Original Date: 08/26/1996
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Established in 1909 and becoming the world’s largest, wholly employee-owned company in 1984, Weirton Steel Corporation (WSC) is located in Weirton, West Virginia. As the largest, private employer in West Virginia, WSC currently employs 5,600 personnel with a 1995 payroll exceeding $350 million. The employees, who are unionized, now own 25% of the common stock but control 49% of the voting power. The operating units encompass 2,500 acres and have a production capacity of more than three million tons per year. WSC produces flat rolled carbon steel in both sheet and strip form, which is sold as hot rolled, cold rolled, or coated products, including hot dipped and electro-galvanized steel and tin mill products. WSC shipped a record 2.7 million tons of flat rolled products in 1995 and over 700 thousand tons during the first quarter of 1996. The company’s major markets include food and beverage cans, general packaging, pipe and tube, service centers, construction, and shipping containers. Record annual sales for 1995 was $1.3 billion, making WSC the eighth-largest, integrated, steelmaker in America.
Overcoming challenge is a tradition at Weirton Steel Corporation (WSC). Past accomplishments include settling its only union strike within two weeks in 1933; rallying to become employee-owned in 1982; fulfilling its promise to become a world-class facility in 1988; and rebuilding its fire-destroyed tandem mill within six months in 1994. The company has always shown courage, strength, and a strong commitment to the community of Weirton. In keeping with that spirit, WSC elected to become the first steel company to be surveyed by the Best Manufacturing Practices program. The BMP survey team was impressed and intrigued by what they saw from an industrial leader. Among the best examples were WSC’s accomplishments in MIS customer service, workers’ compensation, safety, predictive maintenance, employee training, vessel assembly and changeout, and the rebuilding of the tandem and hot strip mills.
In 1996 WSC undertook a Management Information System (MIS) outsourcing initiative to improve its performance in this critical area. The internal evaluation revealed problem areas in accountability, discipline, and service. Rather than outsource MIS, WSC decided to develop its internal organization into a world-class supplier of information services by maximizing people, processes, and technology. The Customer Service plan, launched in 1994, enables WSC to run its MIS Department as a profit center focused on customer service. A chargeback system has been established and end-users are now involved in all project phases including accountability for performance. The WSC Data Center was recently ranked in the top 25% in a national benchmarking study of major corporations conducted by the Mark Levon Company.
Workers’ compensation benefits directly affect a company’s cost because it adds no value to the product. Therefore, it is in the best interest of a company to aggressively pursue the reduction of payouts through safety awareness and an effective workers’ compensation program. WSC has done both. Through innovative improvements made in 1996, injury claims are thoroughly reviewed, payout periods are monitored, and recovery is assisted. Unique to WSC’s workers’ compensation program is its rehab protocol which assists the injured worker by decreeing prompt scheduling of surgery, if needed, prescribed rehabilitation treatment, and a proper transition back to work. In addition, the Modified Duty program returns employees to the workplace in an area that is amenable to their injuries. Currently, WSC is developing a treatment protocol for high occurrence injuries such as back strain, knee injuries, and shoulder injuries. This aggressive, proactive approach has reduced the number of workers’ compensation cases and produced substantial cost savings.
Because safety is a top priority at WSC, the Operations Service Department implemented the highly successful Safety & Health Awareness Requires Everyone (SHARE) program in 1991. It consists of a steering committee to oversee, administer, and coordinate safety efforts; subcommittees to address and recommend improvements; a core team to ensure acceptance of the improvements; and a safety coordinator to provide training and assure compliance with established guidelines. In addition, SHARE is tied to WSC’s manage-the-business-better initiative, which is an endorsement by management to support SHARE. As a result, WSC has made a safer working environment for its employees by reducing OSHA recordable injuries and workers’ compensation costs. The Operations Service Department now ranks equal to the industry average in days-away-from-work (DAFW) case rates and just slightly below the industry average in recordable case rates, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) safety data for integrated steelmakers.
Since downtime in a mill is costly, WSC established a predictive maintenance program for the #5 Pickler in the Hot Strip Mill in 1991 and expanded the program to the rest of this mill in 1993. The team, made-up of a site manager, analysis engineers, and technicians, collects data with the goal of centralizing each area’s operations on a scheduled basis. Monthly reports are provided to maintenance management and planners who meet to discuss jobs in each area. Current technologies used include vibration readings and thermographic measurements. New technologies being added include motor current analysis, wear particle analysis, and ultrasonic monitoring. Training is also a key aspect of this program; monthly classes are conducted to teach maintenance personnel how to use and benefit from predictive maintenance techniques. These techniques have significantly improved operations by reducing downtime, product loss, and machine replacements. Future plans call for integrating the databases of predictive maintenance, oil analysis, preventive maintenance, and spares management.
