Saturday, April 28, 2007
China Economic Net (ce.cn)
The accident occurred at around 0:00 a.m. at Haicheng Iron and Steel Co. Ltd., a private company that produces 500,000 tons of raw iron a year, said an official with the safety inspection bureau in Anshan.
Five workers were on duty and were taking a nap in their office. "Four of them had died when rescuers arrived," he said on condition of anonymity. "The fifth one was out of danger after timely treatment."
The leak occurred on a gas pipe connected to the company's primary blast furnace
Friday, April 27, 2007
Korean firm introduces nickel-free stainless steel
Posco, the world's fourth-largest steel maker, will raise output of a nickel-free stainless steel fivefold next year as the price of nickel has hit a record.
Posco plans to sell 10,000 tonnes a month of the steel, which it introduced this month, from 2,000 this year, the Pohang-based firm said yesterday. The steel, which uses chromium instead of nickel, is the equivalent of $2,762 (Canadian) a tonne, half the price of so-called 300-series cold-rolled coil steel.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
It's time to embrace the potential in China
Dan Cunningham, president and chief executive of Long-Stanton Manufacturing Co. in West Chester Township, knows that China is a threat and an opportunity for his 144-year-old metal-stamping company.
But rather than run from what he calls the China 'tsunami,' Cunningham has embraced it.
Over the past five years, he has made nearly two dozen trips to China, established a couple of joint ventures there and started a small metal-stamping operation in Changzhou province run by his son, Marvin. The effort has paid off, more than doubling Long-Stanton's business and increasing employment at the West Chester plant to 75 from around 60.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
A delay in getting steel shipments may keep the new Ballard-Hudson Middle School in Macon from opening in August as planned.
'I think we'll all be disappointed,' said school board Vice President Tom Hudson, who represents that area. 'But there are things like steel and other supplies in construction that are out of our control.'
Contractors started building this past September, and they hoped to have the new school finished in 11 months. That's ambitious for a project that would typically take about 18 months, said David Andrews, a school system construction coordinator who's supervising the site.
"When you're on a fast-paced project, anything that doesn't happen the way you planned it throws a kink in the schedule," Andrews said. "Steel has been the biggest culprit at this point and continues to be."
A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a ruling awarding at least $46.2 million to 1,250 former employees of AK Steel Holding Corp. who claimed the steelmaker miscalculated their pension benefits under an early retirement program.
The plaintiffs, who had retired or were terminated since Jan. 1, 1995, sued the company in 2002. They said that AK's method of calculating lump sum payments to workers who had not reached full retirement age did not comply with federal law and resulted in underpayments for participants in one of its pension plans.
The Buffalo News
A steel coil fell from from the flatbed of a tractor-trailer early Friday evening as it approached the Peace Bridge to the United States, Peace Bridge officials said.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
In this accident, a crane failure occurred while the laddle was full of molten steel.
In an irony I'm sure no one appreciates, they were having a safety meeting in that meeting room.
Survivors of a horrific industrial accident in northeast China Thursday recounted the gruesome scene at their factory when 26 tonnes of molten steel poured into a meeting room, killing 32 workers.
The accident happened at Qinghe Special Steel Corp, a relatively modern facility in China's former industrial heartland in Liaoning province.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Zinc has now fallen from the $2 US/lb that it was late last year to about $1.50 US now. However, many platers buy zinc on contract, and so until their contracts run out, higher prices will prevail. By comparison, zinc was $0.50 in June of '05
Copper is again on the rise. It got down as far as $2.50 in February, but is up around $3.30 now. A year ago it was $4.00, so it's a bit off the peak, but not enough to feel comfortable.
Nickel is climbing and shows no sign of stopping. It's currently about $22.75, up from $16 at the year boundary, from $8 a year ago, and $3 five years ago.
Zinc is used in almost every method of rust-proofing steel (except stainless steel). Nickel is used in stainless steel. Brass is a combination of zinc and copper.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Copper prices rose in New York, extending a six-week rally that is the longest since May, on speculation that supplies will be disrupted at mines in Indonesia and Argentina.
