Software makes inroads in scrap industry

Jun 30, 2012 | 07:00 PM | Bill Beck

Tags  ferrous scrap prices, nonferrous scrap prices, scrap software, Azcon Corp., Shared Logic Group Inc., Ronnie Hirsch, Perry Jacobs, Bill Beck

A recent front-page article in the Wall Street Journal pointed out that automation is driving the continuing gains in productivity for global steel producers. The article described the efforts under way at ArcelorMittal SA’s Burns Harbor, Ind., mill to benchmark itself against one of the Luxembourg-based company’s most productive mills in Belgium, noting that Burns Harbor is catching up to the Belgian mill through automation, computerization and “roboticization.”

The accelerating trend toward computerization and automation in its many forms is helping Burns Harbor and other U.S. mills to become far more efficient. In the past 40 years, for example, U.S. mills have seen man-hours per ton of steel produced drop to two hours from 12 hours.

Big mills use computers for everything, from specifying the proper mix of metals and chemicals to go into the furnace to forecasting business demand six months in the future.

Information technology (IT) has been making inroads in the metals sector for years, but as in most industries the larger mills and plants are frequently more advanced than smaller facilities. Big mills, for example, can afford to hire the graduates with computer and engineering degrees to run complex hardware and software. The metals sector, like most industries, is paying a premium for a work force with brains and not just brawn.

The ferrous and nonferrous scrap industry generally lags most of the large mill customers in computer and IT sophistication. But even small, family owned businesses have come a long way over the past 15 years in how they use computers. The days of dealers and brokers not even having an e-mail address are pretty much over, although most scrap offices still boast at least one fax machine to submit and take orders.....

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