Steel Times International July-August 2019

Düsseldorf was sweltering in a Saharan heat bubble towards the end of June and my hotel room didn’t have any air-conditioning. Fortunately, I was four floors up and could open the windows. Lying on top of the bed at night in the sweltering heat, listening to the city below, I felt a bit like Martin Sheen in the opening scenes of Apocalypse Now, except there wasn’t a fan whirring above me and I had no inclination to start self-harming, I just made sure I had enough mineral water. 

It seems like only yesterday that Düsseldorf, my favourite German city, last played host to the gigantic METEC/GIFA exposition, but four years have passed since 2015 when the weather was equally hot, but perhaps not as oppressive. 

METEC is a huge international event that occupies many halls and if you have any business with the global metals industry, it would have been foolhardy not to attend for the full week. Believe me, anybody who is anybody in metals was at METEC, and that included the steel industry’s big hitters, people like Dave Stickler, CEO of Big River Steel, the hi-tech Osceola, Arkansas-based minimill. I hadn’t seen Dave since I interviewed him exclusively back in October 2017, but there he was, holding court on the SMS stand, although the word ‘stand’ does little justice to the huge space occupied by the German plant builder. Stickler was there to discuss Big River Steel and the fact that his mill is currently running 10% over rated capacity and that, per employee, it is almost 10 times more profitable than US Steel – all of which is good news for SMS group, the company that supplied Big River Steel with the world’s first ‘learning mill’, a piece of technology that embraces digital manufacturing and big data and all the sort of things you can expect to hear about if you’re planning to attend the Future Steel Forum 2019 at the Sofitel Hotel in Budapest (25-26 September).

Big River Steel relies upon digitalisation and artificial intelligence. The company exists in ‘the cloud’ and Stickler has no qualms about it, pushing aside criticism that it leaves him exposed. ”I don’t have to spend the tens of millions of dollars on the big server platforms and I don’t need a 35-person IT department to maintain the servers,” he said.

Interested in hi-tech steelmaking? Visit Future Steel Forum 2019, 25-26 September, Sofitel Hotel, Budapest. Visit for more details.

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Steel Times International July-August 2019 highlights

2 Leader by Matthew Moggridge

4 News round-up

11 Latin America update

13 USA update

16 METEC news

18 Big River Steel's Dave Stickler says: 'Be safe, be proud, make money'

24 Conference report: AISTech 2019

29 Oxygen steelmaking

30 Steel processing

35 Lubrication

39 Electric steelmaking

47 Perspectives – a blast from the past

52 History