The Steel Impact in Your Life

As consumers, business owners, employees, builders, and environmentally aware people we must push ourselves to ask, “How does this impact me?”. In the steel industry, there are often hidden values and economic advantages that we may not have considered or realized. Understanding how steel impacts everything from the car you drive to the fence around your yard to the farming equipment that was used to harvest the food you eat every day, can truly show you how invested we are as a society in the steel industry.
Steel in the form of ferrous scrap is the most recycled material in the United States and worldwide. In 2016 alone, the U.S Geological Survey estimated 65 million metric tons of iron and steel scrap were processed in America. Ferrous scrap refers to recycled steel that comes from many sources with the largest being used automobiles. That means each time a car you own is processed due to accident or age or defect, you are directly taking part in the world’s largest recycling supply chain.

The metallurgical properties within steel allow it to be recycled many times without compromising its quality. Virtually every steel item purchased is therefore recycled in some capacity. Steel.org reported that 90% of appliances are recycled in North American processing plants each year. Recycling this steel contributes to saving the energy needed to create steel from raw materials. This equates to enough energy to power 18 million homes.
On average new vehicles purchased today contain about 60% steel, most of which is recycled. However, today’s steel differs from the steel of 50+ years ago. According to Worldsteel.org, steel is now up to 30% stronger and more dent resistant while still being about 25% lighter. So, every new car on the road now is a more recycled product than in the last 50+ years due to the American Steel Industry’s initiative in recycling. Just one recycled car produces enough recycled steel to produce more than 4 steel utility poles.

50% of the world’s steel is used within the housing industry according to the WorldSteel.org. While being an optimal recycled and sustainable product to use within a home, it also has many long-term effects that benefit homeowners. Steel frames within the house produce a safety feature in earthquake and fire disasters. It also combats termites within the home. This saves homeowners time, money, and peace of mind when it comes to the integrity and value of their home.

Steel is also imperative in the food industry. When opening the pantry at your own home, you will likely see many canned food items. Due to the amazing innovation of steel within cans for food items they do not need to be refrigerated. This prevents food waste and cuts down on energy used to preserve the food within a refrigerator.
The steel advances mentioned earlier in this article noted the new version of steel that is on the market today and its stronger and lighter benefits. This directly correlates to the savings it can have for builders, particularly of large projects like bridges. In addition, many builders are creating safer ways for steel foundations to absorb shocks and movement from climate change and earthquakes. In the long-term, it will help create safer structures for all that use them.

Many that work within the steel industry feel a great sense of pride in what they do, and now knowing just how much of an impact they have on the daily lives of American’s, I think you can understand why. Next time you open a canned food item, get in your car, turn on a household appliance, drive on a bridge, or see a house being built, just remember these are just a few of the ways the steel industry is involved in supporting our lives as we know them.

Summer, Sun and Optimus Steel Safety

On a Texas Day in August, employees of Optimus Steel arrive at work in perfect 70-degree weather while the sun rises.

Electrical and mechanical maintenance supervisors gather for the daily safety inspections. This is an essential part of the work day at the Beaumont Mill before employees step up to their nearly 3,000-degree furnace to turn scrap metal into high quality steel wire rods.

The process of steel making includes hundreds of people and thousands of steps. From trucks, rail cars and barges getting unloaded, to melting, refining and rolling, to products being shipped out again. All of these things happen here, and safety is the most important part of the process.

The Safety Manager at Optimus Steel, Matt Hammer, says the safety program has been developed over years of operations and technical advancements in the field.

Hammer said the daily safety walks ahead of production meetings, audits and inspections are integral to holding themselves to the perfect standards.

“We hold weekly safety meetings with every member of our leadership team to discuss success and opportunities,” Hammer said. “We have a strong and resourceful Joint Health and Safety Committee to ensure all voices are heard and to ensure hourly participation in the safety program.”

It’s a priority of Optimus’ to make sure every new addition to the company will be able contribute to these safety measures. Optimus Steel goes one step further by spending thousands of dollars on fresh fruit during the summer, installing state of the art cooling stations, offering cooling vests as well as other industry standard heat reduction tools.

While company-wide safety processes are important, it is also critical that every individual is given the opportunity to take the best care of themselves possible.

Here are a few safety rules to live by:

Six safety and health principles for the industry:

  1. All injuries and work-related illness can and must be prevented.
  2. Management is responsible and accountable for safety and health performance.
  3. Employee engagement and training is essential.
  4. Working safely is a condition of employment.
  5. Excellence in safety and health supports excellent business results.
  6. Safety and health must be integrated in all business-management processes.

From the World Steel Association

It is vitally important to account for the summer heat. Here are other tips to avoid heat related illnesses:

  1. Do not drink energy drinks.
  2. Avoid other drinks with a lot of sugar and caffeine.
  3. Eat light lunches and snacks.
  4. Pace yourself and take breaks if needed.
  5. Listen to your body.
  6. Alternate water and electrolyte replacement drinks.

