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Case study: The iron and steel sector – Reinventing itself for the 21st century

Iron and steel are two of the basic materials used in all aspects of the industry, from buildings and bridges to cars and trains to appliances and washing machines, to name just a few examples. The amount of iron and steel used around the world is truly staggering – with an annual production of 1 billion tons in 2012 alone, the industry has been one of the most successful in history. However, as with all products, the sector has also had to undergo some major changes as society moves into the 21st century, including fundamental changes in production methods and ways of thinking about safety and sustainability.

iron and steel sector


Iron is a metal alloy with a low melting point and usually contains carbon, especially iron that has been melted and allowed to cool without stirring. Steel is an alloy of iron with up to 2% carbon and other elements such as manganese, silicon, or chromium.
The Iron And Steel Sector provides you with three market-based solutions to better understand how global trends are impacting the industry. IAS works in partnership with existing customers to create tailored studies for different parts of their business.

The Different Types of Iron and Steel Used in Manufacturing

Steel is one of the most important components in manufacturing. Iron and Steel’s biggest use is as a structural materials for buildings and heavy vehicles. Increasingly it has been used to make products like stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, motorcycles, cell phones, toys, and kitchen knives. Although you won’t find a ‘steel pen,’ these things still contain a small amount of steel. What they lack are bits of aluminum or another ferrous metal added to make them stronger.

The Process Used to Turn Iron Ore into Iron Metal

Iron is the single most important ingredient in the production of steel. In fact, without it, there would be no way to create quality products. But what exactly is this element? Iron ore is a raw material that contains low-grade iron with impurities in it. There are two main ways to make it into usable metal for various purposes. One option is to extract high-grade metallic iron from raw ore by converting it through a process called smelting, which requires coke or coal as fuel.

The Process Used to Turn Iron Ore into Steel

Iron ore is first crushed into smaller pieces. This broken-down iron ore is then heated up until it melts into liquid form. Once at a certain temperature, this liquid is then cooled in a furnace. This cooling process causes all of the oxygen to separate out of the molten metal because molten metal has a lower melting point than solid metal. Once at a predetermined temperature, oxygen-free molten iron floats on top of a layer of slag from old furnaces (materials left over from previous casting processes that are not suitable for reuse). The slag floats on top because it is denser than pure liquid steel.

What is the Future of the Iron and Steel Industry?

The future of the Iron and Steel industry looks uncertain. Traditional metal smelting is becoming more expensive due to the rise in energy prices, competition from foreign companies looking to export their materials back to Europe, and increases in taxes. Industries are demanding higher-grade materials, making it more difficult for traditional metal manufacturers to compete. These industries also see a new breed of competitors coming into play–cheap plastic products. Moreover, as most people are aware, China’s growth rate has been declining since 2010, leading other countries such as Canada, Australia, and Brazil to challenge China’s dominance in this industry. One way that some sectors may be able to survive is by automating production processes so that they can become less labor intensive…


Just as our economies are being transformed by new technologies and market changes, so too must our industries. Working together in open dialogue to find solutions to common challenges, both industry leaders and regulators will create a better future for us all. And though the risks may seem great, if we succeed in this undertaking then one day we might just look back on it as a historic opportunity missed. But if we do not act now, what is the alternative? If a country cannot produce enough steel domestically, then it’s ‘bye bye’ to industry, jobs, and a welfare economy with few winners remaining on any side of the equation. One step at a time then; let’s see where these ambitious steps can take us over time.


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