Innovation permeates everything at ArcelorMittal, the world’s leading steel and mining company. Innovation is evident in the scientific advancements of research and development. It is part of on-the-ground plant efforts that improve efficiency and save money. Innovation may involve years of development and investment, or a single meeting of minds to find better ways to work and think.
“Innovative thinking leads to improved performance, increased sustainability and solutions to global challenges,” said ArcelorMittal Chairman and CEO Lakshmi Mittal. “Innovation means change and adaptation. It is about bringing fresh thinking and a new perspective to everything we do.”
Northwest Indiana is home to more than 10,000 ArcelorMittal employees and more than half of the U.S. business’s raw steel capacity. In East Chicago, ArcelorMittal operates one of 12 global R&D centers, which serves as an epitome of innovation for automotive solutions. Hundreds of scientists work daily on developing advanced steel grades that push the limits of steel’s formability and strength. Automakers need innovative steel products and solutions to develop the vehicles of tomorrow that are lighter weight and more fuel efficient without compromising safety nor adding significant cost to the automaker, or ultimately the consumer.
Earlier this year, ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, ArcelorMittal Cleveland and Global R&D East Chicago received a coveted Performance Excellence Award from the parent company. This award recognized the collaborative and innovative efforts of the sites and people to deliver new automotive steels at unprecedented speed.
“The improved development process gives ArcelorMittal a significant competitive advantage and helps us maintain and further grow our automotive market share,” said Dr. Greg Ludkovsky, head of global R&D for ArcelorMittal. “It is my profound belief that the ability to innovate determines winners and losers.”
Dr. Ludkovsky is a champion of innovation. He and his team of researchers are pioneering new steel products and solutions every day. These steels are in everything from automobiles — including both the 2016 North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year, the Honda Civic and Volvo XC90 respectively — to notable buildings including Chicago skyscrapers at 111 S. Wacker Drive and 150 N. Riverside.
In recognition of these advancements, Dr. Ludkovsky recently has been inducted into the Northwest Indiana Business & Industry Hall of Fame.
“Staying on the cutting edge of innovation in the steel industry is crucial. We look to push ourselves to develop the next groundbreaking concept,” he said. "With every solution, we keep redefining how far steel can go. The opportunities for steel are limitless."
Beyond product innovation
ArcelorMittal also pushes the boundaries in its approach to corporate responsibility.
In 2014, ArcelorMittal launched a new sustainability framework that outlines 10 sustainable development outcomes. These outcomes serve as a practical yet demanding approach to the company's contribution to a more sustainable future for its people, communities and planet. From steel production and the resources it requires to new product development and support for people and communities, innovation and sustainability are inextricably linked.
As one example, ArcelorMittal recognizes that making steel is energy-intensive. ArcelorMittal seeks to reduce energy consumption through partnerships with the Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It also challenges its employees to identify innovative ways to be more energy efficient.
“We call this the ‘Power of 1’ — the idea that everyone can contribute to energy efficiency goals. Sometimes it is as simple as flipping off a light switch or fixing a leak. Other projects are complex and need more time and resources. Together, these ideas save money and reduce our carbon footprint,” said Larry Fabina, ArcelorMittal USA energy champion.
ArcelorMittal is also partnering with LanzaTech, headquartered in Skokie, Illinois, on an exciting project to convert waste gas from the steelmaking process into high-value biofuel. The initial project is expected to be complete in 2018 at ArcelorMittal Ghent in Belgium. Once the commercial viability of the project is proven, the intent is to construct further plants across ArcelorMittal’s operations, including Northwest Indiana.
Innovation as a mindset
ArcelorMittal encourages its people to think outside the box and foster new ideas that help keep the company at the forefront of innovation.
“Most people think of innovation as making new products. But it is much broader than that,” said Dr. Ludkovsky. “Innovation is about improving our processes and people, the systems we use, and the way we think. We view innovation as a mindset that helps generate new ideas and opportunities that secure our future.”
ArcelorMittal also is reinventing the way people think about America’s steel industry. The skills, training and education necessary to create quality steel products are more advanced. In an effort to build a highly skilled workforce for the future, ArcelorMittal has engaged in several initiatives and partnerships with U.S. educational institutions and nonprofit partners.
One example is Steelworker for the Future®. Launched in 2008, this 2 1/2-year program combines classroom learning at a participating community college with on-the-job training at an ArcelorMittal USA facility. At the completion of the program, students earn an associate in applied science degree in industrial technology. This education and experience can be applied at any manufacturer.
ArcelorMittal recognizes the need to inspire the next generation of innovators. The company works actively to drive the success of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum in local schools.
Recently, ArcelorMittal launched a partnership with Project Lead the Way (PLTW). Through a competitive grant process totaling $350,000, middle and high schools near key ArcelorMittal operations in the U.S. were awarded funds to build STEM curriculum.
“Our ability to attract young people to our company rests with us. We need to promote technological know-how required to run our operations. We need to boast the unique opportunities for growth within a fascinating organization. We need to share the ecological friendliness of our material,” said Dr. Ludkovsky. “Steel is the material of the future. It’s great fun to make something and see it incorporated into everyday life. Being part of a company that values innovation in every definition of the word is invigorating, and I’m fortunate enough to live it.”