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Xian, China

When you think of steel, you should be keeping an eye on China. China’s steel industry produces 50% of the world’s steel. They also demand the most of any other country. After the opening of China’s economy in 1978, demand for steel has been nonstop. Building infrastructure, cities, cars, apartments, factories, and more, China has an insatiable need for steel. The middle class is growing, and so is their income. This has lead to large demand for automobiles in a country where just a few decades ago many people were riding bicycles. The amount of cars on the roads in some major cities has caused havoc. So much so, that some cities institute rules about when people can drive. Certain license plate numbers can drive on specific days, which is implemented to help reduce traffic. China holds the title as having the largest automotive industry. Production of cars in 2009 exceeded that of the European Union, or of Japan and the United States combined.


During the period before China’s economic revolution, steel was hard to come by. During Chairman Mao’s reign, he determined that steel production was key to the economy. He decided (rather arbitrarily) to double steel production in one year through backyard steel furnaces. Citizens were required to throw their scrap metal like pots, pans, etc, into the furnaces. These furnaces produced low quality iron and steel. Eventually Mao and his cohorts visited large factories in nearby Manchuria and found that high quality steel was being produced. They stopped with program soon after.


Though capitalism has crept into China, many steel groups are still state-owned. It is strange to think of a time when China’s steel industry was behind the rest of the world. They are now a powerhouse in terms of manufacturing. It will be interesting to keep an eye on the Middle Country for the next few decades as their population and middle class continues to grow and expand. New cities are popping up throughout the country, especially in the west where there is more land. And as these cities grow, more steel will be needed.
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Steel: A key driver of the world’s economy

  • The industry directly employs more than two million people worldwide, with a further two million contractors and four million people in supporting industries.
  • Considering steel’s position as the key product supplier to industries such as automotive, construction, transport, power and machine goods, and using a multiplier of 25:1, the steel industry is at the source of employment for more than 50 million people.
  • World crude steel production has increased from 851 megatonnes (Mt) in 2001 to 1,606 Mt for the year 2013. (It was 28.3 Mt in 1900).
  • World average steel use per capita has steadily increased from 150kg in 2001 to 225 kg in 2013.
  • India, Brazil, South Korea and Turkey have all entered the top ten steel producers list in the past 40 years.

Sustainable steel: At the core of the green economy

Steel is at the core of the green economy, in which economic growth and environmental responsibility work hand in hand.

  • Steel is the main material used in delivering renewable energy – solar, tidal and wind.
  • All steel created as long ago as 150 years can be recycled and used in new products and applications.
  • By sector, global steel recovery rates for recycling are estimated at 85% for construction, 85% for automotive, 90% for machinery and 50% for electrical and domestic appliances. This leads to a global weighted average of more than 83%.
  • The amount of energy required to produce a tonne of steel has been reduced by 50% in the past 30 years.
  • 97% of steel by-products can be reused.
  • Figures for water uptake and discharge are close to each other, with any small loss due to evaporation. Water recycled back into rivers and other sources is often cleaner than when extracted.

Steel: Everywhere in our lives

Steel touches every aspect of our lives. No other material has the same unique combination of strength, formability and versatility.

  • Almost 200 billion cans of food are produced each year. Steel cans mean saving energy as refrigeration is not needed. Cans mean tamper-free and safe food, nutritional value and beneficial environmental impact from recycling.
  • Steel used for double-hulled capesize vessels delivering raw materials, finished goods and energy must have the highest impact toughness (to withstand constant wave motion), corrosion resistance (from sea water) and weldability (for manufacturing reasons).
  • Skyscrapers are made possible by steel. The housing and construction sector is the largest consumer of steel today, using around 50% of world steel production.
  • Approximately 25% of an average computer is made of steel. More than 305 million PCs were sold in 2012.
  • Steel looks after our health. Steel surfaces are hygienic and easy to clean. Surgical and safety equipment and commercial kitchens are all made with steel.

Safe, innovative and progressive steel

Steel is an innovative and progressive industry committed to the safety and health of its people.

