Steel began its industrial reign in the 19th century almost as soon as the ability to mass produce it was invented when it transformed landscapes and created vast fortunes. In the 20th century it grew, it dominated, it built America and the modern world, it drove Wall Street and sculpted itself into the skies of great cities, it provided good jobs, it won wars; but it also eventually retracted as the realities of environmental concerns, international trade and industrial competition drove it hard to the ground.
It has been said conventionally that an industry that began and blossomed on the strength of new ideas began a slow and painful collapse because its management came to mistrust new, big ideas. Of course the answers are more complicated than that labor, politics, economic trends also had roles to play but as the last century wound down, the results were undeniable.
So what of the 21st century? Steel management has had to become nimbler, its production more efficient, its markets more diversified, its products more technologically advanced, its workforce leaner and more productive, its market shares and profits more hard won.
All of those issues and more will be the focal point of this years Steel Success Strategies XXXI conference in New York from June 13-15.
Last year was a big year for AMM, when the 30th SSS took place last June. During the years from 1986 (the first SSS conference) to 2015, there were five presidents, six configurations of party controls in the U.S. Congress, the emergence of Nafta, the rise of the BRIC nations and much more. Within the steel sector, a number of companies went under, new ones rose to replace them, end-user demand evolved, sustainability moved up the list of concerns, imports became a major factor and the price and availability of raw materials became more volatile, among numerous other issues.
At the very first SSS in June 1986, key issues discussed included concerns over imports, the competitive impact of minimills on the integrateds, worries over the effect the value of the U.S. dollar could have on the industry, consolidation and its discontents, and issues of global capacity, to name just a few topics. If that all sound familiar, its because those very same topics will be key items on the minds of those attending this years SSS.
Heres to another successful conference, and to the hope that the discussions at this years event will be as fruitful, helpful and meaningful as the industry looks ahead to the next three decades and beyond.