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Wednesday | 31 October, 2012 | 12:14 pm

Re-engineered, reconfigured material flow

By Lauren Duensing

ArcelorMittal invests $60 million in a state-of-the-art heat-treat line

October 2012 - On the shores of Lake Michigan, adjacent to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the Port of Indiana, is the town of Burns Harbor, Ind., which is rich in steel history and home to one of ArcelorMittal’s largest locations in the United States. The steelworks have stood on this site since 1964 and formerly were part of Bethlehem Steel.

According to ArcelorMittal’s website, the Burns Harbor location is the only U.S. steelmaking facility that is surrounded by a national park. In addition, its proximity to the port, highways and railroads makes shipping products to customers quick and easy.

In May, ArcelorMittal commissioned a $60 million, state-of-the-art heat-treat line at its 160-inch plate facility in Burns Harbor. The line can produce a full range of heat-treated products and “enhances quality, productivity and customer delivery resulting in both cost and energy savings,” according to the company.

“The market has become increasingly competitive in quality, cycle time and delivery performance,” said John Mengel, COO, ArcelorMittal USA Plate Operations, at an event in May to commemorate the start-up of the new line. “We invested in our existing operations, which were built in 1966, in order to meet current and future market demand for on-time quality deliveries.”

Keep customers in mind

ArcelorMittal designed its new line with customers in mind. The company’s plate products go into construction, energy, machinery, rail and shipbuilding, as well as to steel service centers. 

The reconfigured line forms a U shape to increase efficiency. Previously the plates were processed in batches, according to Mengel, and were stacked while waiting for the next step. With this method, it was a two-week process from melt to shipping. The redesigned material flow provides straight-through processing for reduced cycle time and less work in process. Now, plates can travel through the line as quickly as 1.5 hours for 1⁄2-inch-thick plate and go from melt to shipping in approximately two to three days. 

The entire roll line, blaster and leveler are new. Everything opposite the leveler is structurally old, but ArcelorMittal retrofit the equipment to bring it up-to-date. 

The heat-treating process begins at the charge table and hardening furnace, which has speed-regulated drives for straight-through processing and NiAl rolls for low creep at high temperatures. Plates then travel through a high-pressure tangential-spray roller quench that is capable of lengths greater than 1,400 inches and a tempering furnace that has a full tempering range for high-strength quenched and tempered products. The temper furnace is capable of 400 degrees Fahrenheit tempering for heavy-abrasion plate. 

After heat treating, plates enter the processing stations, beginning with continuous mist cooling that lowers the plate temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Plates are then Brinell tested for both abrasion plate release and predictive testing of high strength. Mengel pointed out every piece of heat-treated product needs to be tested. 

Prior to leveling, blasting the plate prevents surface damage. Then the plates travel to the cornerstone of the new investment—a high-capacity, 8,200-ton leveler.  It handles plate thicknesses from 3⁄8 inch to 4 inches with yield strengths up to 200 ksi and ensures plates meet customers’ flatness standards. Last is the plate-priming station, where leveled plate is blasted with a zero-VOC fabrication-friendly primer.

The line is capable of a range of heat-treated products, including normalized plate, which, according to ArcelorMittal, provides improved toughness, fracture resistance in structures and puncture resistance in vessels; quench plate (martensite) for use in abrasion-resistant applications; and quench and tempered plate (tempered martensite), a product that is tailored to meet customers’ specifications for high-strength applications.

Safe, sustainable steel

ArcelorMittal focuses on safety and sustainability for its customers, employees and the surrounding community. The company expects the new line to meet all quality and delivery goals, as well as provide a 10-percent reduction in fuel consumption per ton shipped.

The project was built without injury, on time and on budget. “ArcelorMittal, in partnership with United Steelworkers Local 6787 is pleased with the commitment of its employees and contractors to safely complete the project, positioning ArcelorMittal to be a low-cost supplier of choice for the plate market,” Mengel said. 

ArcelorMittal began construction on the new heat-treat facility on July 1, 2011, and continued to serve customers during the construction phase by transferring production crews to its Gary, Ind., location. On April 2, 2012, the company produced the first plate on the new line, and orders were filled the first week of operation, completing the seamless transition for customers. 

Remaining competitive in global markets requires change, and for ArcelorMittal, this investment represents a contribution to the future health of U.S. manufacturing.

“The upgrades to the 160-inch heat-treat facility demonstrate a desire and commitment in this business to keep abreast of today’s technology as well as global competition. It demonstrates a confidence in the talent and ethic of the workforce that I have represented for many years,” commented Paul Gipson, president of the United Steelworkers Local 6787, Burns Harbor. 

“The importance of this project lies not only in the jobs created during 

construction or the enhancement of current steelworker jobs but also in the significant economic investment that demon­strates ArcelorMittal has confidence that the best place to produce steel is right here in Northwest Indiana,” said U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) during the May event. MM

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