The big plus: All from one source
CEO David Stickler and CCO Mark Bula on the reasons of choosing SMS group as primary supplier, on production records and the Learning Factory concept.
Mr. Stickler, have you ever contracted just one supplier before?
David Stickler: I’ve built these projects for twenty years now. Occasionally we have multiple suppliers, occasionally we have a handful of suppliers, and we at Big River Steel decided to have one primary supplier: the SMS group. If people asked me today if I would make this decision again and my answer is yes that I would.
We are actually about six to nine months ahead of the plan, on both volume and certain grades and sizes of steel.
What are the benefits from your decision to have SMS group as primary supplier?
Mark Bula: At Big River Steel our start-up has been incredibly fast. I think that is a credit to both, our operations team and the equipment we bought from SMS group, and the partnership that we have with SMS. We’ve learned to work together very well over the years. Because the market was strong, we have actually had the opportunity to move our ramp-up probably much faster than any of us anticipated. We are actually about six to nine months ahead of the plan, on both volume and certain grades and sizes of steel.
For the equipment design, Big River Steel set high value on environmental protection. Why is it so important to you?
Mark Bula: Big River Steel wants to be a good steward of the environment. Part of this starts with SMS group and our relation with them to make sure that we have near zero emissions coming out of this plant.
Can you give us an example of where this energy- efficient design is taking effect?
David Stickler: Just like a lot of cars today we pull up to a stop line the motor turns off, our motors and drives are not way-way back. Most of our competitors keep their motors running at full torque 24/7. The only time when they are down is when they are down for maintenance. That’s not energy-efficient. We spent extra money upfront which we know we’ll go to get great returns on by the energy savings we earn here and in this mill.
Big River Steel is an innovative company. Where are you heading to?
Mark Bula: The steel industry must evolve. We’ve challenged SMS group: How do we use technology, digitalization? What do we do to gain an advantage in the marketplace by having those types of relationships with SMS group? SMS group has proposed a learning factory. A learning factory, a smart mill, really what this is, is capturing an additional data, lots and lots of data, thousands of pieces of data for us to be able to make better decisions, almost with an artificial intelligence and perspective that will give us that competitive advantage that we think will take us into the next generation of steelmaking.
Most of our competitors keep their motors running at full torque 24/7. That’s not energy-efficient.
SMS group is to take on comprehensive maintenance services with a staff of 75 in the workshop. What are the reasons for that?
Mark Bula: What are the other important things about having SMS group as a partner is their ability to build a plant near us to service our needs on our maintenance going forward— that after sales services are important the way we do business. We want to concentrate on running the mill not maintaining it. SMS group provides that service to us. That’s why I would recommend SMS group for any flat rolling mill you want to build around the world.