Most engineering students may see employment with basic industry as less attractive than work in the service industry, but the president of Geneva Steel says the manufacturing industry can be fulfilling and will require the best and brightest people to increase its capacity in society.
Speaking to students at Brigham Young University on Thursday about "Manufacturing Matters," Geneva Steel President Joe Cannon said manufacturing does matter to the wealth and power of the country."Manufacturing is the foundation to our economy," he said. "If we lose manufacturing, we lose high service jobs. I'm not saying that the service sector of our economy is not important. We just have to know the importance of manufacturing companies."
Today's post-industrial economy can be compared to the change from agricultural economy to industrial economy, Cannon said. The country still has agricultural economy, but has applied technology to it.
"That is what we need to do to manufacturing. We should not abandon it. We should apply new concepts to manufacturing. We have within us as Americans the ability to go through transition because of our entrepreneur spirit. We just need to unleash our ability as entrepreneurs."
Cannon said Geneva Steel is looking at several ways to improve steel production at its Orem plant. During his lecture he shared with students the Geneva Steel Facility Plan.
The five- to 10-year plan provides several alternatives for improving manufacturing at Geneva and would cost the company from $250,000 to $500,000.
The open-hearth furnaces would be the first area for change, he said. Only three other plants in the country have open-hearth furnaces. The rest have a basic oxygen furnace that takes less than an hour, instead of 14 hours, to heat molten iron and turn it into steel.
The advantage to the open-hearth furnaces is they are paid for and a basic oxygen furnace would cost $400 million. Cannon said many plants are now out of business because they purchased the basic oxygen furnace and couldn't pay for it through production.
The oxygen furnace was the latest in steel technology a number of years ago because a continuous caster could be connected to the furnace and steel could be poured constantly, which in turn would save the company money.
More recent technology makes it possible to use a continuous caster - costing about $85 million - from the open-hearth furnace through a ladle metallurgy furnace costing $5 million.
"That would make us a modern plant," he said. "But now we are faced with thin slab casting technology, which costs $50 million. That is new technology and will not be totally developed for several years. Do we wait for it or go with the continuous caster and then several years later get the thin slab?"
Cannon said these are questions they must face in modernizing the plant, which was built during World War II.
There is also the possibility of
cokeless iron making, new technology that uses regular coal and raw iron ore instead of refined coal. Such technology would save Geneva $50 a ton or $75 million a year if it works, Cannon said.
"We could use more Utah products. My guess is that you will see it at Geneva in the next eight to 20 years if it works."
Changes at the rolling mill also could improve production, but Cannon did not detail those alternatives.
He said the plan has yet to go before Geneva's board of directors for approval. "Where we get the money and which we do first has not been determined."