Dusseldorf, Germany: SMS Group’s chief executive officer, Burkhard Dahmen, told journalists at the METEC trade fair, of which Mr Dahmen is president, that his company is the clear global market leader in metallurgical plant construction. “We have a global presence and are the leading company in all major markets in terms of order and sales volume,” he said.

In the sweltering heat of a Saharan weather 'bubble', Dahmen was heading up his company’s annual press conference and was accompanied by leading SMS Group figures such as Torsten Heising, chief financial officer, Michael Rzepczyk, chief operating officer, the company’s chief technology officer Hans Ferkel and chief digital officer Katja Windt.

SMS Group, said Dahmen, is known in the industry as a ‘full liner’. “This means that we supply all plants including our own automation systems used to produce the full range of metals products,” he explained, adding that, as the world’s largest suppler, the company covers the entire metals value chain from blast furnaces, rolling mills, finishing plants and forging presses, not forgetting technical service.

Highlighting some of the key points from SMS Group’s current annual report, Torsten Heising told journalists that the company’s order intake totalled EUR3.1 billion, higher than the previous year’s figure. He said that the company had grown the service segment of its business and claimed that its order backlog, at EUR3.6 billion, ‘remained at a high level’, securing sales volume and jobs going forward.

Digitalisation will be responsible higher investments this year compared to last, and the company is expecting orders and, therefore, sales in the region of EUR 3 billion.

Chief operating officer Michael Rzepczyk praised the company’s CSP technology, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. CSP combines casting, heating and rolling in a single line allowing high-quality hot-rolled strip to be produced very efficiently, he said. In 1989 Nucor Corporation in the USA became the first recipient of a CSP system, marking the beginning ‘of a unique success story’.

“Our most recent successful commissioning was at Big River Steel in the USA,” Rzepczyk said, claiming that the system in operation in Osceola, Arkansas, was the widest plant in the world, setting new standards in the field of digitalisation.

Hans Ferkel, SMS Group’s chief technology officer spoke at length about sustainability. He said that technological and economic progress can only be achieved when due consideration is paid to sustainability. According to Ferkel, the steel industry accounts for approximately 6% of global CO2 emissions. “It is the industry’s stated goal to substantially minimise these emissions and even eliminate them in the long term,” he said.

Ferkel said CO2 emissions could only be substantially reduced or avoided by developing a new route to crude steel production. “The most promising route at present consists of hydrogen-based direct reduction and the electric arc furnace,” he said. ‘Green hydrogen’ is the key to achieving largely carbon-neutral crude steel production, according to Ferkel.

SMS Group’s chief digital officer, Katja Windt, spoke of how SMS Digital, a start-up business, has doubled its team and now has 100 employees worldwide working in digitalisation, mostly in Germany, but also in the USA and China.

“Digitalisation is also the focus of our trade fair presence, in particular the road to the global industry benchmark of the [so called] learning steel plant,” Windt said.

Windt spoke of SMS Digital’s integrated approach comprising an internal and external view. “We are gearing up our processes for the fourth industrial age,” she said, and went on to explain how the company was pursuing its objectives ‘comprehensively and systematically’.

However, she also said that SMS Group - ‘too often in the past’ - had under-valued the software it sold and was now seeking to earn directly from the success of its applications.

Burkhard concluded the press conference, claiming that SMS Group was engaged in and driving forward the core areas of development in the industry: digitalisation and CO2 avoidance. “We are on a growth path and are closely monitoring the market with a view to potential acquisitions,” he commented.