^ Hikari area (first two photos) and Shunan area (last two photos) in Yamaguchi Works.
Article By Joanne McIntyre

NIPPON STEEL Stainless Steel Corporation (NSSC) was launched on April 1, 2019. The company is an integration of the former Nippon Steel & Sumikin Stainless Steel Corp., part of the steel sheet business contained within the special stainless steel business of former Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., and the steel sheet business contained within the stainless steel business of the former Nisshin Steel Co., Ltd. NSSC is the largest stainless steel manufacturer in Japan with a crude steel production capacity of approximately 1.8 million tons.

NSSC remains focused on consistently producing high-quality and cutting edge stainless steels. Its stated aim is to become the best steelmaker with world leading capabilities as the stainless steel business sector of Nippon Steel Corporation Group. With a wide range of products from sheets, plates to wire rods and bars, it produces a competitive lineup of products with high added value.
“Our integrated reorganization of the Japanese stainless steel industry triggered a paradigm shift. We are using this as a launch-pad to leverage the country’s exceptional technologies to spread appeal of our products to the world,” Mr. Ito says.
“Needless to say, our sales volume is reduced at the moment due to COVID19, which is having a negative impact on demand across the globe. However, we will ascertain the postpandemic industry environment and continuously reshape and update our approach. Even in difficult times, we will continue to fulfil our corporate mission through our high technological capability and our ability to deliver the best solutions.”

Expansion of business strategy options

Through the integration last year, NSSC has gained the potential for further improvements to grow its business. “The integration enabled us to concentrate the superior management resources from each company,” explains Mr. Ito.
“These include production technology, technological development, and marketing power, combining the expertise presented in each separate unit into one coherent whole. By combining these resources, it became possible to meet new challenges and achieve levels of improvement which could not be achieved individually in a short period.”

Mr. Ito identified particular areas of future progress including:

  • Further improvements to manufacturing efficiency, quality levels, and R&D capability;
  • Effective utilisation of each company’s intellectual property and acceleration of R&D;
  • Reinforcement of NSSC’s ability to serve customers with a combination of processing technologies and unique solutions.

“Through these initiatives, we can focus on enhancing our high-end market presence by daring to offer products we never have before. These include future-oriented materials, option combinations, and new manufacturing techniques.”

“For the high-end market, we must dare to offer products we never have before.”

 

Initiatives to be implemented

Since the integration, the NSSC team has launched a wide range of bold initiatives, including;

  • Organizing & optimizing structure of production: These plans include building an optimized production system, and reorganizing and integrating the company’s production bases. In October 2019, NSSC launched the Yamaguchi Works (a integration of the former Shunan & Hikari Works) to improve efficiency. Some idle machines at Kinuura Works (steckel mill and precision product manufacturing equipment) is scheduled to be shut down during the second half of 2020.
  • Improvement of production capability: A new initiative shares production indexes between the various production sites, and applies the top-performing technology to other sites. Under the company’s “Top-Runner- Program”, production indexes are shared by all works, and the technology that performs the best is transferred and applied to all the other sites. It is essentially an internal competition comparing performance using the same indexes: KPIs (key performance indicators).
  • Upgraded Research & Development Centre: In March 2020 the Research & Development Center located in Hikari was upgraded to improve the company’s manufacturing technology, product development, customer support for selecting materials, and process technology. NSSC plan to further enrich its research facility from now on.
  • Value-added products: The company will leverage the integration to create new highquality, value-added products. It will upgrade its market presence by expanding its product portfolio.

Development & Research Center
The Development & Research Center in Hikari was renewed this year, and further upgrades and expansions are planned.
NSSC produces a range of truly unique products that will continue to drive its growing presence in the global market. NSSC FWTM (Forward) series and duplex NSSC 2120TM are typical examples. Mr. Ito explains: “The FW series is the world’s first stainless steel with added tin, which is nickel-free and contain less chromium than other grades. As such, they are not only cost-saving products but also have considerable price stability against the fluctuation of material price. They allow us to keep our competitiveness in the generic product market where it is quite challenging to make a profit.”

“Original duplex stainless steel NSSC 2120 is a high-strength and good corrosion resistance material as well as superior weldability. In the past, the disadvantage of duplex was its poor weldability, so we improved quality of welded area on developing NSSC 2120. It has proven its value in various and actual applications such as floodgates and land-locks required for seismic protection, and to improve the resilience of national lands against natural disasters such as flooding and tsunamis. The material is increasingly specified for applications in public infrastructure. For example, the Tokyo metropolitan government undertook a project to install bridges constructed of this duplex to connect esplanades along the Sumida River. Sales of these strategic products continues to expand by meeting a wide variety of customers’ needs and requests,” explains Mr. Ito.

New duplex celebrates integration: NSSC 2351TM

In September 2019, the company rolled out its first post-integration product: Integration Commemorative Product NSSC 2351. Based on an upgrade of the NSSC 2120 grade, as the result of integration, in-house knowledge was shared and multiplied, resulting in the successful development of a superior product with even greater corrosion resistance.
Mr. Ito commented: “With this development, the next generation series of duplex stainless steel offers even more choices – covering our generic austenite stainless steels from type 304 to 316! For the 2351 grade, we are targeting at infrastructure facilities in brackish water environments that utilise corrosion protection; as well as tanks and containers in the food and pharmaceutical industries.”
“It’s a perfect example that the integration was not just a simple addition of the technical capabilities, but an opportunity for us to get appended synergy through our own and joint efforts made by all the team especially on the field of new products development.” The demands for duplex for civil engineering projects are increasing, and there has been correspondingly high demand for NSSC’s original new duplex steel grade.
“In an environment where lifecycle cost translates to a demand for prolonged maintenance life, stainless materials are one of the best optimal choices. Our original duplex steel not only offers stainless steel’s superior performance such as corrosion resistance in this regard, but the weight of the product can be reduced by 25% due to its high strength. We see high ratings and increased demand for these products.”

Stainless Steel Sheet for Precision Processing FYGRASTM

Stainless steel sheet FYGRASTM with fine crystal grains and with advanced dimensional accuracy of forming is suitable for precision processing. In recent years the integration of electronic gadgets such as smartphones have been extremely advanced. The performance and quality of stainless steel stencils by solder printing for the circuit board are important factors. By fine crystal grains of stainless steel stencils the dimensional accuracy of those holes isn’t only improved but the surface of holes formed in the stencils is also smoothed. These improve the solder flow. As a result, connection reliability and packaging density connections have been very much advanced.
In the near future, perhaps the package density connection will advance. The development of materials based on FYGRAS is very much expected.

Improved customer solutions through integration

Through the integration, NSSC is improved its solution-oriented business model.
“Our team offers proposal-based sales that provide not only high-quality, value-added materials but also applications and manufacturing technology/know-how which fulfil our clients’ needs,” explains Mr. Ito.
“Offering a solution-focused business is not just about solving customers’ problems by presenting them with existing materials and products.
We have our engineers actually meet with customers and then make appropriate proposals to them. We may recommend a particular material to solve a problem which the customer is experiencing. Some materials may also be developed together with customers; the engineers take the problem back to the office if necessary, research and solve it. All the former companies had been involved in this type of solutions focused business, and now, their DNA has been combined. Great synergy was created by multiplying the technology and knowledge of each company; it wasn’t simply an addition. So our capability to offer solutions has been upgraded.”