Real steel: Tata Steel opens UK’s largest profiling centre

Posted on 16 Jan 2014 by Callum Bentley

Tata Steel has this week opened the UK's largest steel profiling plant in what is a confident move in the UK steel sector.

Tata Steel, Europe’s second largest steel producer, is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel of a £3.1 million investment to consolidate two of its steel profiling plants into one single plant near Wolverhampton – the largest seen in the UK.

Paul Steele, managing director at Tata Steel Distribution UK and Ireland.

The facility, opened this week but due to be fully completed by July, is part of a larger £15 million overall investment in the Steelpark site.

The new plant in the West Midlands will alleviate pressure on the manufacturer’s old sites in Cradley and Wombourne by creating 50 per cent more headroom, according to Paul Steele, managing director at Tata Steel Distribution UK and Ireland.

“In terms of the investment in profiling, I’d like to think it’s really strengthened our position with our customers and we’ll become an even stronger part of their supply chain,” Mr Steele said. “We were in a position where we were full in our previous position in Cradley, and while being full in a recession is a good place to be, equally you know that when things start to improve it’s going to test you and you’re going to be struggling.

“We’ve created 50 per cent more head room. We are not going to suddenly fill that overnight, however we’ve created that headroom to be able to grow as the market recovers and also we would expect that would get us some extra share as well.”

The project and investment aim was to create a multi-product profiling centre hub through the relocating of two laser-profiling machines and also to increase plasma-cutting capacity with two new £400,000 high-definition plasma-profiling machines. This new technology, combined with existing assets from the company’s previous two sites, aims to shorten lead times while increasing responsiveness to growing customer demand.

The new Steelpark facility will include:

  • Five high-definition plasma profiling machines capable of cutting steel at temperatures up to 25,000 degrees Celsius (two new)
  • Two laser profiling machines
  • Two gas profiling machines
  • Five machining centres (two new)
  • Three flattening presses

The site will be capable of handling 47,000 tonnes of steel plate per year, equating to about 35,000 finished components per year after scrap.

The investment will, in particular, support Tata Steel’s lifting and excavating customers with 60-75 per cent of the site’s output going to this sector.

Director of heavy gauge, plates & profiles at Tata Steel’s distribution and service centre network for UK & Ireland, Michael Horan, said the foresight in planning such a move three years ago, while other companies were downsizing or restricting expenditure due to recession, was made possible by remaining confident in UK manufacturing, particularly the UK steel industry, while also remaining confident in the product.

Michael Horan, director of heavy gauge, plates & profiles at Tata Steel’s distribution and service centre network for UK & Ireland.

“Where we are today, we’re definitely seeing green shoots and positive signs which obviously vary by manufacturing sector – but there are always winners and losers,” Mr Horan said. “But it’s worth remembering that we made the investment decision two or three years ago and that was really during the bottom period (of recession).

“It was really about looking forward and investing in UK manufacturing and our capability to serve it, but also having the confidence that we could actually add value in a unique way that would make our (investment) offer attractive.

“It wasn’t a blind investment, just hoping things would be alright ­– it was a about expanding our capability, expanding our capacity and really building our service that had locked us in with some end users and equipment manufacturers and then getting a really strong vote of confidence from our board from an investment decision.

“Now we look back and we can see the UK economy beginning to turn and that gives you a real confidence that you will be able to fill that capacity and we’ll have customers that we can really work with.”