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pounds 4 million investment makes local steel plant best in UK.

British Steel, one of the world's best performing steel companies, now has the most modern and technologically advanced narrow cold mill in the United Kingdom at its Firsteel Cold Rolled Products site in Tipton.

A recent investment in the site of some pounds 4 million is part of an ongoing strategy to improve product quality and manufacturing efficiency to world class levels and to further strengthen the competitive position of British Steel Narrow Strip in Europe.

The new extension to the British Steel site, which now has state-of-the-art narrow cold rolling and processing facilities, was officially opened at the end of last year by Mr John Bryant, executive director, British Steel plc.

The project is one of the largest ever in the UK narrow cold rolling sector, and has been completed in under 12 months and to budget.

The new facility includes an additional four high reversing mill, a new Ebner hydrogen annealing furnace, refurbishment of the existing mills, slitting lines and furnaces, as well as the building extension which provides an additional 1800 sq m of floorspace.

Firsteel Cold Rolled Products (FCRP) was a part of the Firsteel Group of businesses which was bought in April 1997 by British Steel.

FCRP is a business specialising in traditional low to medium carbon cold rolled narrow strip and therefore gives a great deal of synergy when aligned with the other "strip" businesses within the Narrow Strip portfolio.

The business has a large customer base centred in the West Midlands area, and has long been a major player in the UK narrow cold rolling sector.

Firsteel Cold Rolled Products has cold rolling facilities at British Rolling Mills, and a specialist steel service centre, Hemming & Turner, both in Tipton.

This service centre facility, with its precision slitting lines and cut to length line along with expert packing and logistics capabilities, enables the business to supply small volumes of high added value product to JIT delivery requirements.

New capabilities

The new equipment at Tipton enables coils up to a maximum of 7 tonnes and up to 20 kg/mm width to be processed: by some way the largest in the UK in this sector, a fact which will also give manufacturing efficiencies demanded by many of Narrow Strip's customers.

The thickness range will now be up to 8mm, with widths up to 525mm, capabilities which are amongst the best in Europe.

Rolling

The reversing mill (see pic) has the most up-to-date computer and hydraulic control systems available, allowing the highly trained operating team to optimise the quality, mix and output levels from the unit.

Automatic gauge control from VAI using massflow principles will enable the Tipton site to produce strip to thickness tolerances better than the new European standard precision tolerances (better than +/-0.2 percent).

Non-contact thickness gauges have also been installed which will not only provide consistency in material gauge, but also ensure that the strip surface finish will be unblemished.

Annealing

The brand new Ebner sub-critical hydrogen annealing furnace (see pic) is among the largest in the European narrow strip sector, capable of processing up to 1800mm in diameter for 20 kg/mm coils.

The furnace has a 60 tonne charge load and processing times will be half those of a conventional nitrogen atmosphere.

This will bring substantial energy savings in line with British Steel's declared environmental statement of reducing operations' impact on the environment.

The state-of-the-art high convection hydrogen annealing technology produces strip which is exceptionally clean with no surface decarburisation and has the optimum microstructure and metallurgical properties.

The consistency within individual coils and from coil to coil will enable customers to achieve precision tolerances in subsequent processing and will further improve productivity.

These features are particularly relevant in many of Narrow Strip's sector supply chains which rely on the tightest tolerances and the highest consistency for some of the most demanding high speed steel processing applications.

People

Firsteel Cold Rolled Products can also claim another victory with the recent confirmation of its accreditation to "Investors in People", having first achieved the status in 1995.

This is yet another demonstration of the company's commitment to the development of its workforce in order to provide its customers with continuously improving levels of service.

An extensive training programme has been running in parallel with the investments, and communication about the direction and plans for the business have been spread throughout the entire workforce.

Mr David Neville Jones, managing director of Narrow Strip, said: "This training and investment is designed to align our business more closely with the needs of our key markets.

"Customers will benefit from better service and quality, especially in terms of thickness tolerances.

"Our facilities are now in line with the best in Europe and will create a platform for further progress towards becoming a truly world class business."

The Tipton site is British Steel's manufacturing centre for the supply of narrow cold rolled mild and medium carbon steels to the automotive components and engineering industries.

The site is also the commercial centre for sales of cold rolled narrow strip produced both in the West Midlands and at Brinsworth Strip Mills in Rotherham.

For more details about the range of products and services available from Firsteel Cold Rolled Products, write, phone or e-mail for a free brochure.

Alternatively visit the British Steel Web site at www.britishsteel.co.uk
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 25, 1999
Words:891
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