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Technical Visit – Tata Steel- Apr 19

On the evening of Thursday 4th April we were treated to a most interesting tour of the steel coating facility at Shotton (Deeside nr Chester).


Steel making at the Shotton site goes back to1895 when John Summers & Sons set up a green field steel works. By the 1970s this vast site employed in excess of 10,000 people. This included a facility, set up in 1965 making Painted steel under the Band Name “Colorcoat”. In March 1980 all Steel manufacture other than the Painting operation was closed with significant job loss.


Today we see a modern, well run and profitable steel (Zinc) coating and painting operation. Tata Shotton currently processes 500,000 tonnes of Steel per year. They employ 700 people and turnover £350 Million yielding a profit of £35 Million.


We were able to see a recent upgrade to one of the Colorcoat lines (Capex £60Million) which enables 3 coats of paint to be applied to the Zinc coated steel in a single pass. The benefits of this are that Tata can offer a Chromium Free paint system that enables them to maintain their 40 year guarantee at the cost associated with a single pass manufacturing process. This makes them unique in the industry.


The plant is highly automated and during the excellent plant tour one cannot fail to be impressed by the level of investment. This investment is aimed at maintaining a leading edge product in terms of quality, performance and consistency. In addition significant ongoing investment in health and safety is very evident.


Mike Renfrey (Chief Mechanical Engineer) also showed some other interesting areas of development

3D Printing – Recently the site purchased 3D printing equipment, one area where this has been put to good use is in manufacture of difficult to obtain (often due to obsolescence) parts. An example shown was the manufacture of replacement Electrical Switch Gear handles which were no longer available to purchase. By avoiding the need to replace an entire panel simple because of a broken handle a significant amount of time and money can be saved.

Augmented reality - This is the use of a headset (similar to a virtual reality headset) as a means of communicating e.g. between the site and Engineering offices. Some of the uses foreseen are Electrical fault finding and accurate manufacture of guarding (difficult on an old site without accurate drawings to manufacture intricate guarding on a “right first time” basis). To date this capability has met with significant success.

Electronic Manuals – The idea is to have equipment and operating manuals available in electronic form, on a screen adjacent to the relevant equipment. Clearly there are many benefits not least of which are avoiding the need to search for information and the guarantee that the information accessed is the current version.


Overall an excellent visit, a big THANK YOU to Mike and his team

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