Asian Steel Watch vol. 2 Press Release (October, 2016)
AuthorCheol-Ho Chung,Sojin Yoon
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On October 11, 2016,POSCO Research Institute (POSRI) released the second issue of Asian Steel Watch (ASW). This bi-annual English journal is specialized in the Asian steel industry and market. It deals with current issues in the Asian steel industry and features interviews with industry leaders, market analysis, and forecasts. It is comprised of five sections: On the Cover, Interview, Special Report, Featured Articles, and Market Trend and Analysis.
Asian Steel Watch aims to provide insightful, in-depth analysis of the ever-changing conditions of the Asian steel market. The second issue of Asian Steel Watch focuses on the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the steel industry, smart factory, Chinese steel e-commerce, the effect of demographic cliff on the Asian steel market, the restructuring of China’s steel industry, Myanmar’s steel industry, super cycles, and Northeast Asian steel trade market. This journal hopes to grant insight into the Asian steel industry, lay a firm foundation for the collaborative growth of Asia’s steel industry, and further contribute to the stability and prosperity of the global steel market.
Asian Steel Watch Vol.2 addresses the following issues:
In the “On The Cover” section, four articles are covered under the main theme of “The Fourth Wave of Manufacturing: What It Means to the Asian Steel Industry.”
①The Fourth Industrial Revolution: The Winds of Change Are Blowing in the Steel Industry With the advancement of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, many traditional industries now face the destruction of industrial structures, and countries are intensifying competition to take the leadership in the future of manufacturing. Under these circumstances, manufacturing will face new changes in the future. On the consumers’ front, the era of “mass personalization” will be heralded and dynamic intelligence, real-time enterprise, and servitization will become new trends on the suppliers’ front. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is also gaining ground in the steel industry, and new changes are becoming apparent. GE has a long history and tradition as an automation company in power generation and energy, but it has declared itself to be a software company. Likewise, a steel company in the Fourth Industrial Revolution might need to become a “software engineering company that produces steel,” not a “company that buys and uses software well.” ② Accelerating Digital Transformation with Smart Factory to Unlock New Value: Case of POSCO In the face of the great paradigm shift brought on by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, many Asian steelmakers are taking preemptive measures to maintain competitiveness and contribute to the advancement of manufacturing. POSCO is also one of the leading global steelmakers in this arena. POSCO is building the world’s first continuous-process steel plant model in its Gwangyang Steelworks plate factory that houses integrated processes for steelmaking, continuous casting, and rolling. POSCO has achieved major outcomes in the realization of a smart factory, such as the development of the “digital genome map” to tackle challenges of smart factory initiatives and the construction of PosFrame—POSCO’s smart factory platform for continuous process industries. It also has conducted various smart factory projects, including material to final product defect tracking, minimizing unnecessary scarfing in the continuous casting process, and new product development simulation in cyberspace. ③ China is Shifting to the “Smart Factory of the World” To prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, represented by “Industry 4.0” in Germany and “Industrial Internet” in the USA, the Chinese government released the “Made in China 2025” policy in May 2015 and the “Internet Plus” action plan two months later. The Chinese government’s massive support makes the prospect of smart factories even brighter. It plans to designate two to three companies in each industry to support the construction of smart factories. Using its vast market as a bargaining chip in summit diplomacy, China induces cooperation from advanced global firms. As a result, China can elicit technological support for smart factories from advanced countries. However, it would take much time and energy to fully realize smart factories in China’s manufacturing and steel industries. Just as the explosive growth of China’s steel industry has shocked the world in the early 21st century, the world might be shocked again by China, if it successfully adopts Industry 4.0 and smart factories in the future. ④ The Rise, Prospects, and Impact of China’s Steel E-Commerce China’s steel e-commerce is gaining ground in China. The rapid growth of China’s steel e-commerce after 2012 was caused by three factors that collectively intensified competition in online platforms: the changing landscape of the steel trading market due to a slump in China’s steel industry; China’s “Internet Plus” and other related policies; and an online fever across the industry. The Chinese government aims to increase total steel trade through e-commerce by about 20%, or 150-200 Mt, until 2020. China’s steel e-commerce market will be led by a few competitive firms. Most steel e-commerce firms in China are pioneering or considering overseas expansion. Therefore, their influence will become stronger in overseas markets. As China’s steel e-commerce develops, the functions of offline steel traders in countries which import Chinese steel products will be reduced. In this process, existing offline steel distribution channels will be upgraded through integration with online channels.
