“There are still so many things that I do not know,” says Seungcheol Shin, a technician on the automotive steel division at the Gwangyang Steelworks. “Do not be satisfied with your achievements and always think they are not enough.”
For Master Shin, his success at POSCO over the past 34 years comes down to giving credit to his juniors, honoring his superiors and taking responsibility for his own actions. “I think the company is one group sharing a common destiny,” he says. “If you are in a position to lead others, you should try much harder with a community spirit in mind and lead by example.”
The title POSCO Master of Korea is reserved for the very best field technicians, those who have the highest levels of skill, along with helping with coworkers by sharing their knowhow and helping to make POSCO into a worldwide leader.
In this last installment of the series looking at the POSCO Masters of Korea for 2016, we profile Master Seungcheol Shin, to see how pride and the drive to improve underlie his stellar career.
A Lifetime of Constantly Challenging Himself
Born in 1963 to a family of modest means in the Korean countryside, Shin was encouraged to study hard from a young age. He earned a scholarship to Pocheol Technical High School, a school owned and operated by POSCO, and one of the most prestigious schools in Korea. Located in the city of Pohang, Pocheol was far from Shin’s home, but his parents were overjoyed at the opportunity.
At Pocheol, he continued to study hard and do well, graduating among the top of all the kids in his class. While his good grades gave him the opportunity to go to university, his family’s tight money situation forced him to go to work instead. But Master Shin embraced life at POSCO and never looked back.
Today, Master Shin has the passion and voice of a younger man. Shin has been at POSCO for 34 years, but his coworkers all agree that he truly enjoys his job and still likes to challenge himself.
By his third year at POSCO, Master Shin was working for the electrolytic cleaning line (ECL), removing any rolling oil, iron fines or grease that remain on the surface of a cold-rolled plate. Back then, technology controls were much simpler, and operators had to use their eyes to check the quality of coil annealing.
During night shifts, the inspection job was even tougher, and sometimes workers would nod off—only to be awoken by the jarring sound of heavy steel coil falling and hitting the ground. “We would get scolded by our section chief and manager,” Shin says, smiling at the memory. “But that was part of learning the job and my growing process.”
Taking Automotive Steel to the Next Level
Shortly after the year 2000, the steel market started to change, as cheap steel from China starting appearing around the world. POSCO’s response was to change direction and instead concentrate on producing World Premium steel products.
The Gwangyang plant was considered the world’s best automotive steel sheet manufacturing facility, so in 2009 it was tasked with developing a new, specialized steel product that only POSCO could produce. But with the aging equipment in that plant, the order to innovate was quite a challenge. Nonetheless, everyone on the automotive steel division pressed ahead.
“In order for us to achieve the objective of mass producing both high quality and continuous products, we needed work that was innovative, not just improvements,” Master Shin says.
So the continuous annealing line (CAL) system needed to be remodeled, constantly monitoring the results for quality. At every step of the way, Shin and his coworkers encountered challenges and troubles, but gradually they made progress. Finally, in February 2011, they achieved the level of quality demanded by their client.
Through challenges like that one, Shin and his colleagues learned that improvements do not happen by accident. Lowering defect rates and improving quality require relentless efforts, as well as truly understanding the technology of steel.
By improving data collection and awareness, Shin was responsible for lowering the dent defect incidence rate to 0 percent, even using equipment that is 27 years old. And by maintaining preconditioning strip whiteness index at over 90 percent and boosting the cleanliness of the furnace, he was able to prevent the insulator from being damaged even if the strip is bent or broken in the annealing furnace.
The Importance of Humility and Hard Work
Despite decades of leading impressive improvements to the automotive steel division, Master Shin is still driven to improve himself. “While I’m somewhat confident of my operational skills, I still want to study more,” he says. “I want to gain more engineering theory, including about process development, design and more. And I want to acquire my Professional Engineer Metal Materials certificate soon.”
He adds: “My dream is to become the best possible technician, with 34 years of operational experience, engineering theory, and an engineering certificate.”
If there is a core common theme that can be found among the three POSCO Masters of Korea for 2016, it is probably “humility.” For Chajin Kim of the blast furnace team and Sungnam Kim of the electrical installation team, just like Master Shin, they all recognize the importance of always pushing their limits and improving.
“You need to never stop training, never stop practicing,” says Master Shin. “We all need to have the attitude of continuously desiring to get better, practicing and challenging ourselves.”
For POSCO, we are proud of our three latest Masters, and think their knowledge and dedication represents the true spirit of our company.