Born from rubble in the city of Anshan in northeast China, 70-year-old Ansteel has made a new breakthrough in the production of light dual-phase steel for automobiles.
The steel with ultra high strength and low weight can help the next-generation automobile industry save energy and cut emissions, according to the company.
It is the latest technological innovation made by Ansteel, “the cradle of China’s steel industry” and the first iron and steel giant built after the founding of the People’s Republic of China 70 years ago.
Currently, Ansteel is able to produce around 40 million tonnes of iron and steel a year. Its steel can be found in many iconic projects including the Great Hall of the People, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. Its products have also been exported to over 70 countries and regions.
BORN FROM RUBBLE
In 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was founded, the Chinese people faced a devastated country that needed to be rebuilt from scratch after decades of warfare and chaos. On July 9, the same year, a launch ceremony for Ansteel was held.
At that time, China’s annual steel production was less than 100,000 tonnes, not enough to make a kitchen knife for each household.
“My father and his peers started their endeavor from scratch,” said Li Xiaodong, son of Li Dazhang, the first manager of Ansteel.
In early 1950, Chinese authorities called on other parts of the country to support Ansteel. Around 20,000 cadres, technicians and junior college graduates rushed to the factory.
Tan Furun, 91, was one of them. Tan formerly worked for the local government of east China’s Zhejiang Province. “I should go to the place where I was most needed,” the war veteran said.
“Ansteel stood up from the rubble within a few years and gave the Chinese economy a boost,” said Xu Jiaqiang, a retired worker from the company. It produced 10.9 million tonnes of iron and 8.46 million tonnes of steel between 1953 and 1957, each accounting for over half of the country’s total output.
As steel mills sprang up across the country, Ansteel started giving back to society. Since the 1950s, it has sent around 125,000 steel technicians and workers to assist the construction of more than 10 state-owned iron and steel enterprises.
THE WAY OUT
Over the past seven decades, Ansteel has gone through ebb and flow. One of the biggest challenges came in the past 10 years.
From 2010, China’s steel industry started to face increasingly severe stress due to sagging demand. From 2012 to 2016, Ansteel suffered loss for five consecutive years.
As the Chinese government made cutting overcapacity one of the major tasks in its supply-side structural reform in late 2015, Ansteel decided to eliminate outdated capacity, deal with zombie businesses, and optimize its backbone industries with advanced technology and equipment.
Jin Baigang, an engineer at Ansteel’s Bayuquan subsidiary, said the company imported electromagnetic stirring and braking devices for slab casting to improve efficiency, and his team spent eight months optimizing the equipment, improving its stirring strength by 40 percent.
Jin Xin, director of a seamless steel pipe plant owned by Ansteel, said advanced equipment had replaced half of the employees in his plant. “Though we have fewer employees, our efficiency can compete with the front-runners in the industry,” Jin said.
Ansteel has also set up an innovation workshop for its employees to foster and promote technological innovation. By 2018, Ansteel has obtained 7,880 patents in force.
“As one of China’s leading steel manufacturers, Ansteel remains committed to making breakthroughs in key technologies,” said Yang Ying, a researcher with Ansteel’s design institute.