Innovation is on the move – Steel Times International

LTI-Metaltech is expanding into different markets and is picking up new business from around the

world. The company is a strong supporter of new technologies, like Industry 4.0, and views 3D printing

as a revolutionary leader. We put our questions to the company’s Edgar Rayner.

  1. How are things going at LTIMETALTECH?

Great! As an end-user, there’s a lot going

on at LTi Metaltech, especially with our

expansion into new sectors and market

applications, but also I know for the steel

industry as a whole.

 

  1. In which sector of the steel

industry does LTI-METALTECH mostly

conduct its business?

Traditionally, we’ve majored in the

healthcare sector as a leading supplier of

cryogenic pressure vessels used in MRI

scanners. In recent times we’ve been

expanding into the fluid transfer, energy,

food manufacturing and transport sectors,

as well as nuclear and renewable energy, so

our high-end steel fabrication techniques

have been found increasingly in demand.

 

  1. What is your view on the current

state of the global steel industry?

It’s hard to get away from the problem of

overcapacity. The government-subsidised

industry in China, which now produces

more than half of the world’s steel, is

flooding the market and preventing other

countries from trading competitively.

Combined with other factors, the UK in

particular has felt the effects of this. The

global industry will have to show some

resilience while the world adjusts.

 

  1. Steel Times International is

buying, what’s your poison?

A ‘copper’-coloured craft ale!

 

  1. Where in the world are you

busiest at present?

Much of our work is for German clients, but

destined worldwide, but we are 100% a

UK-domiciled business.

 

  1. Can you discuss any major steel

contracts you are currently working

on?

Siemens is a major client, and blue-chip

obviously, but we have recently secured

a range of mid-market clients in the fluid

distribution and energy sectors. Last year

we completed an award-winning piece

of work in partnership with Tokamak in

fabricating critical components in nuclear

fission.

 

  1. “Aluminium will always outperform

steel on a weight basis; and

on the stiffness issue alone it will carry

the day,” said Alcoa. Where do you

stand on the argument?

Steel is the stronger of the two obviously,

being much more resistant to warping

than aluminium. But the trade-off has

always been on weight, as aluminium is a

much lighter material. But with innovations

showcasing the production of lightweight

steels, this dynamic might be set to change

in the future, so I keep an open mind.

 

  1. Is aluminium ‘greener’ than steel?

The benefits of both steel and aluminium

are that they are very recyclable because the

process does not undermine their structural

integrity. With aluminium in particular, the

recycling process uses only a fraction of the

energy required to make it initially. While

steel can be recycled too, the lightness

of aluminium gives it an additional edge,

as this also helps save fuel consumption

elsewhere.

 

  1. “…any hint of doubt when

it comes to predictions of climate

doom is evidence of greed, stupidity,

moral turpitude or psychological

derangement.” This is a quote from

Bret Stephens writing in The Wall

Street Journal. Do you sympathise?

Stephens is spot-on to take a clear stand

against climate change denial because

the evidence pointing to climate change

is simply overwhelming. It’s a very real

problem with no simple solution, and

businesses have an important role to

play in addressing it. While he’s said that

climate change denial often sources from

greed, it’s promising to see a positive trend

of businesses increasingly taking their

environmental responsibilities seriously.

LTI always considers its commitments

to sustainability in business decisions.

Hopefully this trend will spread and grow.

 

  1. Why is Industry 4.0 so important

to the future of steel production?

Industry 4.0 is set to really help make

the steel industry become more efficient,

driving innovations and competition. But

it also has the potential to fundamentally

change the industry and its business

models, which will produce both benefits

and challenges—not least the impact of

automation on jobs.

 

  1. Is the steel industry wellplaced

to take advantage of digital

manufacturing?

Yes and no. While digital manufacturing

certainly has the potential to transform the

industry’s capabilities, again this needs to

be balanced against concerns regarding the

loss of jobs. But make no mistake, I’m not a

closet luddite!

 

  1. Where does LTI-METALTECH lead

the field in terms of steel production

technology?

LTI is operating across a number of steel

industry sectors, but our services are

right at the cutting edge of the high-tech

fabrication marketplace, which is applicable

to a range of demanding regulated

industries.

 

  1. How do you view LTIMETALTECH’s

development over the

short-to-medium term in relation to

the global steel industry?

We’re always looking to expand our

offerings into new sectors of the steel

industry, so I expect to see us become more

widely integrated with an increasing stake

in the market in the coming years. The

more successful we are, the more steel we

need, so it’s a win-win situation I hope.

 

  1. How would you solve the issue of

global overcapacity?

Global overcapacity has produced an

ongoing crisis for the steel industry in recent

years. A lot of this stems from subsidised

overproduction in China undercutting the

competition. Rebalancing the market is key:

the deal reached at the recent G20 summit

to better manage production capacity is

a good first step, as are the promising

predictions that Chinese exports will

decrease as its domestic market improves.

 

  1. The Chinese still rely heavily upon

Western steel production technology.

What is LTI-METALTECH’s experience of

the Chinese steel industry?

We compete with Chinese specialist

fabricators, but our quality – we believe

– has more than an edge over them.

Everything is not just down to price and

I think we’ll see more revelations here as

we compete head-to-head with Chinese

manufacturing.

  1. Which breakthrough technologies

will have a revolutionary impact on the

steel industry?

3-D printing has got to be a contender for

revolutionary leader. Whichever technology

becomes the champion of radical change in

engineering and manufacturing, however, is

unlikely to be one size fits all.

 

  1. Where do you see most

innovation in terms of production

technologies – primary, secondary or

more downstream?

As an end-user, I can only comment on

what we see, which is that innovation is

on the move across the whole landscape

of manufacturing, from production to

products themselves. I’d expect innovation

to permeate every aspect of the production

process simultaneously.

 

  1. How important is reputation

management to the steel industry?

Very. There’s a lot of speculation at present

about the future of the UK’s steel industry

and the impact this could have on the

economy. Managing these concerns will be

vital.

 

  1. What challenges face global steel

producers?

While recent years have shown up some

problems for the steel industry, there’s

certainly been a recognition of this with

positive actions being taken to address key

issue-areas, so I’m optimistic going forward.

More immediate challenges are whether

we’re identifying the right solutions: for

example, the protectionist response from

America. Brexit is overplayed, as I’m quite

sure that once trade deals are sorted, we’ll

continue to respond to new markets.

 

  1. LTI-METALTECH is UK-based, but

how is the steel industry performing?

It’s been a difficult few years for the UK

steel industry. In addition to the global issue

of cheap Chinese exports, the UK industry

has had to adjust to new climate change

policies and contend with high domestic

energy prices. Impacting on performance,

this has triggered uncertainty about jobs

and the future. That said, there has been

some turnaround: for example, sterling

depreciation has helped UK exporters.

 

  1. What keeps you awake at night?

I dislike uncertainty or volatile conditions

in the market. But to be frank, running any

kind of business is tough work, and so to

some extent being kept on your toes keeps

you fit.

 

  1. If you possessed a superpower,

how would you use it to improve the

global steel industry?

I’d like to see faster progress on the

sustainability side. The steel industry can

always be on the look-out for ways to

mitigate its environmental impact, but a

superhero fix would be great!

 

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