Date of Conferral
Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.)
Slumping world aluminum prices have energized some aluminum producers to institute strategies to reduce product costs. This multiple comparative case study explored the strategies used by 4 aluminum producers in Western Europe: 2 companies that have successfully reduced production costs and 2 companies that have not. Wicksteed's economic theory of production and production costs was the conceptual framework for this research. Data from the companies' strategic and industry reports and from interviews with 32 senior managers were analyzed using pattern finding and clustering, a recursive approach to data gathering and analysis established by Miles, Huberman, and Saldana. Six themes emerged: (a) upstream integration, (b) energy and price efficiency, (c) carbon-manufacturing capability, (d) operational excellence and productivity, (e) technological and research developmental abilities, and (f) circular economy. The analysis of these themes indicated that the most significant opportunities for productivity improvement include (a) minimizing energy and material use, specifically alumina, cathodes, and carbon, (b) vertically integrating alumina production, (c) developing an efficient circular economic model that integrates the material properties to expand the recyclability of waste, and (d) increasing the electrolytic cell life cycle. Overall, vertical integration provides a competitive advantage and gives the producer ability to control costs. In-house carbon manufacturing capacity reduces a smelter's operating cost. Technological capabilities can minimize energy and material consumption rates. Increased productivity and reduced energy and material use can yield positive social changes, such as the preservation of natural resources, reduced emissions, and waste.