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Steel’s success, strategies hurt by global challenges


While it is true that steel production is outpacing pre-recession levels on a global level, domestic output is still lagging far behind levels reached in summer 2008. And while U.S. capacity utilization rates continue to hover around mid-70-percent, imported steel continues to grab significant market share within the American economy.

While many topics will be discussed at this year’s annual Steel Success Strategies XXIX conference in New York, the issues of global capacity, international production and imported steel and its impact on domestic business will be at the forefront.

Here are some facts about the importance of domestic steel production from the American Iron and Steel Institute’s 2014 Steel Industry Profile that might help highlight what is at stake:

>> The U.S. steel industry directly or indirectly supports more than 1 million U.S. jobs. Every job in the American steel industry supports nearly seven jobs in the U.S. economy, reflecting its ripple effect on employment. 

>> Based on 2013 data, the U.S. steel industry operates more than 100 facilities employing 152,900 people producing steel products valued at $75 billion. 

>> Steel’s broad range of applications—including renewable energy infrastructure, machinery and equipment, transportation and infrastructure, and defense—makes the industry vital to America’s economic and national security. 

>> Labor productivity has seen a fivefold increase since the early 1980s, improving to two man-hours per finished ton of steel last year from an average of 10.1 man-hours per finished ton. Many North American plants are producing a ton of finished steel in less than one man-hour, and U.S. steel producers’ productivity has improved an average of 5.7 percent per year (exceeding the 3.9-percent growth in U.S. manufacturing labor productivity over the same period). 

>> Steel is the most recycled material on the planet. The overall recycling rate of steel in 2012 was 88 percent, based on the latest data compiled by the Steel Recycling Institute. All steel is 100-percent recyclable and more steel is recycled each year than aluminum, copper, paper, glass and plastic combined. 

>> Through the development and application of new steelmaking technologies and the innovations of workers on the plant floor, the industry has significantly reduced energy usage and carbon dioxide emissions over the past quarter century. 

>> Since 2005, U.S. steel producers have achieved a 50-percent reduction in total injury, illness and lost workday rates recorded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration while reaching record levels of productivity. 

>> Steel is the main material used in delivering renewable energy—solar, tidal and wind—and the only material that reduces greenhouse gas emissions in all phases of an automobile’s life.

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