Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Interview- Yatindar Pal Singh Suri (Outokumpu)

All structural elements of concrete in coastal areas offer opportunities for growth



Outokumpu India Pvt Ltd – an offshoot of Finnish steel major Outokumpu, which is among the largest producers of stainless steel products in the world – has been present in India since 2006. YATINDER PAL SINGH SURI,Country Head for India, OUTOKUMPUOutokumpu, responded to SHRIKANT RAO’s queries on the opportunities and challenges to market his company’s stainless steel rebars in an environment hungry for infrastructure growth.  


Give us an idea of Outokumpu’s focus in the steel rebars segment in keeping with the huge need for infrastructure development in the country? How has 2013 been for your company in view of rising material costs and the decline of the rupee?


Concrete provides protection due to high alkaline environment (13.5pH) but it cannot stop the ingress of chlorides (present in marine and coastal environments) and carbon dioxide.  Corrosion occurs due to carbonation and chloride concentration which leads to cracking of concrete allowing atmospheric access to carbon steel rebars. India has a long coastline and the coastal areas have high concentration of chlorides in the atmosphere. Stainless steel rebar is being promoted aggressively by Outokumpu since the self healing chromium rich oxide which forms on the surface of stainless steel rebar makes it an excellent corrosion resistant choice as an alternative to carbon steel reinforcing bar. It eliminates the cracking and spalling of concrete thus providing an extremely long corrosion free life of the structural elements of concrete. All new investments in infrastructure along the coastline should prefer stainless steel rebars to get maintenance free life from concrete elements for many decades. Devaluation of rupee did dampen the demand for imports but our products being niche and not produced in India, we did not have much erosion in demand for our products as compared to 2012.



Will you offer an assessment of the demand supply gap and give us an understanding of what Outokumpu is doing to narrow the distance?


Stainless steel rebars are not being produced in India since the demand is thin and latent. Once the product is accepted as an alternative to carbon steel rebars, there should be a big upsurge in domestic interest to manufacture and the supply gap would not be there. Currently Outokumpu, being the oldest stainless steel manufacturer with the largest R&D set up, is offering rebars in Duplex stainless steel grades which offer a much higher strength as well as corrosion resistance compared to austenitic or ferritic grades. The use and specification of stainless steel rebars in emerging coastal projects is being seen.



Tell us about your current market share, manufacturing facilities and their capacities?


Being a new product and new application, our market share in this segment is indeed respectable particularly in Duplex series. The mill in Sheffield can produce about 60,000 tons of long products annually and capacity is not a constraint for demand yet. Outokumpu is the first stainless reinforcing steel producer to be granted by CARES a certificate for sustainable reinforcing steel. To achieve this certification, a producer’s quality and environmental management systems are assessed, as well as the company’s social responsibility and sustainable sourcing practices.



Could you talk of the technology/innovations employed by Outokumpu in the manufacture of rebars? What are the advantages of your product over others? 


We are the only stainless reinforcing bar producer in lean duplex grades which offer unmatched corrosion and mechanical strength compared to other materials. These bars have already been used in temples and monuments in Asia including India and these have been used for applications in road bridges over rivers and creeks. We advocate the selective use of stainless steel reinforcing bars in areas which are prone to corrosion due to carbonation or chloride attack. With this arrangement carbon steel rebars will always be in the passive pH zone in the centre of the concrete structure and the stainless steel rebars will be in the outer periphery areas exposed to the lower pHs or chloride attacks. In these circumstances both the stainless rebars and carbon steel rebars remain passive. Thus the concrete does not crack or spall.



To what extent is cost a deterrent in the use of quality products? 


Once the project owner and the structural consultants understand and appreciate the cost advantages due to huge increase in the maintenance free life cycle the acceptance for a given application is quick. To give an example, in Australia for the Brisbane bridge the design company wanted a design life of 300 years. To ensure such a long life span, the bridge design specified stainless steel rebar in the most critical bridge structure – the splash zone of the main river pylons. In total only 140 tons of lean duplex rebars were used representing only 1.67 per cent of the total 7800 tons of carbon steel rebars. The bridge cost increased by less than 1 per cent, the long term benefits of reduced maintenance for 300 years life were phenomenal.



What is the level of understanding for the need for such products in India and what is Outokumpu doing to further the cause, educate customers, and what is the feedback?


As far as stainless rebars are concerned, we have organised exclusive presentations and workshops for structural consultants, architects, builders, government and private project owners on the advantages of stainless rebars in achieving low life cycle cost. The feedback is excellent but demand is subdued to begin with. Marketing this application has not been an easy task but initial successes have been very encouraging and motivating to build on them for future.



Which are the landmark construction/infrastructure projects that have found support from Outokumpu products? Who are your important clients?


Duplex Stainless steel rebars (200 tons) have been used for the foundation of the Swaminarayan temple in Eastern India. The spiritual Guru wanted the temple to have a life of over 1000 years as a source of inspiration for future generations. A Buddhist temple in Thailand also used Outokumpu Duplex rebars for the foundation for similar sentiments. An infrastructure development government body in western India has specified duplex stainless rebars up to the splash zone for an new upcoming road overbridge project. This is a good start.



Which are the potential growth areas in the construction / infrastructure space in which Outokumpu is seeking opportunities? 


All structural elements of concrete in marine and coastal areas are the potential growth areas. Other applications are in monuments and nuclear installations where plant safety is paramount.



What kind of a future do you envision for Outokumpu’s products? What is your outlook for 2014?


Our outlook for 2014 is extremely positive. We want Outokumpu to be differentiated and known among customers in three ways .First, we are the leading stainless steel company when it comes to sustainability. Second, we take pride in being the best experts to advise our customers on advanced materials and thirdly, we are the most customer friendly and customer-centric company on the market. Wherever our partners are, we will be there with long lasting materials to meet the most extreme demands under the harshest conditions. Because the first step towards a world that lasts forever is making today’s architectural and structural solutions as dependable and sustainable as possible. Our vision is to build a world that lasts forever. 

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