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Allied Alloys living the American scrap dream

Nidhi Turakhia has grown into her role of executive vice president of Allied Alloys with confidence and flair since joining the family business in 2006. ‘I joined during the great recession and helped it go from nearly filing for bankruptcy to the profitable and flourishing company it is now,’ she recalls. Here the US entrepreneur shares her story.

Allied Alloys operates two yards in Houston handling around 12 000 tonnes of stainless steel and alloys every month. ‘This does not include the non-ferrous and iron items we broker under our sister company, Titan Metals,’ says Turukhia, who was recently named president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ Gulf Coast Region.

She describes the US recycling industry as ‘very strong’: ‘We persevered through Covid, through the labour, transportation and parts shortages. We’re an industry that leads by example.’

What’s your journey been so far?

‘It all starts with my dad, Mukesh. He truly built our businesses from the ground up as an immigrant with barely anything in his pockets. A qualified pharmacist, he travelled all the way to the US from India when he was 27 to pursue a career in pharmacy in New Orleans. After a few weeks of filling prescription bottles, he met a man who happened to be in recycling. He switched jobs to go and work for him. This was in 1980, when I was only three months old.

Nine years later, he started his own recycling business in Houston, called Ruby Metals, with a friend. The latter took early retirement in 2001 but my dad wasn’t ready to quit. He launched Titan Metals one month later and Allied Alloys five years after that. I’ve learned a lot from him along the way. It’s fair to say my mother’s support and my father’s ambition have led me to where I am today.’

Do you do a lot of business with India?

‘Definitely! We don’t exclusively work with companies in the US. In fact, India is one of our largest consumers. Our stainless steel and nickel-based alloys go directly to the stainless steel mills and foundries of Jindal, Ambica, and Viraj. Close to 90% of non-ferrous we broker is sold directly to India.

I’m eager to expand our operations and geographical reach further in the coming years. On that note, I’d like to see more support from local and national governments in regard to international trading.’

Anything else you’d like to see change?

‘I believe that the US can do better at picking the political and social agendas they push out through media outlets. It’s strange to be in a country where people can fully live out “the American dream” yet that dream is based on the media’s perception of the current state of the country, making it difficult for youngsters and future generations to really grasp what is reality and what is not. Especially with a complex topic like recycling.’

What does innovation mean to Allied Alloys?

‘It’s one of our building blocks. Our founders were the first ones to coin the terms BTS (blended turnings and solids) and DCBT (double crushed blended turnings) and now they have become standards in many countries around the world.

We are one of the very few companies that can ship barges and containers full of SS grades such as 304, 316, and 310 that have the exact chemistry our consumers are needing and looking for.

Also, we were one of the first and probably few US companies that went with a full cloud-based enterprise resource planning system back in the early 2000s called Plex. Indeed, we were the first recycling company that Plex ever built such a system for. The proprietary blending software programme we use for our solids and turnings blends was all built in-house.’

What benefits did you experience as an early adopter of recycling software?

The system was ground-breaking, extremely detailed, and allowed us to be completely transparent to our supplier and consumers. Having data at our fingertips in real time 100% helped us scale up within a matter of months; I recall Allied Alloys going from a small five-person company to more than 150 employees. We had to purchase a second warehouse because the metal was coming in so fast; we were literally bursting at the seams trying to keep up.

It felt like we went overnight from recycling 20-25 trucks per day to close to 70 truckloads. At that time, we were also shipping around 150 export containers per week which is a huge number compared to one-to-five we were doing previously. It was a dream come true for all of us.’

What do you think the future holds for recyclers?

‘Thanks to advancements in technology, I think we have a very bright future. But we need to come up with a better, more sustainable way to deal with lithium-ion batteries. This is a growing market that needs a solution urgently.

I’m sure e-mobility and electrification will play a larger role for recyclers in the short term. We are looking into installing solar panels throughout our current operations facilities and purchasing electric cranes and other electrically operated machines.

Not least, I am very excited to see what India is going to do and how far they will get. They have become one of the most successful consumers of recycled materials, and it is a country full of entrepreneurs so I’m sure all great things will come for them. I am eager to see how they continue to evolve.’

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