POSCO's Finex Leads World
Giant steelmaker looks back at its march of success in light of 60th Liberation Day Anniversary
POSCO has become a leading steel maker in the world today despite its short history of 37 years thanks to its dedication to developing new steel-making technologies from the 1970s when it didn? have an integrated steel-making technology.
POSCO's technology development process can be divided into five stages. Following is a report on the steel maker's technology development from early stage of importing foreign steel technologies and its development and successful commercialization of the revolutionary and environment-friendly steel-making technology FINEX
Introduction of foreign steel-making technologies: POSCO imported foreign steel-making technologies from the first period of its operation from 1973 to the third period of operation in 1978, along with the dispatch of its workers overseas for training. The steelmaker decided to develop its own technology by expanding the number of steel products and standardization of product specification.
In 1977, the company reorganized the technology management department into the technology management office and the technology research institute to concentrate more on research and development.
Improving imported foreign technologies:
From 1979 to 1981, the steel maker made efforts to improve imported foreign technologies in a bid to strengthen its structure. During the period, POSCO completed its second to fourth installations making its production system more stable.
In the meantime, during the second oil shock, POSCO had to find its own means to secure the technology due to the slump in the steel industry around the world and foreign steel makers unwilling to provide technologies to POSCO leery of head-on competition with the emerging steel maker.
From 1982 to 1989, the steel industry around the world remained in slump and foreign steel makers continued to provide new steel technologies to POSCO, which has been growing rapidly and its effort to secure steel technologies through its own means intensified.
In the same period, the Kwangyang steelwork's first and second installations went on stream, Pohang University of Science and Technology was established and the Industrial Science and Technology Institute launched also. In 1982, the first stage five-year technology development plan designed to prepare for the launch of the Kwangyang steelwork and to further improve the steel making technology at the Pohang steel work in tandem with a plan to upgrade the quality of its products.
In December 1985, the second stage steel technology development plan was launched geared to upgrade steel technology at the Kwangyang steel work, which just went on stream and develop the stainless steel production technology.
In order to spur technology development, POSCO set up the system for technology sector debate in April 1983, the steel making technology award system in 1988, the technology development conference in 1989, and with considerable operational results.
From 1990 to 1995, POSCO set up and operated its third stage technology development plan with the operation of stainless steel production and the Kwangyang steel work's third and fourth installations going on operation followed by the expansion of the facilities for surface treatment, and cold rolled steel, increasing the number of steel products, which created the need for securing steel production technology.
In May 1991, POSCO made the list of 30 steel technologies that it should secure to build a base for research and development of new steel making technologies that foreign steel makers refused to give up.
After 1995, the giant steel maker focused on development of high-tech steel technologies including those for strip casting, corex, min-mill installation operation technology and others.
From June 1996, POSCO set up a mid to long-term technology strategy plan, which is subject to annual revision. From 2000, the steel maker went full out to take on securing new steel technologies under its mid to long term technology development plan in linkage with the company's management strategy geared to developing high-level steel technology.
POSCO in August, 2004, started the commercialization of its Finex steel technology which is able to replace the traditional blast furnaces, therefore, considered the revolutionary next generation steelmaking technology, setting off a great change in the world's steel making technology. The new steel production facilities based on the new steel technology will be ready for operation at the end of next year at the cost of 1.3 trillion won with expected annual production of 1.5 million tons of steel.
When the new steel production facilities are installed at the Pohang steel work, they would be replacing traditional steel production facilities developed in the 14th century considered very competitive steel-making technology for the past century, signaling the successful commercial operation of the new steel technology, opening a new chapter in the world steel industry.
POSCO started to work on the new technology since 1992 spending some 420 billion won for expenses during the process. In June last year, the company produced 600,000 tons of steel from the demonstration Finex plant, which gave the company management confidence to go for a full commercial use of the new steel technology.
The Finex steel production technology uses iron ores powders and bituminous coal to produce crude iron without facilities to prefabricate those raw materials reducing the need for large investments and production costs by 17 percent. It is also being considered an environment-friendly technology as it reduces SOx, NOx and CO2 discharges, which come only to 6 percent, 4 percent and 83 percent of the old production technology.
POSCO plans to replace the old production facilities at its Pohang complex and provide it to new steel plants built overseas in the regions where demand for steel is growing as an investment under its strategy to be a technology leader in the world.
POSCO plans to develop the strip casting technology by 2007, taking advantage of its demonstration steel plant capable of producing 600,000 tons of steel per year. The new steel technology is expected to save lots of energy needed to make thick slabs thinner and heat pressure process by eliminating them, in addition to lowering the discharge of pollutants. It will also cut the production process and shipment date with room in the hot-coil production plants for other purposes, contribution to increased output of steel with upgraded cost competitive edge.
As noted above, POSCO has poured a lot of its time and energy into the development of its own steel-making technology under its mid-to-long-term management strategy since the construction of its steel plants. As a result, it has been able to develop the Finex steel production technology on its own and successfully commercialized it for the first time in the world so much so that foreign steelmakers have been calling on POSCO to benchmark its steel production technology.
POSCO's 37 years of operation, three/fifth of the country's liberation from Japanese rule, has been devoted to achieving independence in steel technology to build a base for boosting Korea? profile as a technology-oriented country in the world.
Managing Director Huh Nam-seok, in looking back at POSCO's march toward success, he still remembers how busy the company had been to build an integrated steel plant from the scratch, importing foreign technology and overseas training for its workers.
He is proud of the fact that POSCO now is capable of producing high-quality steel products with its own technology and developed or in the process of developing some of the key steel technologies in the world including Finex and strip casting. He said he feels an awesome responsibility for the job.
The 21st century is an age of limitless competition for business. You can? be a top firm in the world unless you have your own technologies, ensuring continued competitive power for your company. nw
Dignitaries including POSCO Chairman Lee Ku-taek, fifth from left, at the launching of construction of the Finex steel production facility.
POSCO? strip casting steel production facility.