JOHN DAVIES: ‘Car Wars’ and steel’s weight challenge

2014-01-12T00:00:00Z 2014-02-05T20:03:07Z JOHN DAVIES: ‘Car Wars’ and steel’s weight challengeBy John Davies
January 12, 2014 12:00 am  • 

In this time of competition for alternate materials for the next generation of automobiles, I ponder if Northwest Indiana is engaged in a great global drama called “Car Wars.”

So I met with Gregory Ludkovsky, the head of global research and development for ArcelorMittal. He shares his time between his offices in Europe and the Global R&D Center in East Chicago.

He talked about how well ArcelorMittal is positioned to face the challenges from manufacturers of aluminum and other products wanting to replace steel in automobiles.

Yes, there is progress! Think of Volkswagen, the first company that used aluminum in its Audi brand. It announced in Europe it no longer was pursuing alternative solutions because it believes steel can meet its ecological and weight requirements.

Consider ArcelorMittal’s “S in motion” project, which provides a “catalog of solutions” that has been embraced by automakers globally. This reduces the weight of a “body in white” by 25 percent. This makes it possible for auto makers to meet all North American and European current and future fuel efficiency targets without resorting to alternative materials.

It is clear that without the ArcelorMittal team of 1,350 scientists working in 11 R&D centers in Europe and the U.S., steel-producing regions like ours would be at much greater risk.

When I came back to the region in 1986, there were a number of steel producers along our lakeshore. Now there’s ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel. Thanks to their investment in new technology, we are producing about as much steel, but with fewer people.

Yes, it is important to recognize that steel producers locally and globally are fighting for steel. But it is also important to reflect on how valuable it is to have a global advocate for our industry who also is a member of the Society of Innovators.

One of the most amazing things Ludkovsky said: “Based upon my 40 plus years in the steel industry, I am convinced there is no end in sight to the progress that can be made.”

Over this period, the strength of steel has increased 400 percent, he said, and we are doing “unimaginable things” not thought possible 30 years ago in steel. “ArcelorMittal has a lot to do with making this possible.”

Today, he stressed the importance of ArcelorMittal being recognized as a provider of engineering solutions with a scientific network that is engaged in providing these solutions to industry worldwide.

Then I asked what keeps him awake nights! Surprisingly, he told me it is searching for ways to “unlock the secrets of human creativity.” Clearly, this is a message for all of us dedicated to making Northwest Indiana globally competitive.

During 2014, let us recommit ourselves to deploying our own creative solutions to push our organizations forward.

John Davies is managing director of the Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana, which is part of the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center of Ivy Tech Northwest. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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