With the North American International Auto Show in full swing, the auto industry is turning its attention toward the smart car technologies and the innovative steel technologies that are required to make cars lighter and smarter.
At POSCO, there are many talented researchers, engineers, and factory workers, who are working constantly to make steel stronger, lighter, and longer-lasting. The Steel Wire sits down with three of those POSCO employees who have played essential roles in helping to establish POSCO as an industry leader in automotive steel solutions.
Q1. POSCO has relied on its experts to become an industry leader in advanced automotive steel manufacturing, and you have all played important roles within POSCO’s development of automotive steel. Can you tell us about the fields you are in and what your role has been?
“POSCO’s mission in 2009: Develop the best, most advanced automotive steel solutions that only POSCO can produce.”
Q2. Starting is often the most difficult step and we are sure faced some hurdles along the way. Can you tell us about the some of the problems you faced while developing automotive steel products?
[Shin Seung-cheol] Sure, in 2009, our team’s goal in the rolling sector was to ensure the productivity and quality of the World Premium Products. In the annealing process of the cold rolling sector of the Gwangyang Steelworks, I was told to make “the best automotive steel plates.” However, compared to other products, automotive steel plates demand a much higher quality than other products, and our equipment was outdated and rundown, making it almost impossible to create the flawless steel plates that were required. Achieving both high quality and continuous mass production required a new level of innovation.
[Cho Byeong-ho] When I was at the cold rolling mill, we were facing challenges from both domestic and foreign competitors. So, we streamlined old equipment and increased production of the World Premium Products such as automobile steel plates and high-grade steel. However, there were many problems. At one point, the cold rolled steel kept falling off before reaching the rolling process.
Q3. There’s a famous quote that says ‘Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.’ Does this make sense when you think about the work you accomplished in developing advanced automotive steel for POSCO?
[Shin Seung-cheol] Yes, that quote rings true for our team. After three years of testing the steel surface quality and improving the Continuous Annealing Line (CAL) facility, we eventually succeeded in securing high quality automotive steel plates. Strict management standards along with systematic & rigorous product inspections from the customer’s point of view were also put in place in order to ensure that the products met the client’s needs.
[Cho Byeong-ho] When we couldn’t keep the steel from falling off before reaching the rolling process, we decided to visit the cold-rolling mill at Pohang Steelworks to help us find a solution. There, we worked on solving the problems with a small-scale laser welding team and we got support from maintenance experts. With proper facility training and data improvements, the 2nd cold rolling mill was ultimately able to work consistently.
“Now, it’s more than a mission. We will be the leading automotive steelmaker in Asia.”
[Lee Jin-soo] Thanks to our team’s endless efforts, POSCO was able to succeed in producing highly competitive automotive steel. POSCO provides around 150,000 – 200,000 tons of galvanized steel plates to Thailand every year. But we did not want to be #1 only in Korea; we wanted to have a stronger presence in the growing Thai market as well.
In order to expand our presence in the Thai market and provide stable supplies to existing clients, we differentiated ourselves from competitors through the quality of GI products for home appliances and painting – areas where we held a competitive advantage.
Q4. Your passion to find innovative solutions, as well as your success at POSCO, is impressive. What are some of most meaningful accomplishments you have made at POSCO?
[Shin Seung-cheol] I was very grateful to be named as one of the POSCO Masters of Korea in 2016. This honor is reserved not only for the best field technicians with the highest levels of skill, but also for those who help their coworkers by sharing their expertise. I was happy to be acknowledged for my own skills as well as my efforts to help others.
[Lee Jin-soo] I am proud that I was able to be a part of the efforts to bring two manufacturing centers in Mexico online. POSCO-MPPC plant 1 & plant 2 were POSCO’s very first overseas construction sites and were very important for the future of POSCO’s global growth. And recently, getting the chance to guide Thailand CGL to its opening was very important for POSCO and very meaningful for me.
[Cho Byeong-ho] When I started, I believed that it would be really helpful to gain knowledge about each part of the steelmaking process. As a result, I taught myself about each step and acquired certificates in various fields including ‘Master of Craftsman Welding’ and ‘Master Craftsman of Rolling.’ This allowed me to do more specialized work for POSCO and for its automotive steel solutions.
Q5. Lastly, please share with us your vision moving forward.
[Shin Seung-cheol] While I’m somewhat confident in my operational skills after 34 years on the job, I still want to study more. I want to learn more about engineering theory and process development. My dream is to become the best possible technician I can be.
[Cho Byeong-ho] Moving forward, I want to continue the work to boost our equipment capacity while also improving our technology so that we can continue to produce the best World Premium Products.
[Lee Jin-soo] At Thailand CGL, we want to move forward to provide manufacturing technologies, such as mold technology and automotive steel sheet buying channels, to small local companies. This will allow POSCO to expand its contract base into a solution marketing system.
The advancements made in POSCO’s advanced automotive steel are driven by people like Shin Seung-chel, Cho Byeong-ho, and Lee Jin-soo. Without their determination, intelligence, and innovative thinking, POSCO could not be where it is today.