A group of 30 students from the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business witnessed firsthand the steel manufacturing process during a visit to a South Carolina plant owned by Nucor Steel Corp., currently ranked #4 in the Business Week Top 50 company rankings that has “long been known as the best operator in the steel business.”
Elon was hosted by Matt Manelli, plant controller, and his colleagues, who shared with students some of the many factors that have contributed to Nucor’s success.
For example, Manelli said, Nucor offers strong productivity and profit sharing bonuses to all employees, and its strategic focus has allowed the company to weather sharp downturns in the steel sector.
Nucor was an early pioneer of cutting-edge “mini-mill” technologies built around recycling of steel scrap, and it has continuously invested in upgrading technology. Nucor is now the largest industrial steel recycler in North America, and the company recycles and reuses a wide variety of other industrial byproducts and materials.
Elon students witnessed first-hand how a giant magnet lifts huge piles of steel scrap and places them on a large conveyer, where they are fed into an Electric Arc Furnace and melted to 3000 degrees Farenheit. The impurities are siphoned off and the chemistry of the molten steel adjusted before it is then ladled into a continuous casting machine.
Students watched as the molten steel transitioned before their eyes from a liquid to a semi-solid glowing red hot mass, which is cut into long “billets,” and then fed into “rolling” apparatus, where it is stretched into long bars or angles to become finished steel product (e.g., the rebar used in masonry construction projects).
The Nucor site visit gave business students an opportunity to see industrial manufacturing in person. Many of the participating students are enrolled in Elon’s Winter Study Abroad course “Doing Business in the Pacific Rim,” through which they will also visit a steel smelting facility in Western Australia this January, which is operated by HIsmelt/Rio Tinto and uses environmentally friendly heat recapture technology.