Innovating for success
Steel employees are always looking for ideas about how to improve existing products and develop new ones. Customer suggestions often provide inspiration. These three ideas were honored with the 2015 Steel Tomorrow Award.
Many employees in the Steel Business Area are driven by a need to find new ideas, question old approaches, and view things from a different angle. Below, we present three innovative products that employee teams have developed recently. All three innovations and their inventors were among the winners of the Steel Tomorrow Award in December. The award is presented annually within the Business Area. It honors future-oriented innovations – especially ones with a focus on customer service.
“From the initial idea to the market launch of XABO®1300, our team conducted intensive research, assessment, and testing – and ultimately achieved a major success. Last summer, we managed to position this steel on the market, which in turn helped us to improve our own competitive position. Our customers are very interested in this lightweight product; there is demand, and it is constantly increasing. Our steel is the perfect choice for any application involving heavy loads that need to be moved. It was developed for modern lightweight designs – for crane manufacturing, in particular. It offers a number of advantages compared to conventional products. The machinery’s construction becomes lighter or more capable of handling heavier loads. When it is used in cranes, transport weight and energy consumption are reduced – our customers appreciate all of these aspects. And development in lightweight products continues. We’re not even close to finished! We plan to keep at it.”
Low-distortion packaging steel
“In just under a year, we managed to refine a special product to the point that it now has a unique selling point. Our high-quality, thin packaging steel, which can be used to manufacture items such as screw caps for ketchup bottles or glass jars, develops hardly any distortions while it is being formed by means of deep drawing. We want to avoid these small protrusions on the edges of the metal, because they can’t be cut off when the lid is manufactured. My idea was to optimize the manufacturing process right from the beginning. Hot Strip Plant 1, where our primary material for this packaging steel originates, has been modernized so that its rollers can produce extremely thin strip steel, which leads to fewer distortions in tinplate. This was an extraordinary feat of engineering and a very ambitious interdisciplinary process that we all went through together. In the end, however, everything worked out, and it all went surprisingly quickly. It was an ideal project, if you ask me. Our customers were sold on the idea of the project (which was very lucrative for us) right from the very beginning, and went along with it. We sell around 10,000 tons of this steel every year, even to places like Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates. You can produce up to one billion lids with that amount. One customer even used the steel to create an innovative new product: a click-screw cap that makes opening a pickle jar effortless. You can basically do it with your fingertips.”
PLADUR® Relief Family
“PLADUR® Relief is a type of ZM Eco Protect sheet metal to which several layers of paint are added. The result is a coated steel that looks like high-quality stone, wood, slate, or ice crystal – and even feels like it. It looks fantastic and has excellent forming characteristics. It is durable, corrosion-resistant, and cost-effective. What makes this product special is the way the layers of paint are applied. That was the work of our development department in Siegerland. We also had to coordinate closely with the Coil Coating System in Duisburg to optimize the print rollers for this purpose. Pladur Relief is used in office building facades, garage doors, and steel roofs for residential buildings, among other applications. In terms of sales, the family of products has been picture perfect thus far. After we developed our first IceCrystal product with our partner in the paint industry and sparked some interest, we came up with new ideas based on the market and on suggestions from our customers – that’s where the Stone, Wood, and Texture designs came from. Architects, builders, and contractors love the product, and it’s a hit in eastern Europe. Thousands of single-family homes have IceCrystal roofs, and the number of satisfied customers continues to grow. In the future, a new roof construction with the Texture design, which looks like slate, will be available. Naturally, compared to hot strip steel, PLADUR® Relief is a niche-market product, but all signs point to growth, and the sales figures are promising.”