Milestone in ThyssenKrupp's growth strategy: First slabs from Brazil arrive at Walsum port in Duisburg
Centerpiece of growth strategy: Iron and steel mill in Brazil
ThyssenKrupp's new integrated mill - construction of which commenced four years ago - began producing slabs at the start of September this year. The mill is situated in Rio de Janeiro state and represents the biggest industrial investment in Brazil in the past ten years and the first major steel mill to be built in the country since the mid-eighties. "The investment project is of central importance to ThyssenKrupp's growth strategy for premium carbon steel flat products in Europe and North America," says ThyssenKrupp CEO Dr. Ekkehard Schulz.
After the full ramp-up - at present the first of two production lines is in operation with one blast furnace and one converter - the mill will produce a total of five million metric tons of high-quality, low-cost slabs a year. It is scheduled to reach full capacity at the end of fiscal 2011/2012. Three million tons of the total capacity will go to the ThyssenKrupp processing plant currently under construction near Mobile in Alabama, USA, while two million tons will be shipped to ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe's plants in Germany for processing into finished products for European customers.
208 million euro investment in Germany
As part of its growth strategy ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe has made major investment in Germany - totaling around 208 million euros so far, on top of its normal investment programs - in order to process the additional slab quantities. "With our investment projects in Brazil and Germany we are supporting the strategic growth of our customers," explains Edwin Eichler, CEO of ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe AG. In the past four years around 125 million euros has been invested in the Duisburg-Beeckerwerth and Bochum hot strip mills to increase their capacity. At the Beeckerwerth hot strip mill, for example, the coil yard has been expanded, the drive power of the finishing train stands increased and the performance of the cooling zone improved. At the Bochum hot strip mill a new walking beam furnace was built and put into operation almost two years ago. The company's hot dip coating lines have also been revamped at a cost of around 30 million euros - for instance, furnace heating capacities have been optimized, new zinc pots built and a new laser welding line installed. In addition, the slab logistics infrastructure has been upgraded to meet the new requirements.
International high-tech slab logistics
After 18 days at sea, the slabs from Brazil, 396 in total, were unloaded by four magnet cranes at a purpose-built, state-of-the-art deep sea terminal at Rotterdam Europoort operated by logistics company C. Steinweg-Handelsveem B.V. From Maasvlakte/Europoort they were then transported by ThyssenKrupp Veerhaven B.V. on barges up the Rhine to Walsum port in Duisburg in a journey lasting around 20 hours. State-of-the-art technology is used in Duisburg to unload and handle the material: Thanks to a 530-ton bridge crane with permanent magnets capable of moving loads of up to 36 tons the slabs are removed from the ship without being touched by human hand. The advantages of the newly developed lifting technology lie in increased safety for employees and greater ease of handling: The magnets hold on to the slabs until an electrical impulse interrupts the contact. In addition, the state-of-the-art magnet technology shortens unloading times significantly. Last but not least it eliminates the need for chains and so saves large amounts of wooden dunnage. This buffer material is no longer needed as the slabs can now be placed gently on top of each other - and this also benefits the environment. The unloaded slabs are deposited on roller pallets for internal yard handling. These are moved by powerful tractor trucks. The slabs are stored in a 70,000 square meter yard newly built for this purpose in Walsum port. The hot strip mills of ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe then order the slabs from the yard as required in a precisely coordinated process and process them into hot-rolled coil, a high-quality carbon steel flat product that is used for example as a starting material by European automobile manufacturers.
Sophisticated chip technology simplifies handling
A sophisticated franking system using a memory chip ensures that each individual slab can be identified digitally, without line of sight, without contact and over large distances, and the data can be processed directly in connected computer systems: Directly after production in Brazil the slabs are tagged with an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip that permits fully automatic handling on every part of the route. The chip contains essential information about the individual slab, allowing it to be identified, stored, transported and finally processed as planned all the way from Brazil via the Netherlands to Germany.