NEW YORK Kentucky Electric Steel LLC (KES) has completed a $6-million expansion that will allow the steelmaker to supply special bar quality (SBQ) rounds up to 3.75 inches in diameter to its sister companies, cold-finished bar producer Niagara LaSalle Corp. and seamless tube maker Michigan Seamless Tube LLC (MST).
"The decision to focus in on that range really emanated from what our subsidiaries can buy directly from KES," Michael Salamon, president and chief operating officer of parent company Optima Specialty Steel Inc., told AMM.
Ashland, Ky.-based KES will also look to supply other customers with the new products.
"That (selling to MST and Niagara) will consume a fair amount of steel, and then you can always look outside of that and find out what your other customers are buying," Salamon said, adding that with its expanded product offering the company is looking to gain customers in the forging market.
The expansion, announced in May (amm.com, May 23), will also improve the quality of KES other products, which include flat and rectangular bars.
The addition of a gauge will allow the company to measure the dimensions of a bar electronically "right on the mill," KES vice president and general manager John Scheel, something that previously had to be done manually.
"It will improve ... quality and accuracy but it also keeps us running," he said.
Also, the replacement of mill drives that are more than 30 years old is expected to cut down on maintenance time and cost, Scheel said.
KES produced its first rounds with the new equipment at the end of September, with the improvements expected to increase KES output by "at least" 25 percent in 2014, according to Salamon. "Were off to a very good start. The team did a fabulous job getting this in on time and on budget."
Miami-based Optima Specialty Steel hinted at the expansion late last year after it announced its plan to acquire KES (amm.com, Nov. 26).