Interview withEdwin Basson, Director General of worldsteel on the subject of “Roads Ahead for the Steel Industry.”
Edwin Basson, Director General of worldsteel talked to Asian Steel Watch about major issues and future of the steel industry: 1) Causes of sluggish global steel demand and forecast for 2017, 2) China’s peak steel and long-term forecast for China’s steel demand, 3) solutions to overcapacity, 4) future of the Asian steel industry, and 5) influence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the steel industry.
1) Causes of sluggish global steel demand and demand forecast for 2017 Thesteel industry is affected by structural andcyclical fluctuations of the global economy. The year 2016 will be theturning point and most regions will showimprovement in 2017, but growth momentumwill continue to be weak, reflectingcontinued contraction in China and weaknessin other parts of the world.
2) China’s peak steel and long-term forecast for China’s steel demand Steel use grows fast but then reaches a peak at or close to the upper inflection point on the S-curve, before a long term decline in steel use takes place. This happens at a per capita income level of around USD 12,000-15,000. China has reached peak steel at a rather earlier stage of economic development compared with the experiences of developed economies as it has accomplished a very condensed development in a relatively short time period. Recent studies by the worldsteel economics team highlight a number of unique cases where, after the first peak, steel use recovered to the same or even higher levels of use. The future development of Western China, the continued capability of China as a competitive manufacturing base, and the geographical location of China could contribute to a new momentum in steel demand growth in the future.
3) Solutions to overcapacity Reducing excess capacity isnever an easy task, largely because of manyhidden barriers to exit. Capacity reductioncan have a significant impact on the balancesheets of operating companies, andare never popular with investors.China has publically announced theclosure of up to 150 million tonnes over afive year period. With the determinationof the current government totackle the overcapacity problem and environmentalprotection, we should trust thatChina will be able to meet this target.Foremost for worldsteel isto insist that industry restructuring shouldtake place on a “level playing field” principleand that restructuring should follow similarprinciples wherever it is done.
To that effect, worldsteel members have agreed to the following principles on restructuring: ⅰ) Governments should promote a swift and timely restructuring of the steel industry by advancing policies that ensure market forces play a decisive role in determining the future of the industry. ⅱ) Market oriented approaches should ensuresurvival of the fittest producers. Inefficient producers should not be subsidized to remainin operation.ⅲ) Barriers to exit that delay restructuring should be removed in an orderly and timely way. ⅳ) Develop safety net support that mitigates the consequences of restructuring.ⅴ) Commitments to adjust the steel industry structure should be made known and tracked until finalization.
4) Future of the Asian steel industry Today, steel use is predominantly in Asia,which accounts for 65 % of global steel use. Asia asa region has a large population. Moreover,in many Asian countries, the economies areprogressing rapidly up the economic developmentpath. Given these conditions, it is likely thatAsia will remain a driving force in steel usein the foreseeable future. future growthwill likely depend more on the developmentof the ASEAN region,and growth in Indiastrongly supporting developments in theSouth East Asian markets.
