Coca-Cola Alumnium Vendor Suffers Breakdown at Key Plant

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A major U.S. aluminum sheet manufacturer that supplies materials used in Coca-Cola Co. and MillerCoors LLC cans has been forced to slow production as it works to fix a key piece of machinery that broke down last month.

Output will be constrained until late January while repairs are made on a hot-roller motor at a facility in Russellville, Kentucky, said Fiona Bell, a spokeswoman for Novelis Inc., which partly owns the plant. The aluminum-rolling mill is the largest in North America and makes 44 percent of the beverage-can sheet used in the U.S., according to a fact-sheet provided by Bell.

Novelis supplies aluminum sheets to two of the largest suppliers of beverage cans in the U.S.: Rexam Plc and Ball Corp. Those companies then fabricate cans for Coca-Cola and MillerCoors, among others. Novelis has been able use the mill at reduced capacity and is shifting some production to a second plant in Oswego, New York, Bell said. It’s also importing can sheet.

Novelis, a unit of Mumbai-based Hindalco Industries Ltd., is “not prepared to quantify” how the slowdown will affect the North American can market, Bell said.

“This has been a dynamic process,” she said.

MillerCoors is aware of the outage and doesn’t expect it to impact its operations, said Jon Stern, a spokesman for the beermaker.

Ball is working with customers and suppliers to meet demand, said Renee Robinson, a spokeswoman for the manufacturer.

Filling Commitments

“While the plant shutdown may impact the beverage can industry in the future, Ball has the aluminum supply needed to fill our commitments over the near term,” Robinson said in an e-mail.

Petro Kacur, a spokesman for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, declined to comment on the outage or potential shortages of aluminum cans to package its soft drinks. A spokesman for Rexam didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

The 6,000-horsepower motor that drives a hot roller used to flatten 25-ton blocks of aluminum quit working Dec. 29, Bell said.

(A previous version of this story corrected the spelling of Jon Stern’s name.)