Steel Times International Issue
April 2020

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April 2020

Serious challenges ahead, but the steel industry will bounce back

I’m sitting at home, in my conservatory, writing my Leader for the April edition of Steel Times International. Traditionally, this issue is shipped to the USA to be a part of the incredible AISTech exposition and convention in the USA, which would have been in Cleveland, Ohio, next month, but it’s been postponed (until late August), just like many other events, including our very own Future Steel Forum, which has been rescheduled for 24-25 November.

These are troubling times for everybody, all around the world, and the news changes by the second. Here in the UK we’re on virtual lockdown and it’s a similar picture the world over as people adapt to a new way of working and, indeed, living. We’re advised to keep our distance from others, queue two metres apart at the supermarket where, here in the UK, a ‘one in, one out’ policy is being observed; it’s all a bit strange. Who needs dystopian novels and movies?

In Pennsylvania, steel is one of the few industries allowed to function. We ran a news story on 20 March stating that Democrat Governor Tom Fox had shut down all but ‘life essential’ businesses in the state, much to the dismay of Republicans. Steel, quite rightly, was deemed ‘life essential’. In fact, it’s weird, because when I approached two leading steel trade associations last month, the view on COVID-19 was that it wasn’t really affecting anything. EUROFER reported ‘no significant impact’ while the AISI said domestic mills had not been adversely affected. Now, a month later, it’s a different story. This issue’s news pages are littered with news that steelmakers are feeling the pinch of the virus and the big problem, in a lot of cases, stems from the slowing down of the automotive industry, which, of course, is having a detrimental effect on steelmakers supplying the sector. GM, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, Honda and Toyota, have all announced temporary production stoppages in North America.

As a result, Austrian steelmaker voestalpine is shifting to short-time working, ArcelorMittal is reducing production at its European operations, ThyssenKrupp is initiating production cuts, POSCO and Hyundai Steel are closing plants in India and so it goes on.

But make no mistake, while we all face serious challenges ahead, this virus business is a temporary setback and the industry will bounce back, it always does. Keep safe.

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