During the first industrial revolution, the production of bulk steel as begun and with that a lot of uses for steel have been found. Before that, steel was an expensive product, very difficult to use and to find. After the industrial revolution, and to spread the use of steel across many sectors, long steel products were created to easy the use of steel in a lot of applications like construction, equipment, mining and ship building.

6699566_orig

During the first decades of use of long steel products,   those products were very expensive due to the energy consumption associated to their manufacturing process. The cost of labor was very low compared to the cost of steel long products, so companies were using a lot of people hand work to reduce the quantities of steel in their products. During the 20th century, the labor costs have increased a lot more than steel long product prices and so companies has continuously reduced the hand work against the steel quantity in their manufacturing processes. This was as major shift in the economics of products value chain. A shift that boosted some changes in some technical production key points.

Steel Prices

The high labor costs have triggered the development of automatic machines, some of them that we have working right now in a lot of companies. The use of those machines has reduced the necessity of people in the industrial processes and so engineering and economics together have solved the problem of labor work in the competitiveness of steel products. Or at least a part of the problem.

robot-welding-gantry-for-shipyard

In a world that is increasingly more personalized, where every product fit every customer and the designers are always trying to tailor the market necessities, there are still some products that are standardized and equal to everyone. The steel manufacturing companies are introducing in their value chain the necessity to fit every customer in their personalized way, but the steel mill companies, that deliver long steel products to a wide variety of industries, are still normalized and standardized. When a long steel product is used to support something, in each cross section there is a different stress state and the sections necessities are different. So why use a normalized product to all the length of the product? And why not use a different section and dimension for each stress state?

In the past, this kind of assumption makes all the sense because the costs of standardization and uniformization are much lower in many industrial processes. Now, in the era of customization, optimization, 3D manufacturing and additive manufacturing, there are an infinite number of ways to accomplish that and to avoid the standardization. The steel mills need to be aware to all this future market changes and Engineering companies have a big step forward towards a more refined and personalized analysis.