Tata Steel has invested £1.3 million in its Stocksbridge rolling mill to boost its North American business.
The company has installed seven new rolls and new laser size gauges on each of the mill’s two finishing lines, so that they can roll to imperial as well as metric sizes.
The US market remains wedded to the old imperial system, where sizes are measured in feet and inches, and has never adopted the metric system, which uses metres and millimetres.
Tata’s South Yorkshire-based speciality steels business has been supplying high-integrity products to the US for 55 years.
In the past, all Stocksbridge’s high integrity steel bars, destined for the aerospace, energy, industrial bearing, bright bar and forging sectors, have been metric.
When it came to supplying the US, Stocksbridge would roll steel to the nearest metric size and then skim off a layer of steel on a lathe to produce the required imperial size.
Richard Lowe, Tata’s general manager for speciality steels destined for the American market, said: “This development is a direct response to feedback from our long standing North American customers.
“They wanted us to be more competitive throughout the cycle and easier to deal with. This development achieves those objectives and demonstrates we are a listening company.”
The investment eliminates an extra step in the production process, reducing costs and speeding production for the North American market, where Tata sees opportunities for growth.
The new equipment has been going through trials and validation and is expected to be commissioned in the fourth quarter of this year.