British Steel today announced it is investing £26m into a project that it says will make it “a leading manufacturer on the world stage”. British Steel also said the investment is the largest "for more than 30 years in its Special Profiles business".
The project will see new downstream processing facilities constructed at the company’s Skinningrove site in North Yorkshire and forms part of a wider £100m investment this year by British Steel’s Chinese owners, Jingye Group, to improve the firm’s manufacturing and environmental performance.
The new service centre, which will include cut-to-length lines, product milling, machining and warehousing operations, will enable the company to make and process an extended range of value-added profiles for the forklift industry. The advanced milling and machining capability will also mean the company can offer profiles with world-leading tolerances of just 0.1mm.
British Steel’s Commercial Director for Special Profiles David Waine said: “This is an exciting project that will establish us as a leading manufacturer on the world stage. Our high-quality profiles are supplied globally to make components for a wide range of market sectors, such as the forklift and earthmoving industries, and many of these applications are extremely demanding.
“Our investment means we’ll have world-class products manufactured to the tightest of tolerances. It will enable us to explore new growth opportunities for our forklift mast products in Europe, North and South America, India and Asia. And although our primary product offering will be for forklift mast production, we expect to be able to expand this to include other product applications too.”
British Steel said it is experiencing strong growth for its products, particularly those used in the mining and construction sectors, as well as the especially demanding application of high-reach trucks. These vehicles are typically used to move loads in warehouses and because they operate at heights – or lengths – in the order of 8 metres, exceptionally high tolerances are needed for the mast section, the moving part that enables the truck’s forks to reach, collect and move items.
David said: “With the market growth and demands we’re anticipating, our investment is coming at just the right time. It will deliver new key capabilities that use technology nearly 2 decades more advanced than anything available anywhere in the world. To take on processing skills in a way that no-one else is doing is a hugely exhilarating challenge.”
Work on the new facilities is planned to begin towards the end of the year with commissioning expected to start in August 2023. The large scale of the scheme will involve a wide range of contractors covering a vast array of skills, from construction to turning and milling expertise to automated warehousing companies.
The new Skinningrove facility will replace the services currently offered at the company’s site in Darlington, which stores and cuts profiles to customer requirements. David Hogg, Special Profiles Plant Manager, said: “The service centre will sit right in the centre of our Skinningrove site, enabling us to achieve full integration with our upstream and downstream processes.
“Moving our operations from Darlington to Skinningrove and expanding our processing capabilities brings logistical, cost and environmental benefits as we’ll no longer be transporting material between these 2 locations.
“We already supply customers on a just-in-time basis, but this new facility will help streamline our operations and further improve efficiencies. Along with moving our operations, our intention is to offer all employees currently based at Darlington new roles so we can retain and support our skilled workforce.
“The task ahead of us is as complex as it is exciting.”
The latest scheme builds on previous investments, including the installation of a £2m world-leading surface descaling system, a high-tech product processing centre and a unique robotic identification tracking control for each profile manufactured at the Skinningrove mill.
David Waine added: “These projects are taking our profile offering from strength to strength. But it’s not just our series of investments that’s making the difference, the innovation and skill of our teams to think differently, identify new opportunities and implement them effectively is really transforming the products and services we’re able to offer. In the last 2 years alone, we’ve achieved an impressive 9 product patents and it’s this continued entrepreneurship that is driving our business forward.
“The market is becoming increasingly competitive. But by continually innovating and developing our processing capabilities in line with customer requirements, the outlook is bright.”
*Header image courtesy of Depositphotos