Hall of Fame Class of 2012

Luigi Danieli



Luigi Danieli took a small, family owned company manufacturing steel mill equipment and used it to transform the global industry, developing new tools and techniques that ultimately made mini-mills the most efficient steel producers in the world. His introduction of the electric furnace-conticaster-rolling mill production route revolutionized the manufacture of steel in the 1970s and 1980s, and his influence is still felt at Danieli Corp., which today spans five continents.

Danieli Corp. traces its roots to brothers Mario and Timo Danieli, who founded the Angelini Steelworks in Brescia in the foothills of the Alps in 1914. The Angelini Works were among the first in Italy to use electric-arc furnaces (EFs) to make steel. In 1955, Luigi Danieli became the first second-generation member of the family to head the company, which at the time employed 50 people and specialized in designing and manufacturing rolling mill equipment.

Under young Danieli’s leadership, the company began to manufacture more-competitive steelmaking equipment, simplify layouts and maximize the use of automation. Danieli developed the EF-conticaster-rolling-mill production module, which was one of the first equipment packages designed specifically for mini-mill layouts.

Danieli installed its first mini-mill package in Germany in 1964, at the same time that the company was installing its first continuous caster for Italy’s Riva Group. By 1977, Danieli would install its first complete steel mill for a customer in East Germany.

Luigi Danieli was a strong believer in collaborative management. The company struggled in the mid-1970s with the oil shocks that shut off numerous steel mill expansion projects, and he chafed at the time that business management took away from his passion of designing and inventing steel mill equipment. In 1980, Danieli brought his daughter, Cecilia, into the top ranks of management, naming her as managing director of the then-family owned company. He also elevated Cecilia’s longtime companion, a former roll-pass designer named Gianpietro Benedetti, to director of engineering.

With his daughter making many of the day-to-day operational decisions, Luigi Danieli was free to pursue innovations for the steel equipment manufacturing segment of the iron and steel industry. During the early 1980s, the company supplied numerous turnkey plants to customers in the United States, East Asia, North Africa and the former Soviet Union. Luigi Danieli became an ambassador to the global mini-mill industry, and his continued championing of large-scale investment in research and development made the company a world leader in providing plants for producing commercial long products.

In the mid-1980s, Danieli pioneered the first direct-casting rolling plant for long products in Italy, and in the United States Danieli equipment was installed or specified for more than 80 percent of long products manufacturers. As the steel industry in the United States recovered from the deep recession of the early 1980s, it was increasingly obvious that the integrated segment of the industry had ceded the long products sector to the mini-mills, and the mini-mills were achieving their dominance with Danieli equipment.

Danieli solidified its position late in the decade when it acquired the Swedish firm Morgårdshammar AB, which since the mid-19th Century had been a world leader in the supply of rolling mills for special steel long products. Danieli continued to install entire plants for steelmakers around the world, including Germany’s Fried Krupp GmbH (now ThyssenKrupp AG), Poland’s Ovako AB, America’s Teledyne Technologies Inc. and Sweden’s Uddeholm AB. By the end of the decade, Danieli engineers under the direction of Luigi Danieli and Benedetti had designed and built an industrial-scale prototype of a thin slab caster, which the company used for further research and development purposes.

In 1991, Luigi Danieli stepped down from the presidency of the company, a role he had held for more than three and a half decades. By that time, Cecilia, who succeeded her father, had taken the company public and begun the decades-long expansion of the Danieli brand across the global steelmaking industry.

Cecilia Danieli and Benedetti, who had been named chief executive officer of Danieli Corp., made the strategic decision in 1991 to expand into the flat products sector of the iron and steel industry, which had long been dominated by German, English and Japanese equipment manufacturers. To help penetrate the sector, Danieli acquired Youngstown, Ohio-based Wean Industries Inc. and Pittsburgh-based United Engineering & Foundry Co., both of which had been designing and manufacturing flat product mills since the early 20th Century. Danieli quickly began securing significant orders in the United States, including the thin slab caster revamp at Nucor’s Corp.’s Hickman, Ark., facility; the installation of a hot strip mill at Delta, Ohio-based North Star BHP Steel Ltd.; and the design and installation of a thin slab caster and hot strip mill at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario-based Algoma Steel Inc.

Luigi Danieli passed away in 1993, but the company he had made synonymous with the manufacture of rolling and casting equipment for mini-mills worldwide was in good hands. During his tenure at the helm of Danieli, Luigi Danieli had overseen the erection of steel mills in 27 countries. By 1986, the company had either designed, built or manufactured equipment for about half of the 250 mini-mills that were then operating around the world—an unparalleled achievement. 

Thomas C. Graham
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Irving Rossi
John B. Tytus