in a secure environment supported by robust services and systems

b) Having proven measures to restore availability and access after a breach

c) Being able to prove frequent effectiveness testing of these measures.

The General Data Protection Regulation places an onus on businesses to report any data breaches. This places us in a difficult situation. We must either face at least a wrist slap upon reporting failures. Alternatively, pay a fine of up to ?10 million, or 2% of total worldwide annual turnover.

The Engineered Weak Link in the System
Our greatest threat of breach is probably when the data leaves our secure environment, and travels across cyberspace to an employee, stakeholder, collaborator, or the client themselves. Since email became open to attack, businesses and individuals have turned to sharing platforms like Dropbox, Google Drive, Skydrive, and so on. While these do allow an additional layer of password protection, none of these has proved foolproof. The GDPR may still fine us heavily, whether or not we are to blame for the actual breach.

How Hacking is Approaching Being a Science
We may make a mistake we may regret, if we do not take hacking seriously. The 10 worst data hacks Identity Force lists are proof positive that spending lots of money does not guarantee security (any more than having the biggest stock of nuclear weapons). We have to be smart, and start thinking the way that hackers do.

Hacker heaven is finding an Experian or a Dun & Bradstreet that may have shielded 143 million, and 33 million consumer records respectively, behind a single, flimsy cyber-security door. Ignorance is no excuse for them. They should simply have known better. They should have rendered consumer data unreadable at individual record level. The hackers could have found this too demanding to unpick, and have looked elsewhere.

How Data Encryption Can Help Prevent Hackers Succeeding
Encrypting data is dashboard driven, and businesses need not concern themselves about it works. There are, however, a few basic decisions they must take:

a) Purge the database of all information held without explicit permission

b) Challenge the need for the remaining data and purge the nice-to-haves

c) Adopt a policy of encrypting access at business and customer interfaces

d) Register with three freemium encryption services that seem acceptable

e) After experimenting, sign up for a premium service and be prepared to pay

Factors to Consider When Reaching a Decision
Life Hacker?suggests the following criteria although the list is a one-size-fits-all

a) Is the system fast, simple, and easy to operate

b) Can you encrypt hidden volumes within volumes

c) Can you mass-encrypt a batch of files easily

d) Do all other files remain encrypted when you open one

e) Do files automatically re-encrypt when you close them

f) How confident are you with the vendor, on a scale of 1 to 10

It may be wise to encrypt all the files on your system, and not just your customer data. We are always open to a hack by the competition after our strategic planning. If we leave the decision up to IT, then IT, being human may take the easy way out, and encrypt as little as possible.

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