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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Steel Times International is
buying, what’s your poison?
A ‘copper’-coloured craft ale!
- 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
- Can you discuss any major steel
contracts you are currently working
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
- “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.
- 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
- “…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.
- 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.
- Is the steel industry wellplaced
to take advantage of digital
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
- Where does LTI-METALTECH lead
the field in terms of steel production
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
- 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.
- How would you solve the issue of
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.
- 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
- Which breakthrough technologies
will have a revolutionary impact on the
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.
- Where do you see most
innovation in terms of production
technologies – primary, secondary or
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
- 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
- What challenges face global steel
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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!