CHICAGO Worthington Industries Inc. plans to expand its cold-rolled strip rolling mill and strip annealing capacity by up to 40 percent over the next few years to meet increased demand from automakers and other end-users.
"Through the recession, automotive has been the one bright spot. (Automotive steel demand) bounced out of the trough quickly, and looking through 2017 we expect to see substantial growth year over year," Worthington Steel president Geoff Gilmore told AMM, noting that 58 percent of the companys business is automotive related and 65 percent of its cold-rolled strip productionfrom plants in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohioends up in automotive applications.
Such growth benefits Worthington overall, but more specifically the cold-rolled strip facilities are shipping product primarily for transmission and torque converter production to the Big Three domestic automakers and to Tier I and II auto suppliers, as well as to Japanese and German assembly plants across North America.
Worthington will install new rolling equipment to handle wider strip, some of which is being rolled 28 inches wide. With the upgrades, the mills will go beyond 50 inches wide, Gilmore said. Additional features will include better gauge control and surfaces.
The greater production efficiency, product availability and improved quality also will "get us battle-ready" for higher demand from existing customers, for which Worthington manages large-scale supply programs, he said.
Worthington also will upgrade its batch annealing, putting in new bases and furnaces that offer new technology, and will look to expand finished goods warehouse space.
After the rolling mill and annealing projects are completed, finished cold-rolled strip capacity could increase 30 to 40 percent, Gilmore said. "There is more need for these products (for automotive), but we also supply other markets; and as we get into healthy (gross domestic product) growth, those markets will grow as well."
The steel processor exports strip to Mexican subsidiary Serviacero Worthington SA de CV, as well as to other Mexican fine blankers.
"We do export a bit to China as well, and were committed to growing cold-rolled strip globally," Gilmore said. "We have our eye on opportunities to expand in other emerging markets longer term."
The message of the upgrades is Worthingtons commitment to its current customer base and exceeding their expectations as the market grows, he said. "Not only can we keep up, we will stay ahead."