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Tech talk: Advances keep metal industries moving

Keywords: Tags  AMM Comment, John Ambrosia

Technology always has been a two-way street in the metal industries: new developments in client sectors such as energy, transportation and construction help drive demand for more-advanced products, and transformational advances among metal makers push end-users in new directions as well.

We seem to be in a golden age for such symbiotic planning, development and breakthroughs, especially in the energy, automotive and aerospace fields. Several articles in this month’s issue highlight just how often this is the case. This issue is filled with stories about new steel and aluminum technologies, opportunities in the steel tube and pipe market, the need for stronger and lighter metals in automobile manufacturing and developments in the aerospace industry.

Often overlooked is how closely metal buyers and sellers are interlinked. While they aren’t always locked in an interdependent relationship, they often are dependent on one another. A new drilling technique for natural gas requires sturdier oil country tubular goods products, and steelmakers provide them. Automakers seek lighter cars to help improve gas mileage, and metal producers work to help provide the solution. The businesses that most successfully understand and incorporate this thinking are the ones that will rule future markets.

Because they are grounded in science, technology and engineering, metal industries are uniquely positioned to lead the country in discussing ways to find new solutions that can power people and industries, keep the environment safe and put strong winds in the sails of the American economy.

Fortunately, many metal businesses regularly rise to the occasion and work to develop products that will meet these needs. There are those that try to deny the truth and scope of these challenges or opportunities, claiming it is easier to find ways to justify the status quo than it is to face reality and begin to adapt to the facts and adopt new ways of performing. But a long view of the history of business shows this is unwise. Those companies willing to accept the truth and change their ways survive best and flourish.

Beyond this battle for economic relevance, there are moral and ethical imperatives to citizens, communities, workers, owners, shareholders, future generations and the planet. Acknowledging that these issues are interconnected will open new paths of thinking. Yes, today’s profit is importantÑbut so is tomorrow’s, so every decision’s short-term gain must be weighed against potential long-term risks and benefits. When necessary, change needs to be embraced and nurtured, and smart, fresh answers are needed to solve difficult challenges.

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