As US steel industry undertake several expansion and investment programmes, refractory maker supplier HarbisonWalker International announced to increase its own capacity by 25% this year to support the growing demand for refractories from domestic steelmakers, HarbisonWalker CEO Carol Jackson said on 7th May, 2019. At Association of Iron and Steel Technology (AISTech 2019) Pittsburgh, Carol R. Jackson, Chairman and CEO, HarbisonWalker International (HWI), joined steel leaders to provide industry perspectives as a featured panellist at AISTech 2019, Town Hall Forum.
In addition to expanding its physical capacity, HarbisonWalker International (HWI) is also focusing on expanding the use of big data, Jackson said. While the traditional method for determining when to pull a ladle for a reline has largely relied on the experience of the workforce, with the addition of sensors, lasers and thermal imaging, steelmakers can now use the data gathered to make those decisions. "We're moving more toward data-driven decisions where we can actually, based on sensor data, fully appreciate what is happening with that refractory lining and make smarter decisions about when to pull that ladle out of service to be relined," Jackson said.
In fact, approximately one-half of HWI's capital investment dollars will have a direct positive impact on its steel industry customers. Much of HarbisonWalker's investment will be focused on its White Cloud, Michigan, facility, which supplies brick refractory products for the steel industry, Jackson told S&P Global Platts in an interview on the sidelines of the AISTech Conference in Pittsburgh.
“We are proud to have helped fuel our US steel industry customers’ success in 2018 by consistently delivering on the tremendous demand for refractory products and services,” said Jackson. “We were able to source critical refractory raw materials when others could not. Our teams stepped up in a big way to maximize our supply chain and production capacity to meet the surge in demand. Looking ahead, we are continuing to make investments in our business to help ensure our steel customers’ sustained growth.”
Last year the company built a new, state-of-the-art monolithic production plant in South Point, Ohio, marking a $30 million investment and the first new plant built by HarbisonWalker since the 1970s. "This was a big deal for us, and also supports the steel industry," Jackson said.
Read: HarbisonWalker investing $30M for new monolithic refractories plant
HarbisonWalker's demand for refractory products to serve steelmakers is growing by 15 per cent on Y-O-Y basis, though not all of that increase is directly attributable to the Section 232 tariffs on steel imports introduced in March 2018, Jackson said. "Our steel customers are experiencing a demand increase for a variety of reasons," she said. "Certainly 232 has been helpful. Our steel customers have benefited, and what's good for steel is good for us."
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According to HarbisonWalker, its new initiatives include capital investments, product developments, and refractory digital transformation programs designed to deliver exceptional products, services, and value for steel industry customers such as, expansion to accommodate new warehouse and shipping space, which is being constructed with American-made steel. Additional manufacturing space will house new production technologies, including a new brick press and packaging line, manufacturing technologies that improve production efficiency and worker safety.
“The improvements will further optimize production, product quality, and delivery efficiencies for our steel customers,” said Jackson. “The new press and warehouse increase our capacity to supply our industry-leading products including Mag Carbon brick for steel ladles, electric arc furnaces (EAF), and basic oxygen furnaces (BOF). The new packaging line allows for increased handling safety and provides quality control benefits associated with our product.”
About HarbisonWalker International (HWI)
With more than 150 years of industry leadership, HarbisonWalker International is the largest supplier of refractory products and services. HarbisonWalker International (HWI), headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has international network in North America, Europe, and Asia, with 19 manufacturing plants, 30 global sourcing centers, and technology facilities in both the United States and China. Serving virtually every major industry that requires refractory solutions to enhance production and protect assets, HWI is consistently recognized for its talented experts, industry firsts, and intensely driven excellence.