From the Center for Disease Control

Optimus Steel: The Beginning of Us

“We strive for perfection in everything we do. Our goal is to outperform the steel industry in safety, quality, value and innovation.”

This is the philosophy that has captivated the 42-year-old Beaumont Mill by virtue of its new owner Optimus Steel LLC. Optimus Steel is a newly formed venture. The company acquired the mill on April 1, 2018.

“We bought the mill with the intent to better serve the many longtime customers of the mill and to grow in the steel making business. We believe we are doing that with the depth and breadth of high quality products we provide, and our superior logistic solutions because we can ship by barge, rail and truck,” said Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Ed Goettl.

The plant located in Beaumont, Texas, has a capacity of approximately 700,000 tons. A figure Optimus Steel is already making complete use of. They are well into the production of wire rods, billets and coiled rebar serving a multitude of industries including construction, automotive, energy and more.

“We have already started to invest significantly in the business to increase output and to improve quality,” he said. “We’re coming in with a new angle and none of these things can be done without the employees.”

Optimus Steel employs industrial electricians, switchmen, crane operators and millwrights to all types of maintenance supervisors.

“Without their knowledge, without their expertise, without their commitment and dedication — what we have been able to achieve in such a short period of time just wouldn’t have been possible,” Goettl said.

For example, Goettl remembers when Optimus first decided they needed a brand-new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. From start to finish, the system was implemented in 45 days.

“Our employees are going 100 miles an hour all day long,” he said.

The employees embody honesty, responsibility, excellence, passion and teamwork. Values that are translated into the end-product. Goettl said everything comes back to the quality of what they are putting out — it will always set them apart.

Optimus Steel wants to be known for four things:

  • Safety
  • Stakeholder value
  • Quality
  • Innovation

Matthew Hammer, Optimus Steel Safety Manager, says one example is their innovative safety program which has been developed over years of operations and technical advancements in the field.

“We use up-to-date technology to enhance the safety of our employees — like using drones for inspections of areas that are not readily accessible,” Hammer said. “Working together at all levels of employment, we strive to advance our safety program.”

Hammer said they also take daily safety walks ahead of any production meetings, perform internal and external audits as well as inspections to make sure they do what they are say they are doing with their products.

“We benchmark with trade organizations like the Steel Manufacturers Association. This bench-marking not only keeps us up-to-date with industry standards but allows us to compete with the best-of-the-best safety programs in North America and across the globe,” Hammer said.

Goettl said they implement their goals and values in dealing with their customers.

“We say we’re striving for perfection in everything we do,” he said. “The ultimate judge of that is going to be our employees, customers and vendors. We’re trying to be on time with our schedule, we’re trying to have outstanding safety performance and give a return to our stakeholders.”

If Optimus Steel can always hold themselves to these standards, Goettl believes they will be able to achieve their goal of continuing to grow in the industry either by building new mills or additional acquisitions nationally and possibly internationally.

“If we do these things properly then our brand will become more and more of a force in the steel industry,” Goettl said.

South East Texas Food Bank

Team Members: Clifford and Rosie Wineland, Joseph, Misty, Jolie and Jaxson Wineland, Marcos Dal Ponte, Jim and Pamela Kerkvliet, Joey Pineda, Terri Finn, Theresa Allen, Cheryl Zabish, Leonardo Radicchi, Joao Dantas, Chris Henson, Shaniqua Johnson, Hubert and Nancy Morris and Andy Davis.

On a Saturday morning, at 8:30 am, when most are thinking of having a nice hot cup of coffee, the Optimus team assembles at the South East Texas Food Bank ready for action. The activity for the day includes filling 1,000 boxes for seniors to be distributed throughout our community.

The team has representatives from every level of our operation. We are especially proud that charity truly does begin at home and there are wives and children gladly making their contributions to the effort with us. Our youngest team members are 8 and 11 years old!

The activity commences with food items packed into boxes, organized management of any waste generated and mechanical movement and staging of the boxes ready for distribution. The activity is well organized, the team works hard and has fun, finishes early and without any safety incidents!

This relationship established with the Food Bank will continue. It is one of our many commitments to give back to our community.

Thanks team! Without a doubt, Optimus Steel has the best, hard-working caring individuals anywhere!

Optimus Employees Give Back!

On June 30, 2018 a team of 15 employees took part in an effort to help Habitat for Humanity organize their warehouse.  Optimus is committed to continuing to give back to the communities that we live and work in.  I want to give a BIG THANK YOU to the following employees for their commitment to this goal.  Chris Henson, Leo Radicchi, Terri Finn, Cherly Zabish, Shaniqua Johnson, Jim Kerkvliet, Pamela Kerkvliet, Roberto Perez, Theresa Allen, Keith Bryan, Jarell Crutcher, Adrienne Crutcher, Gary Kirkland, and Frances Kirkland.