Gloria P. Cahill tells how IMS’ materials-handling and recovery services help steel mills keep quality up and costs down on every gauge.
A mill that produces 600,000 tons of steel a year must consume 680,000 tons of scrap to keep the blast furnaces roaring. And with the average price of scrap at $100 per ton, wasting metal is not an option. So, the question of how to dispose of the slag that floats to the top of the molten steel is an economic issue. Disposing of the dross is also an environmental problem that involves government laws and regulations.
International Mill Service, Inc. (IMS), is the company with the solution: EPA-approved and cost-effective systems for handling metal, removing slag and recycling mill by-products. At more than 45 sites in North America, IMS owns, operates and maintains processes that recover metallics and convert by-products into value-added materials.
Based in Horsham, Pa., IMS also has offices in Pittsburgh and Bridgeton, Mo. With its sister company, Envirosource Technologies, IMS meets the metal-recovery needs of more than 70 mills. The company employs around 1,300 people in the United States and about 100 in Canada. Revenues in 1999 were about $180 million.
Founded in 1936, IMS has built a core of experience based on the needs of the primary-metals industry. John T. DiLacqua, president since January 1999, comments on that expertise: “Our three most valuable assets are our people, our knowledge and our commitment to the steel industry. We’ve been in the business well over 50 years, and we have the knowledge to get the job done.”
The job DiLacqua refers to is multifaceted. Using leading-edge technologies and specialized equipment, IMS specialists study the operations at each mill and design a comprehensive program for removing, transporting and processing the slag.
Using custom-built equipment, IMS operators remove slag and debris from the steel-making facility by using a pot-carrier system it pioneered. In this process, the hot slag is poured off from the furnace, so there is no pollution from fugitive dust. The slag is then loaded and transported to the IMS processing site.
The EPA-approved processing that comes next involves separating the metal into metallics and non-metallics. Metallics are returned to the mill for remelting as scrap. The non-metallics, known as slag aggregate, are made into other products.
IMS’ recovery expertise and operating efficiencies improve customers’ profitability by maximizing the reclamation of valuable metallics. The result is that raw-material costs are reduced by substituting clean, high-quality, reclaimed metal for outside-purchased scrap. And, by marketing the residual materials, IMS provides other environmental and economic benefits by eliminating on-site storage of slag – so valuable real estate is available for other productive uses.
The objective of IMS’ services is to take care of the materials handling, and provide an uninterrupted flow of operation so that the mill can focus on steel production. To that end, IMS hires and trains all the personnel required, and invests the capital needed to provide its services to a mill. As part of its service and EPA accountability, the company also protects the health and safety of all workers during the processing operations.
Vice President of Marketing Bill Miller expands on the benefits of IMS’ services: “This is really materials handling. IMS is in the mill to move the scrap from point A to point B – anything that needs to be moved in the business. We have new technologies for handling applications and needs. We hire the people to move the steel around the mill. We save management time and capital.”
As one example of the success of IMS’ processes, Miller cites the company’s current large-scale project – the IPSCO mill that is opening in Mobile, Ala. He says that the mill will concentrate on making quality steel using the fewest man-hours. He also emphasizes that in this context, “IMS will do everything but make the steel.”
IMS also designs and implements systems that can accomplish a variety of other tasks inside a mill. Specialty services include refractory removal, scrap management, slab handling, environmental services, pallet carrier service, maintenance management, scrap shearing and scrap sorting.
The leader in marketing the slag aggregate that was once discarded from the steel-making process, IMS processes 8 million to 10 million tons of aggregate each year. By converting slag into useful products, IMS provides a total recycling solution for an environmental problem. Slag aggregates have many different uses: road-surface aggregate, ice-control aggregate for improved traction, railroad ballast for stability and road-base aggregate for unpaved surfaces.
IMS Waylite, based in Bethlehem, Pa., manufactures cement and aggregate products from blast furnace slag and steel slag. The company also makes lightweight aggregates, baseball infield mix, landscape products and specialty additives for Portland cement concrete. In addition to slag removal, metal recovery and aggregate manufacturing, IMS provides a fourth mill service: surface conditioning. These processes include machine scarfing with computerized equipment, hand scarfing for limited conditioning and flame cutting/slitting for product cutting.
As IMS management looks to the future, DiLacqua emphasizes the company’s commitments to its people, its customers and the steel industry: “When people talk about IMS, they know we’ve done it all. And we have the long-term employees who pass their knowledge on to the new people. They all make a commitment to the customer. I believe that IMS, in the near term, will be one of the best places to work in North America.”
As to the long term, he says, “We have a very focused plan to grow this company in a systematic way that leads to sustained profitable growth. In the next five years we will continue to improve our return on assets. We will provide more services, continue our cost-reduction program and take on new jobs that provide a fair return.
IMS suppliers also get a strong commitment from the company president: “We have many long-term relationships with suppliers such as Caterpillar, Kawasaki and Kress Company. We will maintain those relationships and respect them as part of our partnership.” Commenting on the services slated for future expansion, Miller states, “Scrap-yard management will be a growth area in the next five years. Every steel mill needs this service. We will receive scrap inventory and put it in a charge box. IMS will manage the yard. The steel industry is getting its costs in line, and this service provides value.”
DiLacqua sums up the IMS commitment: “We aren’t looking to go outside of the steel industry. We know it’s a tough business, but we believe in the industry. We are a part of it, have a role to play and will fulfill it. Our customers know this.” From dealing with molten metal to cutting cold steel to recycling mill by-products into road chips, IMS is a steel company that knows how to turn dross into gold.