Perspective – June 2015

johnStainless Steel Development Associations (SSDAs) around the world are having to achieve more with less, as many stainless steel markets have suffered serious damage to their membership base since the global financial crisis. This was one of the conclusions of the SSDA meeting that I attended in the latter part of May, under the auspices of the 19th Annual International Stainless Steel Forum’s (ISSF’s) Conference in Hong Kong.

For example, Australia’s stainless steel apparent consumption (SSAC) has dropped from 130 000t before the crisis to about 85 000t last year, a 35% drop, and their economy has lost 30% of its manufacturing base since 2008. In contrast, the South African SSAC pre-crisis peak was 184 532t, with last year’s figure being 186 454t, marginally up by 1%, and growing by 0.7% compared to 2013, despite strikes and load shedding. However, this was 8.9% off the 2012 record high of 204 621t. Since 1996, the South African SSAC compound annual growth rate (CAGR) has been 4.4%. According to ISSF figures presented at the conference, global stainless steel meltshop production has shown a CAGR of 8%, since 2008, but China has dominated this growth with a CAGR of 21%. This has resulted in China’s share of global production increasing from 26.5% in 2008 to 52.0% in 2014. However, the ISSF is forecasting the growth rate of Chinese production to fall to between 2 and 3% for the next couple of years. They say the long-term global CAGR of above 5%, which has been experienced since the widespread introduction of the Argon Oxygen Decarburiser (AOD) in the 1970s, has now come to an end.

Nine Stainless Steel Development Associations (SSDAs) attended the ISSF conference and the theme was “New Applications and Education”. It was concluded that the SSDAs have been largely unsuccessful at developing new stainless steel applications, unless they partnered with a primary  producer or other significant partner. Sassda will have to incorporate the global SSDA experience into its plans with one of the strategic pillars – New Products and Applications.

On the education front, in 2004, the ISSF contracted the Australian Stainless Steel Development Association (ASSDA) to develop the ISSF Stainless Steel Specialist course. This course was based on the Sassda “Basic” Course that had been given to ASSDA several years earlier for them to use in their educational efforts. I was able to present our newly launched suite of five courses and demonstrate how these are a huge leap forward, in terms of the overall learning experience, from the old style course. It seems that Sassda has one of the best educational offering of the SSDAs, although the Mexican SSDA, IMINOX, has also done great work in creating stainless steel education videos in English and Spanish. John Rowe, the ISSF Secretary General, commented after the conference, that “There is no doubt that Sassda has positioned itself as a benchmark for SSDAs around the
world.” For the SSDAs to adapt to our changed circumstances, we realise that we must deepen our relationships with each other, as well as with the ISSF, so that we can leverage our combined efforts as we strive to grow our stainless steel markets and deliver products and services that add maximum value to our members.

John Tarboton
Executive Director, Sassda

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