In what amounts to its largest single investment for more than 30 years, British Steel has announced the development of a new £26 million downstream processing facility at the company’s Skinningrove site in the United Kingdom.

The project is part of a £100 million investment by the Chinese Jingye Group to improve British Steel’s manufacturing and environmental performance.

British Steel’s new service centre will include cut-to-length lines, product milling, machining and warehousing operations and will enable the company to make and process an extended range of value-added profiles for the forklift industry.

According to British Steel, the advanced milling and machining capability will also mean that the company can offer profiles with world-leading tolerances of just 0.1mm.

“This is an exciting project that will establish us as a leading manufacturer on the world stage. Our high-quality profiles are supplied globally to make components for a wide rnage of market sectors, such as the forklift and earthmoving inudstries and many of these applications are extremely demanding.”

David Waine, commercial director for special profiles, British Steel.

“Our investment means we’ll have world-class products manufactured to the tightest of tolerances. It will enable us to explore new growth opportunities for our forklift mast products in Europe, North and South America, India and Asia. And although our primary product offering will be for forklift mast production, we expect to be able to expand this to include other product applications too,” said David Waine, commercial director for special profiles, British Steel.

British Steel claims to be experiencing strong growth for its products, particularly those used in the mining and construction sectors as well as the demanding application of high-reach trucks. These vehicles are typically used to move loads in warehouses and because they operate at heights (or lengths) in the order of eight metres, exceptionally high tolerances are needed for the mast section, the moving part that enables the truck’s forks to reach, collect and move items.

“With the market growth and demands we’re anticipating, our investment is coming at just the right time. It will deliver new key capabilities that use technology nearly two decades more advanced than anything available anywhere in the world. To take on processing skills in a way that no-one else is doing is a hugely exhilarating challenge.”

David Waine, commercial director for special profiles, British Steel.

Work on the new facilities is planned to begin towards the end of the year with commissioning expected to start in August 2023. The large scale of the scheme will involve a wide range of contractors covering a vast array of skills from construction to turning and milling expertise to automated warehousing companies.

The new Skinningrove facility will replace the services currently offered at the company’s Darlington site, which stores and cuts profiles to customer requirements.

“The service centre will sit right in the centre of our Skinningrove site, enabling us to achieve full integration with our upstream and downstream processes.”

David Hogg, special profiles plant manager, British Steel.

Customers are already supplied on a just-in-time basis, says Hogg, but the new facility will help streamline operations and further improve efficiencies. The aim is to offer new roles to all employees currently based at Darlington so that the company can retain and support its skilled workforce.

Hogg described the task ahead as complex and exciting as it builds on previous investments including the installation of a £2 million world-leading surface descaling system, a high-tech product processing centre and a robotic identification tracking control system for each profile manufactured at the Skinningrove facility.

“These projects are taking our profile offering from strength to strength. But it’s not just our series of investments that’s making the difference, the innovation and skill of our teams to think differently, identify new opportunities and implement them effectively is really transforming the products and services we’re able to offer. In the last two years alone we’ve achieved an impressive nine product patents and it’s this continued entrepreneurship that is driving our business forward.”

David Waine, commercial director for special profiles, British Steel.

Waine says the market is becoming increasingly competitive. “But by continually innovating and developing our processing capabilities in line with customer requirements, the outlook is bright.”