Steel in the Course of Time

Interview with Alexander Stier, Head of Sales and Logistics at Stahlwerk Thüringen GmbH

Alexander Stier, Head of Sales and Logistics at Stahlwerk Thüringen GmbH
Alexander Stier, Head of Sales and Logistics at Stahlwerk Thüringen GmbH

It's an ambitious goal: By 2050, Germany aims to be carbon-neutral. By 2030 alone, at least 55 percent less greenhouse gases are to be emitted than in 1990. To achieve this goal, a rethinking is required - as has long been practiced by Stahlwerk Thüringen GmbH. The traditional steel mill views sustainability as the only key to securing the future. And therefore relies on Green Steel.

Economic Forum: Mr. Stier, the Stahlwerk Thüringen GmbH has a long history and presents itself more innovatively than ever. How did this come about?

Alexander Stier: The beginnings of the company date back to the year 1872 when the Maximilianshütte was established here on site. The ore of the region was suitable for the blast furnace process, which is why the factory was established as a subsidiary of Maxhütte in Sulzbach-Rosenberg. To this day, there have been various milestones that have influenced the company's development. To secure international competitiveness, a combined section mill was invested in 1985. After the fall of the wall, the Treuhand agency transferred the plant to the Luxembourg-based Arbed group in 1992. After various modernizations, the electric steel plant was put into operation in 1995. The old blast furnace route was completely demolished and within four years a completely new steel plant was built, which operates based on an electric furnace route. Melted scrap is processed into steel, which significantly reduces CO2 emissions. This technique is an important step towards decarbonization.

Thuringia Steelworks Rolling Mill Stands on the Cooling Bed

Economic Forum: How is Thüringen Steelworks positioned today?

Alexander Stier: In 2001, the steel corporations Arbed, Aceralia, and Usinor merged to form the new Arcelor corporation. For antitrust reasons, it was sold to the Spanish Alfonso Gallardo group in 2007. Since 2012, and thus for more than eleven years, we have been part of the Brazilian CSN group, which has two locations in Europe, and we make a valuable contribution to the steel business here. In 2022, we achieved a turnover of over 800 million EUR with an output of 719,000 tons.

Economic Forum: What are your forecasts for the future?

Alexander Stier: 2023 is proving to be difficult; the after-effects of Corona as well as the ongoing issue of the energy crisis and availability still lead to weakened demand and uncertainty. Nevertheless, we remain positive and hope for impulses from the political side to bring momentum and stability to the economy. Specifically, this means we are hoping for subsidy programs so that companies start investing again. This also applies to the upcoming decarbonization transformation; for it to succeed, more transparency and clarity need to be established.

Thuringia Steelworks Structural Steel
Core competence of the steelworks – structural steel in various grades and dimensions
Thuringian Steelworks Company Premises in Unterwellenborn
Located in Unterwellenborn since 1872, to produce steel; today increasingly producing 'Thuringian Steelworks Green Steel' with reduced CO2

Economic Forum: You address the issue of decarbonization. What contribution does the Thuringia steel plant make in this regard?

Alexander Stier: In 2022, we were able to introduce the new product line SWT Green Steel; a registered, internationally protected product and an ideal brand to offer completely CO2-neutral manufactured products in the future. We are looking at a period of 15 to 18 years in which we will have many projects ahead of us, which must be supported by the entire company. By using green electricity from Scandinavian hydropower, we can already deliver CO2-reduced steel today.

Economic Forum: Are there any other challenges?

Alexander Stier: We want to be increasingly perceived as an international steel manufacturer as well as to become known with our brand ‘SWT Stahlwerk Thueringen GreenSteel’ as a producer of CO2-reduced steel as a benchmark of the industry. Besides our traditional product portfolio, we deliver high-quality special grades for the construction sector. For example, wind and solar platforms at high sea are of increasing interest. For this specific market segment, which makes up about 5% of our sales, we deliver steel that goes into the deep sea area. Another field in which we are already active and which is to be further expanded are steel sleepers for rails. In addition to new, sustainable products, we are concerned with the issue of a shortage of skilled workers; a challenge due to the current aging of the population, but also a change in attitudes and expectations. Personnel shortages must be absorbed in the long term and counteracted by politics through various solution concepts. SWT is increasingly and proactively present at training fairs to attract young, competent people to our company.

Thuringia Steelworks Roof Structure from Green Steel
Roof structure from Green Steel - the environmentally friendly steel owns the future
Thuringia Steelworks Steel for Offshore Applications
Steel for Offshore Applications – Niche Market with Potential

Economic Forum: Which unique selling points can the company use to excel in these complex market conditions?

Alexander Stier: For example, with a very good network of international customers combined with a high-quality product. For a steel producer, we are very flexible regarding grades, dimensions, and logistics. We can deliver freshly rolled material quickly to any point in Europe and the world.