Steel Producer of the Year Finalists
Big River Steel
When Big River Steel began production in December 2016 in Osceola, Arkansas, it was one of the fastest ramp-ups of any new mill. Supplied by Germanys SMS group, it produced 63,000 tons of steel in the first full month of operation. The mill was also extremely fast in terms of profitability by being Ebitda -positive in its second month of operation. Before Big River began production in 2016, just a handful of US companies collectively produced more than 80% of domestic hot-rolled coils. The new steelmaker is now an established additional US producer.
To keep pace with evolving and emerging industries, the steelmaker has attracted and trained employees who are equipped with advanced technology to make the steels needed today and tomorrow. Big River believes its emphasis on technology is its most prominent differentiating factor. Its Flex Mill produces a wide product mix and superior grade capabilities usually seen from an integrated mill, but with the nimbleness and technological advances of a mini-mill. In addition, Big River is the only steel production facility in the country to be certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
During the past year, Big River has expanded its product offerings to include niche steels in addition to standard grades. The steelmaker believes it has brought an entrepreneurial approach to steelmaking that is usually found only in high-technology incubators. Big River is also using artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve steel quality and production, thus pushing
the boundaries of what a steel company can do.
Gerdau Special Steel North America
A leading SBQ producer, Gerdau Special Steel North America, based in Jackson, Michigan, produces steel primarily for safety- and warranty-critical parts for the automotive and heavy truck markets. Those markets require consistent quality, excellent service, on-time delivery and innovative solutions from their suppliers. Gerdau Special Steel received recognition for its quality performance from several customers, including one that lauded the steelmaker as Perfect Supplier of the Year. In addition, new product solutions have been developed, including Mecamax (bismuth-added high-machinability steels) and Nanocem (micro-alloys for high-temperature carbonization) along with new micro-alloy steels for steering race applications.
Gerdau Special Steel is working to combat costs on several fronts. Owing to increasing electrode and refractory costs, the company is working to improve consumption rates along with other steelmaking supplies. Other operational efforts are focused on increasing value to Gerdau Special Steels customers and other stakeholders through a culture of maximizing efficiencies and minimizing all types of waste. Another current priority is workforce replenishment for both skilled trades as well as college graduates.
In the past year, Gerdau Special Steel improved customer perception through a cultural modernization that simplified the organizational structure to reduce bureaucracy and increase agility, and it sold downstream locations to better focus on core assets its three SBQ mills and a heat treating facility. The results included increasing shipping volumes by 8%, exceeding all relevant financial indicators and substantially improving quality measures.
Investments made by Nucor Corporation, Charlotte, North Carolina, since the steep recession of 2009 continue to pay dividends as the company is one of the most diversified steel and steel products companies in North America. Since 2009, the company has invested more than $8 billion about $3 billion in acquisitions and another $5 billion in capital projects to expand and move up the product value chain. One such example is Nucors $290 million investment program expanding its production capacity and quality range at its engineered bar mills in Nebraska, Tennessee and South Carolina.
Nucors long-term growth strategy also focuses on the automotive market, and the steelmaker grew its automotive market shipments by 7% to 1.5 million tons in 2017 versus 2016. Additional capital investments in the next two years to further grow its automotive offerings include a wide hot-rolled galvanizing line in Kentucky, a specialty cold mill complex at Nucor Steel Arkansas, and a joint venture in Mexico to produce steel for the Mexican automotive market. For bar products, Nucor is building a new micro-mill in Missouri and a merchant bar quality mill in Illinois, along with upgrading its bar mill in Ohio. And in late 2016 and early 2017, Nucor acquired several pipe and tube manufacturers that made an immediate impact and delivered strong profitability last year.
In 2017, Nucor recorded its strongest reported annual earnings, of $1.3 billion, since the end of the last cyclical peak in 2008. Net sales increased by 25% to $20.25 billion, compared with $16.21 billion the previous year. Steel mill operating rates for 2017 increased to 85%, up from 78% in 2016.
With North American headquarters in Lisle, Illinois, SSAB Americas is one of the largest North American producers of steel plate and coil, serving many industrial markets including energy, construction, agriculture and transportation. The steelmaker has built a strong culture on: quality, where it was ranked first among its peers for the past five years based on the Jacobson third-party industry survey; safety, which included the introduction in 2017 of SafeStart training that focuses on developing an awareness of the personal states that lead to errors; and sustainability through the EcoSmart program launched in 2016, which emphasizes both the key product and process attributes of steel produced by SSAB Americas.
SSAB Americas financial performance is driven by its strong focus on continuous improvement to drive operational efficiency. In 2017, the steelmaker conducted 56 Green Belt projects and 27 Black Belt projects, with continuous improvement measures achieving nearly $20 million in financially validated savings for the business. Lean Six Sigma has been woven into project work at SSAB Americas since 2003. Since then, the steelmaker has trained more than 300 team members on Six Sigma principles with more than half of those being top-level Green and Black belts.
The firms financial performance strengthened in 2017 over 2016. Sales for the full year 2017 were $1.5 billion, a 20% increase, with improved pricing and an Ebitda increase of 10%.
Steel Dynamics, Inc.
Fort Worth, Indiana, steelmaker Steel Dynamics, Inc, termed 2017 a tremendous year with numerous achievements both operationally and financially. The firm executed strategic initiatives and further strengthened an already solid financial foundation and remained poised for continued growth. Focus was on sustaining its position as a low-cost, highly efficient customer-centric steel company and it achieved another year of best-in-class financial and operating performance.
For each of its three major lines of business, Steel Dynamics saw strong performances in 2017. Its steel segment reported record operating income of $1.1 billion, record steel shipments of 9.7 million tons and record steel production of 10.0 million tons. The metals recycling segment, despite selling non-core locations early in the year, maintained volume, increased profit margins and reduced costs throughout the year. In steel fabrication, Steel Dynamics had record shipments of 627,000 tons, although operating income dipped slightly from 2016 but was still a strong performance as record volume helped offset higher raw material steel input costs.
Despite elevated amounts of steel imports in 2017, Steel Dynamics had record steel shipments of 9.7 million tons. The firm continued to position itself for the future through new investment in existing operations. At its Columbus, Mississippi, Flat Roll Division, a $100million paint line began operations in the first quarter of 2017 to further strengthen that facilitys offerings. At the Butler, Indiana, Flat Roll Division, Steel Dynamics is investing $28 million to cost-effectively utilize excess melting capacity through the addition of a rolling mill and other equipment for multi-strand slitting and rebar finishing. For its Structural and Rail Division, the steelmaker is investing $75 million to utilize existing excess melting and casting capacity through
the addition of another rolling mill and other equipment.