Recognizing a need for structured, formal training, WSC developed Structured On-the-Job Training (SOJT) in 1991 and Modular Training in 1993. SOJT provides formal training to new or transferred employees so they can quickly develop a working knowledge of their job responsibilities. SOJT training manuals, specific to one job position, address the time schedule of activities to complete the training; an overview of the training; in-depth safety equipment and concerns for the position; basic information and detailed job task descriptions; exercises for the trainee; position evaluation and diagnostics; and job-related terminology. In addition, an SOJT Guidebook provides direction for consultants, managers, mentors, etc. who need to understand how the program works and ensures consistency when new SOJT training manuals are developed.
WSC’s Modular Training program, developed with West Virginia University, established 85 formal, classroom training modules. The program’s goal was to achieve a 90% retention level from active learning versus the typical 20% from read-and-hear classroom techniques. Each training module, structured in 1 to 1½ hour sessions, covers a topic designed to meet employee needs. In addition, WSC established the train-the-trainer program to ensure consistency with its employee instructors’ teaching methods. New modules must pass an Alpha Test, by a company team of non-experts, and a Beta Test, by subject-technical experts. This program has proven so successful that local businesses and WSC customers have requested not only training using WSC classroom materials, but also assistance from the WSC training group to establish similar programs at their companies.
WSC purchased a new furnace vessel for the Basic Oxygen Plant (BOP) in 1989. It was needed to replace one of two existing vessels, and was critical to operations that required two vessels to be continuously operated on an alternate, rotating basis. Fabrication specifications called for the new vessel to be delivered to WSC for assembly with minimal fitting and welding requirements. To accomplish this and to ensure a timely assembly and changeout of the old vessel without delaying plant operations, a team was tasked to develop a detailed process plan, which identified every step of the operation. These steps were documented through software to ensure that milestones and key events were accomplished as scheduled. By following this approach, WSC allowed for the creation of historical data that can be used with photographs and videotapes for future vessel changeouts. The project was completed a day early and under budget. Since in service, the new vessel has shown no measurable distortions, a good indicator that it will meet or exceed the 25-year service life requirement.
WSC suffered a major setback in April 1994 when its #9 Tandem Mill was destroyed by fire. This mill, WSC’s fastest and highest quality, light-gauge, cold reduction mill, was producing 60% of the coils needed for the company’s tinplating operations. Fueled by hydraulic fluid, the fire caused extensive damage including destruction of all electrical controls and automation systems, severe damage to the mechanical systems, and major structural deformation. However, WSC turned this disaster into an opportunity by rebuilding the mill from the ground up, using the latest technology. In less than six months, the revamped facility was brought back on-line and began producing in October 1994. This massive $87 million effort was accomplished through an experienced management team which had recently completed a $300 million modernization project on the hot rolling operations. Modernization included new safety features, automated x-ray gauges, rolling coolant dispersion systems, and fire- resistant water glycol for its hydraulic systems. WSC claims to be the only company in the world using 100% water glycol. Average yield on the new tandem mill is 98.9%.
Recognizing a need to improve their steelmaking capabilities in order to stay competitive, the employees of WSC made a commitment in 1988 to take their steelmaking capabilities to world-class levels. Using the Hot Strip Mill as the cornerstone of their factory improvement program, they invested more than $300 million in the rebuild of this equipment. Improvements included two walking beam furnaces, a new reversing roughing mill, a hydraulic scale breaker, automated roll changing and roll bending, and a rotary crop shear. The rebuilt Hot Strip Mill has improved quality, increased efficiency, and broadened the product capabilities of the steel company. WSC has now positioned itself to compete as a world-class steel production facility.
Today, WSC remains a respected name in the U.S. steel industry. Surrounded by world-class facilities, dedicated employees, a loyal community, quality products, and a willingness to learn, WSC is still ready to face the demanding challenges of the future. The BMP survey team considered the following practices to be among the best in industry and government.
TABLE OF ACRONYMS:
The following acronyms were used in this report:
|AISI|| ||American Iron and Steel Institute|
|BFG|| ||Blast Furnace Gas|
|BOP|| ||Basic Oxygen Plant|
|DAFW || ||Days-Away-From-Work|
|HSBRT|| ||Hartford Steam Boiler Reliability Technologies|
|IMIS|| ||Integrated Management Information System|
|MIS|| ||Management Information System|
|OJT|| ||On-the-Job Training|
|O&M|| ||Operations & Maintenance|
|PSG|| ||Professional Services Group|
|SBA|| ||Strategic Business Accounts|
|SHARE|| ||Safety & Health Awareness Requires Everyone|
|SIPOC|| ||Supplier, Input, Process, Output, Customer|
|SOJT|| ||Structured On-the-Job Training|
|SOP|| ||Standard Operating Procedure|
|TQ|| ||Total Quality|
|TQM|| ||Total Quality Management|
|WSC|| ||Weirton Steel Corporation|
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