Investments worth their while
ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe has invested a quarter of a billion euros in the modernization of its Duisburg-Bruckhausen hot strip mill. That's good for customers: They can have even thinner high-precision steel sheets. And it's good for employees: They have a much better work environment.
Anyone taking a tour of ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe’s 800 meter long hot strip mill 1 in Duisburg needs two things – safety equipment and stamina. The tour leads past furnaces, roll stands and measuring equipment. It’s hot and noisy – and thoroughly fascinating – as the long strips of steel race through the line at speeds of 50 kilometers per hour. So what exactly is new about the line? “We now have the latest automation, rolling and cooling systems, state-of-the-art hydraulics and electrics – and a complete inventory management system,” explains Heinz-Josef Engelskirchen, head of the freshly modernized line.
“It takes us to a new level of precision; it reduces both scrap and potential rework,” adds Andreas Walther, team leader slab center furnace. The crew of hot strip mill 1 have always been able to meet customers’ high quality requirements in the past – but now they can produce even thinner, higher-strength steel sheets to even closer tolerances. “We’ve significantly improved the capabilities of hot strip mill 1,” sums up Andreas Rotärmel, head of production in the finishing mill.
When the requirements of car or can manufacturers increase – which happens all the time – the recent modernization means that ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe is ideally equipped to deal with them. Meanwhile the operators are pleased with their bright, spacious, ergonomically designed and optimally lit workplaces in the mill pulpits. “Everything that could be improved has been improved – from the operator desks to the control system to the break rooms with smoking cabins,” says shift coordinator Siegfried Kurpierz. “We’ve arrived in the 21st century, the nostalgia’s gone.” Line controller Matthias Gronowski is satisfied: “The modern user interface on the computers – which we tailored to our needs together with the supplier – makes work easier. At the beginning it was a challenge, but we soon got used to it.”
The line now also has a new safety model, agreed with the employers’ insurance association and the district government: “It includes fencing of the complete line, new traffic routes inside the building, a new fire safety model with automatic extinguishers on sensitive parts of the line, and a safety control system: in emergencies, parts of the line close down automatically via PLCs,” says Engelskirchen. “We’re well equipped for the years ahead.”