5) Influence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the steel industry The steel industry has a long history oftechnological adaptation and product innovation. Today, the industry is alreadyextremely efficient in iron and steel making,as well as processing. Within this environment, the Fourth IndustrialRevolution could continue to play animportant role, but additional progress willbe incremental owing to the already high level of technological achievement. It is rather in the field of the use of steelin applications that the Fourth IndustrialRevolution could play an important role. The Fourth IndustrialRevolution may influence the design andproduction of consumer goods to the extentthat waste is reduced, and the lifetime ofsteel in use increases. It istherefore quite possible that the Fourth IndustrialRevolution will have little direct influenceon the steel industry. The indirect influence through changing themanufacturing process and product designof items requiring steel as an input mayhave a vastly more influential role in thesteel industry.
(Special Report) Dong Joon MIN, Professor of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Yonsei University in Korea, introduces the midi-mill process routeof the FINEX and CEM combination under the title, Global Competitiveness Through Hybridization of FINEX and CEM Processes.
Under the current oversupply and strengthenedenvironmental regulations, it is burdensome forsteelmakers to consider new investment in themaxi-mill (combination of a traditional BF andhot-rolling mill). In the mini-mill process, thereare some limitations in producing flat steel productsdue to harmful tramp elements in raw materialsof scrap and high electricity costs.
The needs of diversification of raw materials and flexibility ofprocess will accelerate the development of an alternative midi-mill ironmaking routeby hybridization of individually optimized steelmaking technologies. The recentconcept for hybridization is comprised of the FINEX and CEM technologies withparticular attention on a sustainable midi-mill process with high flexibility.The hybridization of the FINEX and CEM processes can provide high versatility bycombining the advantages of their technological characteristics.
Future process should adopt a process route that lies somewhere between themaxi-mill and mini-mills, that is, a midi-mill configuration with a production capacityover 2 MTPY and operational flexibility. FINEX has more flexibility in raw materials andoperations than the blast furnace route andhigher productivity than the EAF route. CEMcan achieve high throughput and meet productrequirements by converting from batch rollingto endless rolling. The midi-mill process routeof the FINEX and CEM combination can satisfythe needs to build a steel plant which is medium-scale, economically competitive, raw materialand operational flexibility, and eco-friendly.
(Featured Articles) In this section, there are three articles: The Demographic Cliff: How It Will Impact Asia’s Steel Demand; Restructuring of the Chinese Steel Industry: Retrospects and Prospects; and Myanmar, the Last Frontier in the ASEAN, Will See High Growth of its Steel Industry.
①The Demographic Cliff: How It Will Impact Asia’s Steel Demand
Changes in working-age population determine economic fundamentals.They are directly related to steel demand, because the working-age population is the main consumer group of houses and vehicles, the key sources of steel demand. Therefore, the acceleration of decline in working-age population will have a negative impact on economic growth and steel consumption.
Learning lessons from advanced countries about the experience of population aging, thereare some characteristics in common: the share ofmanufacturing shrinks in the economic structure,while the share of service increases; and steel consumptiondeclines after a peak.Particularly in the case of Japan, which is the world’s most aged society, changes in working-age population has a strong correlation with changes in the steel-consuming industries and steel consumption.
The decrease in working-age population inKorea, China, and Japan,which have led growthof the global steel industryuntil now, will havea negative impact onglobal steel demand in the medium to long term.It is unlikely that India and the ASEAN’s demand will grow fast enough tooffset the decline in steel demand in the three East Asian countries.
②Restructuring of the Chinese Steel Industry: Retrospects and Prospects
The development of the Chinese steel industry, as well as the Chinese economy, has been largelypolicy-driven. The Chinese government introduced more than 320 policies and measures from 1990 to 2016. Of these, nearly half (49%) were issued to control steel capacity expansion. The last capacity-related policy was introduced by the State Council in early 2016. Some industry observers doubt the potential effectiveness of the last policy, which calls for a 100-150 Mt capacity reduction by 2020.
According to a survey conducted in July 2015,many people believe that China’s domestic steeldemand may have reached its peak (or first peak)in 2013 and that it will stabilize after a 10-20% decline.
