PO Stark about SSAB Special Steels: "There’s a lot of positive energy"
"There’s a lot of ‘go' in the organization at the moment,” says an optimistic PO Stark, Head of SSAB Special Steels. Output of all Special Steels’ products at all sites is going at full tilt.
More than one million tonnes of special steel
SSAB Special Steels is an important part of SSAB´s "Global Leadership in High-Strength Steel" goal, and PO Stark can reflect on a successful 2016, when the division broke the million barrier in deliveries. Just over one million tonnes in steel deliveries, representing an increase of 8% compared to the previous year. The goal this year is to grow more than the steel market as a whole.
But at the end of last year, things came to a grinding halt. A transformer failure stopped production for seven weeks, resulting in a production loss of around 70,000 tonnes.
The effects of the production breakdown were relieved somewhat by the flexibility that exists in SSAB's production system. The production facilities in Raahe, Borlänge and Mobile pitched in and boosted special steel production. In addition, it was possible to utilize product stocks around the world to mitigate the effects of the extended period of downtime.
“I now see an organization that is desperate to claw its way back,” says PO Stark. “We want to show that we want get back and that we can do it. We’ve achieved a record rate of production in Oxelösund and will continue to push on for the rest of the year.”
What are the strengths of SSAB's special steel offering?
"We have the broadest range of products on the market, no one else has such a range, both in terms of steel grades and dimensions. We have a supply chain that reaches much farther than anyone else's, we sell to more than 100 countries and have 80 stock points all over the world. We have a team of focused salespeople and engineers who work in conjunction with our customers and develop their products.”
The marketing of special steels is also starting to get more traction as the market begins to ease a little.
“Tippers, trailers and heavy transport have also been strong segments in recent years. Cranes have been significantly more volatile, but we are seeing signs of recovery in Europe and North America. Regarding “yellow machinery”, demand for the vehicles themselves has not grown, but demand for parts, such as buckets, has. When it comes to the important mining segment, the market has come under pressure, and it may be some time before we start to see more investment again.”
PO Stark believes that, regardless of the tough overall economic conditions, there is still great potential for SSAB to grow.
"Many customers in the industry can convert to our products. We can help them find the right wear-resistant steel that can produce lighter tippers, lighter cars and smarter designs with lower energy consumption, etc.”
Hardox 500 Tuf sets a new standard
In the special steel area, new products and offerings are being launched all the time. PO Stark highlights the launch of Hardox 500 Tuf, which will continue for the rest of the year.
"We’re setting new standards in terms of tippers , e.g. dumper baskets that are lighter than ever, but still more resilient and durable.”
SSAB is constantly working to build stronger ties with customers. The Hardox Wearparts Network now has around 270 members, and new markets and geographical areas are being added all the time. The Hardox In My Body and My Inner Strenx brands are also growing at an exponential rate.
“More and more of our customers are seeing the value of an extended partnership with SSAB as regards the development of their products, and they can see the value in the exchange of knowledge the network offers. Hardox and Strenx are now two of the strongest and best-known brands in the steel industry. I saw this first-hand at the most recent big international construction industries fair - ConExpo in Las Vegas, USA.”
Last year, SSAB sold steel to more than 10,000 special steel customers. PO Stark is setting the bar much higher.
“There is still a strong general overcapacity in the industry and tough competition, but with the best products and the best team, we have the potential to reach even more customers.”