  • The industry is committed to the goal of an injury-free workplace.
  • The lost-time injury frequency rate has decreased from 5.1 in 2004 to 1.41 in 2012.
  • The number of worldsteel member organisations participating in the annual safety metrics survey has increased from 46 in 2005 to 89 in 2012.
  • The steel industry globally spends more than €12 billion annually on improving the manufacturing process, new product development and future breakthrough technology.
  • New lightweight steel is dramatically changing the market. In 1937, 83,000 tonnes of steel were needed to build the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Today, only half of that amount would be required.
  • Vehicles structures using Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) weigh up to 35% less than those made with former conventional steel, substantially reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Life cycle thinking: New solutions for new times

  • Life cycle assessment (LCA) is vital for the future. Environmental regulations that only regulate one phase (the use phase) of a product’s life cycle can create unintended consequences, such as increased CO2 emissions.
  • One example of this is vehicle exhaust or tail pipe regulations, which encourage the use of low density materials that are more CO2 intensive to produce.
  • LCA considers production, manufacture, the use phase and end-of-life recycling and disposal. Life-cycle thinking leads to immediate environmental benefit.
  • In addition to CO2, LCA assesses other impacts such as resource consumption, energy demand and acidification.
  • LCA is easy to implement, cost effective and produces affordable and beneficial solutions for material decision-making and product design.
  • worldsteel developed one of the first global sector databases for life cycle inventory data, and invests on a regular basis to keep it up to date.

Source: World Steel Association

Andrew_Carnegie,_three-quarter_length_portrait,_seated,_facing_slightly_left,_1913-cropAndrew Carnegie was one of the first in the steel industry to realize how important chemistry was to the process. He is best known nowadays for the many buildings bearing his name. These include Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Hall, and the Carnegie Hero Fund. He gave away 94% of his fortune to charity and foundations before his death in 1919. His net worth in 2007 dollars was $298.3 billion.
He came to the US as a child of poor Scottish immigrants. His journey from immigrant to one of the most well-known and successful businessmen in history is covered in textbooks across the US. As a teen, he was secretary/ telegraph operator and from this job he learned about management and cost control. Soon Carnegie was investing and dealmaking.
He realized the growing need for steel when an investment in a farm yielded over $1 million for the petroleum in it’s oil wells. Luckily for him, he had invested in the iron industry before the war. His great success in the iron and steel industry was by adapting the Bessemer Process.
After growing Carnegie Steel he felt it was time for retirement at age 66. He created a joint venture with JP Morgan and created the United States Steel Corporation. This company was the first in the world with a market cap over $1 billion.
For all his philanthropy though, he was very tough on the workers at his steel mills. They worked 12 hours a day, all year except for the Fourth of July. Safety and worker happiness were not paramount of Carnegie’s focus on efficiency and productivity.
Some may see him as a rags to riches story, others as a demanding capitalist figure. Either way he helped shape the iron and steel industry as we know it.

2015-ford-f-150-photo-564664-s-986x603-626x382It seems we have discussed the use of steel in automobiles in a number of blogs over the last several months. First steel is going to be replaced by aluminum, then an article retracts that idea saying steel is around to stay. I suppose it will always depend on the vehicle but Ford recently announced the final steel-bodied F-150 rolled off the line at Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant last month. 

According to caranddriver.com, Ford’s Kansas City facility will continue to manufacture steel-bodied F-150s until the end of the year, the line in Dearborn is being dismantled to make room for the new tooling and equipment required to produce aluminum-bodied trucks for the 2015 model year.

 

The Dearborn plant will be closed until mid-September, putting about 3,000 workers on temporary layoff. Employees will be called back in tiers, with two crews returning on September 21 and a third on October 20. Starting initially with preproduction models, the plant is scheduled to return to full speed before January.

According to experts, the company’s decision to switch its venerated pickup truck to aluminum is not without risk. Ford sold 63,240 F-150s in the U.S. in July, the last full month of production before the $359-million switchover began. In order to keep the cash flowing, Ford needs to expedite the switch but without sacrificing quality.

Read the full article here