The author suggests six directions for the Chinese government and the steel industry for the restructuring of the industry: 1) The government’s role should be gradually overtaken by market forces. 2) The steel industry should be consolidated to generate better synergy in the industry, in particular in market development and R&D. 3) A joint fund should be initiated to support the restructuring. 4) Reform of state-owned steel enterprises (SOE’s) should be accelerated, the sooner the better. 5) Steel companies should be more integrated into the global steel industry. 6) Steel companies’ human resources system should be more open.
③Myanmar, the Last Frontier in the ASEAN, Will See High Growth of its Steel Industry
With the advent of the country’s first non-military government in 54 years, Myanmar is anticipated to strengthen reform and opening-up measures and the economic sanctions against Myanmar will be further lifted. With its growing geopolitical and geo-economic importance, and improved conditions for foreign investment, Myanmar is expected to maintain high economic growth until 2020.
Despite its inadequate domestic steel production, Myanmar’s steel consumption is expected to grow high, at about 8% a year. However, due to poor competitiveness in steel production, caused by power shortages, substandard operational skills, and inadequate facility management, Myanmar’s capacity utilization rate is just above 20%. Increasing demand for steel is mostly satisfied by imports. Demand for long products and flat products for construction is projected to lead the market because Myanmar’s economic development will be centered on infrastructure, construction, and light industries in the short-to-mid term.
(Market Trend and Analysis) This section starts with “Examining the Past 100 Years: Where is the Steel Super Cycle Headed?” followed by “Statistical Review of the Steel Trade in Northeast Asia.”
①“Examining the Past 100 Years: Where is the Steel Super Cycle Headed?”
Looking at long-run data of real steel prices over the last 100 years, high volatility in steel prices is not just a recent phenomenon. Steel prices had high volatility from a long time ago and repeated long-run cycles with ups and downs. If the long-run trend, long-run cycle, short-run cycle could be decomposed from steel price data, it would help in determining the direction of steel prices. With the development of a “band-pass filter” in the 2000s, it became possible to decompose a long-run trend, super cycle, and and short-run cycle from real data.
According to this analysis of US real HR prices from 1900 to 2016, it turns out that the long-run trend peaked in the early 1970s and declined afterward. The super cycle, which is a long-run cycle with upswings lasting from 10 to 35 years, peaked in 2011 and entered a downward phase. Decomposition of real steel prices suggests four super cycles. Amid a prolonged low growth of the steel industry, the critical factor to shorten the super downtrend and downcycle is how fast excessive capacity can be reduced. It is also important how fast the economic growth of emerging markets, especially India and the ASEAN, will offset a steel demand slowdown in China.
②“Statistical Review of the Steel Trade in Northeast Asia”
As the world’s top three steel exporters, Korea, China, and Japan are front-runners in the structural change of the steel export market. They are still expanding into the global market with differentiated export strategies in order to increase their shares. China is diversifying export items and destinations for its bulk supply of steel products. Japan leaps forward with investment in high-quality steel, taking advantage of locking-in demand. Korea gears up to meet demand for steel materials through overseas downstream investment in Southeast Asia, Mexico, USA, and India.
Competition for steel exports among Korea, China, and Japan has intensified. As the USA, EU, and the ASEAN strengthen protectionist measures for their steel industries, global steel trade will contract and heighten the rivalry among the three countries.
Notes to Editors:
POSCO Research Institute (POSRI) is aleading research instituteheadquartered in Seoul, Korea. Established in 1994, it offers research and consulting especially focusing on steel. However, its research areas are not confined to steel. POSRI conducts research in various fields, including the economy, steel-consuming industries, business, materials, energy, and the environment. POSRI publishes Asian Steel Watch, a bi-annual English journal specialized in the Asian steel industry and market, and Chindia Plus, a bi-monthly Korean journal specialized in China, India and other Asian countries.
For the full version, please visit to POSRI Website (http://www.posri.re.kr/eng/)