July-August 2017

July-August 2017

I was roaming through Europe last month, and by that I mean I’ve been to three different countries in the space of three weeks, departing twice from Gatwick and once from Heathrow and visiting Poland, Sweden and Austria before landing back in the UK on a sunny Thursday evening at the end of June.

All three trips were informative in different ways and while I’m not one for blowing my own trumpet, I must say that the first of my three journeys – to Warsaw in Poland – was to the Sheraton Hotel and the inaugural Future Steel Forum, Steel Times International’s first (and highly successful) foray into the world of Industry 4.0 and steel manufacturing.

Avid readers will know that the Future Steel Forum has been high on my agenda for some time and it all came together last month when delegates and speakers met to discuss an increasingly important aspect of the steel manufacturing process, that of digitalisation, ‘smart’ production, however you wish to describe it.

It was good to hear that delegates enjoyed the conference and that they felt an event on the subject of Industry 4.0 was long overdue – especially an event focused on steel. All the more reason to announce that there will be a Future Steel Forum 2018, in Warsaw, at the Sheraton Hotel, in Poland. I’m looking for papers now so if you have something to say about Industry 4.0 and steelmaking, get in touch. 

Hi-tech steelmaking is becoming increasingly popular; everybody’s talking about it and some of the world’s biggest and most progressive steelmakers are rolling up their sleeves and getting on with its development. In South Korea, POSCO and Hyundai are hoping that new technologies can help increase yield rate and reduce defects.

POSCO, in conjunction with the SungKyunKwan University’s department of systems management engineering, has developed automatic coating weight control technology based on artificial intelligence  (AI) with a view to maintaining an optimal and constant coating weight to automotive steel sheets. Similarly, Hyundai has employed AI, developed by Google subsidiary DeepMind, with a view to achieving maximum solidity and, of course, price competitiveness.

There’s a lot to discuss so let me know if you want to be part of the conversation.

July-August 2017 Contents

July-August 2017 Digital Issue

July-August 2017 Digital Issue

The worst thing about having to produce a digital issue of Steel Times International, on top of a print version, is the challenge of writing two leaders in the space of a few weeks. Believe me, it’s not easy, and I tend to do what I’m doing now: writing, but with no real idea of what I’m going to say. I’m rarely lost for words – ask any of my colleagues – but you can bet your bottom dollar that when it comes to writing this column, my mind goes blank, albeit temporarily.

What I don’t want to do is repeat my print edition leader, which invited steelmakers to get involved in Future Steel Forum 2018 by submitting a paper. That said, this edition of the magazine does carry a couple of articles not seen by readers before; they were published in a special Future Steel Forum publication that was distributed to event delegates in Warsaw last month and are now getting a wider airing here in the digital magazine. Incidentally, that offer (of submitting a paper for Future Steel Forum 2018) still stands, just email me if you’re interested.

The aforementioned Future Steel Forum articles are penned by SMS group’s Detlef Ehlert and Russula’s Daniel Sanchez and tackle the respective subjects of Industry 4.0 and the advantages of combining modern data comms technology with traditional automation; and the virtualisation of industry.

And now, of course, I’m ‘copping out’ and writing a leader article based on the contents of the magazine, rather than addressing a specific issue affecting steelmakers, like the problems affecting the US industry and the possibility that President Donald Trump will trigger a trade war if, by citing national security concerns, he imposes trade barriers on steel imports. There’s a real chance that Europe might retaliate – and slap tariffs on Kentucky bourbon! 

There are, of course, bigger worries, the main one being that Trump’s actions might lead to a repeat of the George ‘Dubya’ Bush era, back in 2002, when the decision was taken to impose tariffs of up to 30% on steel imports and 200,000 steelworkers lost their jobs. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, only 3% of US domestically produced steel is used in defence contracts.

What will be, will be, and let’s not forget that for all his foibles, Trump is only trying to protect the national interests of the USA and, of course, its loyal steelworkers. Here’s hoping it all works out, not just for the USA, but for the rest of the world too.

July-August 2017 Digital Issue Contents

Future Steel Forum 2017 – Special Supplement

Future Steel Forum 2017 – Special Supplement

“If you’re not digital you are going to be left behind,” says Jonathan Toler of Kloeckner Metals, writing in this very publication. He has a point. Everybody is talking about the benefits of Industry 4.0 – or ‘smart manufacturing’ as it is known in the USA. For the foolish, it’s merely a buzz phrase, but for those with vision it represents a major sea change in the way foundation industries, like steelmaking, conduct their day-to-day operations. In short, it’s the fourth industrial revolution and you would be well advised not to ignore it.

In this limited edition conference publication, PwC claims that digitalisation will not only affect horizontal and vertical integration in the steel industry, it will also lead to new business models, which will boost operational efficiency and react to commoditisation and low-cost competition.

But what exactly is Industry 4.0 and how can it benefit the steel industry? Dr. Dirk Schaefer, associate professor of design engineering at the University of Bath in the UK, says that Industry 4.0 is a ‘transformative event’ that occurs where ‘countless elements comprising industrial systems are being interfaced with internet communication technologies to form the smart cyber-physical factories of the future’.

How can Industry 4.0 benefit the steel industry? Well, if you’re reading this in the Sheraton Hotel, Warsaw, Poland, then the chances are you are attending the Future Steel Forum, a conference that will focus entirely upon answering the big questions concerning digital manufacturing. We have plenty of top flight speakers eager to help you find the answers that you are looking for. I really hope you enjoy this supplement and the conference it supports.

Future Steel Forum 2017 – Special Supplement Contents