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Innovation is critical for steel to thrive and survive

May 05, 2015 | 08:00 PM | John Ambrosia


As Nucor Corp. chairman, president and chief executive officer John Ferriola pointed out at an industry event in mid-March, technological innovation is critical to the steel industry right now. This message should strike other executives as not only self-evident, but urgent.

Because of its grounding in science, technology and engineering, the metals industry is uniquely positioned to lead the country in discussing ways to find new solutions that can empower people and industry, promote sustainability and put strong winds at the sails of the American economy.

Technology has always been a two-way street in the metals industry. New developments in client sectors such as energy, transportation and construction help drive demand for more advanced products, and transformational advances among metals makers push end-users in new directions as well.

Fortunately, many metals businesses such as Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor regularly rise to the occasion and work to develop products and processes that will meet these needs. There are those who try to deny the truth and scope of these challenges or opportunities. They claim it is easier to find ways to justify the status quo than it is to face reality and begin to adapt to the facts and adopt new ways of performing. But a long view of the history of business shows this is unwise. Companies willing to accept the truth and change their ways survive best and flourish.

Today is a golden age for such symbiotic planning, development and breakthroughs. Articles in this month’s issue highlight just how much this is the case on a regular basis. This issue is filled with stories about new steel and aluminum technologies, from robotics and smart machining on the production side, to process optimization and the tools of IT and the Cloud on the virtual and managerial side.

Often overlooked is how much the sellers and buyers of metals are interlinked. While not always nor exclusively locked in this symbiotic relationship, it often is the case that they are dependent on one another. A new drilling technique for natural gas requires sturdier oil-country-tubular-good (OCTG) products, and steelmakers provide them. Automakers seek lighter cars to help improve gas efficiency, and metals firms battle to help supply the answers. The businesses that most successfully understand and incorporate this thinking are the ones that will rule future markets.

Beyond this battle for economic relevance, there are moral and ethical imperatives to citizens, communities, workers, owners, shareholders, future generations and the planet. For example, how we use energy, how much it costs and where it comes from affect both the environment and the economy; issues about ecological well-being have a strong impact on energy policy and economic directions; and the economy drives the responses to the needs of both energy and ecology. An admission that these issues are all are interconnected will open new paths of thinking. Yes, today’s profit is important, but so is tomorrow’s. So every decision’s short-term gain must be weighed against potential long-term risks and benefits. When necessary, change needs to be embraced and nurtured, and smart, fresh answers are needed to solve difficult challenges.

As Nucor Corp. chairman, president and chief executive officer John Ferriola pointed out at an industry event in mid-March, technological innovation is critical to the steel industry right now. This message should strike other executives as not only self-evident, but urgent.

Because of its grounding in science, technology and engineering, the metals industry is uniquely positioned to lead the country in discussing ways to find new solutions that can empower people and industry, promote sustainability and put strong winds at the sails of the American economy.

Technology has always been a two-way street in the metals industry. New developments in client sectors such as energy, transportation and construction help drive demand for more advanced products, and transformational advances among metals makers push end-users in new directions as well.

Fortunately, many metals businesses such as Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor regularly rise to the occasion and work to develop products and processes that will meet these needs. There are those who try to deny the truth and scope of these challenges or opportunities. They claim it is easier to find ways to justify the status quo than it is to face reality and begin to adapt to the facts and adopt new ways of performing. But a long view of the history of business shows this is unwise. Companies willing to accept the truth and change their ways survive best and flourish.

Today is a golden age for such symbiotic planning, development and breakthroughs. Articles in this month’s issue highlight just how much this is the case on a regular basis. This issue is filled with stories about new steel and aluminum technologies, from robotics and smart machining on the production side, to process optimization and the tools of IT and the Cloud on the virtual and managerial side.

Often overlooked is how much the sellers and buyers of metals are interlinked. While not always nor exclusively locked in this symbiotic relationship, it often is the case that they are dependent on one another. A new drilling technique for natural gas requires sturdier oil-country-tubular-good (OCTG) products, and steelmakers provide them. Automakers seek lighter cars to help improve gas efficiency, and metals firms battle to help supply the answers. The businesses that most successfully understand and incorporate this thinking are the ones that will rule future markets.

Beyond this battle for economic relevance, there are moral and ethical imperatives to citizens, communities, workers, owners, shareholders, future generations and the planet. For example, how we use energy, how much it costs and where it comes from affect both the environment and the economy; issues about ecological well-being have a strong impact on energy policy and economic directions; and the economy drives the responses to the needs of both energy and ecology. An admission that these issues are all are interconnected will open new paths of thinking. Yes, today’s profit is important, but so is tomorrow’s. So every decision’s short-term gain must be weighed against potential long-term risks and benefits. When necessary, change needs to be embraced and nurtured, and smart, fresh answers are needed to solve difficult challenges.



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How will the US Treasury Department’s sanctions against UC Rusal affect the US downstream aluminium sector?

They will have a severe impact; companies might go out of business.
They will have a limited impact, but there will be some disruptions
They will have no impact, business will be unaffected


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