Workers at the Grasberg mine in Indonesia plan a ``rally'' starting April 18 that will last until owner Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. agrees to raise wages, said Frans Pigome, who heads the local group behind the action. In Argentina, Xstrata Plc delayed some copper shipments after a flood disrupted rail services. Prices have risen 47 percent in the past 10 weeks.
The disruption of supply ``only adds fuel to the bullish fire,'' said Jim Wyckoff, senior markets analyst at TradingEducation.com in Wesley Chapel, Florida. ``The market is technically and fundamentally bullish.''
WEIRTON -- More than 1,100 Independent Steel Union Members have joined the ranks of The United Steelworkers.
The ISU formed in 1951 and now, 56 years later, after increased competition from foreign steel companies on the U.S. steel industry, the once massive union was forced to dissolve.
Steel Technologies Inc. said Friday government regulators ended the waiting period for its roughly $396 million buyout by Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co. early.
Under the deal, announced in late February, Mitsui will pay Steel Technologies shareholders $30 per share in cash.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Some background on Truman seizing the US steel industry
From Wikipedia (a great reference and a great web site, by the way).
The Truman administration chose not to impose price controls, as the federal government had done during World War II; instead the administration attempted to avoid inflationary pressures through creation of a Wage Stabilization Board that sought to keep down the inflation of consumer prices and wages while avoiding labor disputes whenever possible. Those efforts failed, however, to avoid a threatened strike of all of the major steel producers by the United Steel Workers of America when the steel industry rejected the board's proposed wage increases unless they were allowed greater price increases than the government was prepared to approve.
The Truman administration believed that a strike of any length would cause severe dislocations for defense contractors and for the domestic economy as a whole. Unable to mediate the differences between the union and the industry, Truman decided to seize their production facilities, while keeping the current operating management of the companies in place to run the plants under federal direction.
From a Wikipedia article
In 1952, President Harry Truman seized the steel industry to avert a nationwide strike. (The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled that Truman had overstepped his authority.)
Was it called the Easter Steel strike?
Friday, April 06, 2007
Manufacturing's Race for the Bottom
But I thought I'd dwell on this for a bit. What an odd bit of timing. US Baird, an innovative company with a 150 year history, goes out of business. George writes his article on how North America has lost it's manufacturing tradition. And Menu Foods poisons many hundreds, perhaps thousands of pets, by importing contaminated wheat gluten from China.
What is going on here? Why is manufacturing engaged in a giant race for the bottom?
To some extent, responding to the pressure to reduce cost is good. When you can make an equivalent product, that means, as good or better, by a simpler process, you are reducing cost in a good way. That is, you are reducing the total cost of the product.
For instance, if you find out that 5 microinches of plating is enough for the application, and you cut it down from 10, you reduce the cost. If you find a way to run the machine faster, so it produces more parts per unit time, you are reducing the cost. If you find a smarter method of assembly, so that fewer man hours are needed, you are reducing the cost. If you find a process that is less environmentally harmful, and therefore there is less environmental cleanup involved, you are reducing the cost.
But we've stopped doing that. Instead, we're merely shifting cost into someone else's back yard, into someone else's economy. Often, we are increasing the real cost of the item, measured in hours or lives or environmental damage.
Look, for instance, at chinese steel. Chinese steel costs less. There are many reasons, but most of the media attention has been focused on low wages. Low wages are a part of it, but macro economics says that, over time, that will even out. The workers will demand, and eventually get, better wages.
Large parts also have to do with unsafe working conditions, with extremely low cost-of-safety government regulations, inadequate or non-existant enforcement, inadequate compensation for maimed or dead workers, not just in the steel industry but in the other industries behind it, like coal mining.
Those factors won't ever even out. Those workers will still be dead, and their families will miss them for the rest of their natural lives.
So when the CEO of a company buys products from China, they transfer those costs, insurance, compensation for work accidents, etc, to places which attach little or not currency to those items. It's not like the number of workplace accidents go down, in fact, they generally go up. And the real human costs, measured by every moral measure, go up. Thousands of chinese mine workers die every year. China has the worst mining safety record in the world. In the world! So in fact, outsourcing to China increases the cost by every moral measure. But it decreases the dollar cost, because the chinese pay so little for a life.
