Up from the Ashes: The Rise of the Steel Minimill in the United States

By Donald F. Barnett; Robert W. Crandall | Go to book overview

furnaces and rolling mills that is not characteristic of minimills. Obviously, Japanese, French, Austrian, Swiss, and Canadian investors have been quite important in funding this expansion of the minimills. As long as this sector can continue to draw on diverse sources of international capital, it should have little difficulty in expanding to occupy the new product niches opened up by technological change.


Summary

The constant pressure for technological advances in minimill operations has produced substantial dividends. Technological change has been sufficiently rapid that the average costs of production in new mills have continued to decline despite high U.S. plant construction costs. This is in sharp contrast to the situation in the integrated sector, where new plants have become prohibitively expensive because they do not offer sufficient improvements in embedded technology to offset high capital costs.

Minimill technology has advanced to the point where minimills are prepared to challenge integrated firms in the production of sheet steels. Even with no major technological breakthroughs, small plants with a capacity of no more than 750,000 tons of sheet steel a year appear to offer lower costs than most of the integrated facilities. These new minimill operations may not be able to compete with integrated firms in markets where the metallurgical quality of the product is critical, but in lower-grade sheet products the invasion by the minimills appears imminent.

When mini hot-strip mills and the new technologies for casting thin slab have been implemented on a commercial scale, the minimill invasion of the sheet markets will become a matter of major concern to the large integrated firms. Only the most efficient integrated plants appear to be capable of surviving this attack.

-70-

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Up from the Ashes: The Rise of the Steel Minimill in the United States
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Board of Trustees v
  • Foreword vii
  • Contents ix
  • I- Two Distinct Industries 1
  • Summary 16
  • II- The Competitive Position of Minimills 18
  • Summary 35
  • III- The Decline of the Integrated Sector 36
  • Summary 55
  • IV- Changing Technology and the Minimills 56
  • Summary 70
  • V- Future Scrap and Electricity Supplies 71
  • Summary 94
  • VI- Industrial Policy- The Lessons from Steel 96
  • Appendix A- Tables 115
  • Appendix B- A Simulation Exercise- Scrap Availability for Electric Furnaces 126
  • Appendix C- A Model of the U.S. Iron and Steel Scrap Market 129
  • Index 133
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