The same arguments can be made for the environment. We shift environmentally substandard processes to other, under developed countries, where the dollar cost of transgression is low, even though the environmental processes are, at best, no different, and in many cases much worse. So it's not like we're harming the planet any less, it's just that we're doing it in an underdeveloped country where the cost of transgressing hasn't caught up with the first world.
In other words, we're creating human misery, suffering and environmental damage, but being asked to pay less for it, because it's happening somewhere else. Oh, and then there's the environmental damage of transporting all those products half way around the world.
In what conceivable scenario does this make sense?
Menu Foods is in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto, Canada. Canada is a net exporter of wheat. Why is Menu Foods buying wheat gluten from China, paying shipping charges?
And now they will be paying for a class action lawsuit, for all the dead pets.
It's easy to blame Menu Foods. They bought an inferior product from far away, a place where, it seems, contaminating pet food isn't important because, I guess, pets aren't important. I've seen several reports. The gluten was contaminated with rat poison, in one report, with Melamine in another report. In any case, it's clear that someone didn't much care about this product.
But whatever happened to quality? Especially in a food. Whatever happened to being willing to pay for good ingredients, properly prepared? For your pets, or your children. Why are we buying inferior products? Why are the WalMarts of the world stocking inferior products? Why are they forcing suppliers to skimp and save and cheapen their products? Why do we as consumers buy from such stores?
Only when you find an answer to why we, as consumers, have pushed for the lowest quality product at the lowest price, will you understand why North American manufacturing is languishing and dying. The race for the bottom starts with us.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
US Baird - last of the North American Slide Form Machine manufacturers - gone?
If true, that would be the last North American based slide form machine manufacturer.
America does not like to make things anymore. We, as a people, have for the most part lost that wonderful essence at our core called manufacturing.We seem only to want to make money without doing the hard work. And if we can make money faster by eliminating manufacturing from our national experience completely, so be it. Consequently, we no longer grow manufacturing companies through investments in skills and technology; we simply cut costs.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
From Yahoo Finance.
One hundred years ago, steel was the IT industry of its day -- a cutting edge sector that was a symbol of a country's economic might. Andrew Carnegie, U.S. Steel, and Pittsburgh were what Bill Gates, Microsoft and Silicon Valley are today. The U.S., Britain and Germany made the bulk of the world's steel until the 1970s, when competition from Japan and South Korea sent these traditional Western steelmaker-behemoths reeling. By the late 1990s, the steel business had one foot in the grave. Two trends reversed this over the past five years. First, a series of recent mergers and takeovers among steel companies put the sector back on a more profitable and sustainable path. Second, a jump in demand for steel from China -- coupled with a tripling of steel prices -- brought the whole industry back from the brink of extinction.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Metals that can regain their original shape even after they have been bent may soon be available, thanks to researchers at the University of Illinois who have found that adding heat to bent metal films having the right microstructure returns them to their original shapes.
We found that the type of metal doesn't matter. What matters is the size of the grains in the metal's crystalline microstructure, and a distribution in the size"
The findings of the study were published in the March 30 issue of the journal Science
Sounds a bit like a heat treating application ...
Inventories at the service centres are coming down slowly. Further mill price increases are anticipated in the coming months as higher scrap costs are recovered. As a result, we have uprated our past forecast. Real demand is improving and the import threat diminishing, at least in the short term. Consequently, we forecast a substantial rise in the average price over the next 5/6 months. Prices should peak at a figure close to the high point of the previous cycle in mid 2006.
We expect the current scrap price to decline later in the year as the rate of increase in global consumption starts to slow down. A price slippage is predicted for the second half of 2007. Inventories in the United States remain stubbornly above the desired levels for existing real demand in the market place. However, we caution that in the current climate, market fundamentals can be upset by actions in other parts of the world - particularly affecting price offers by importers.