The Salzgitter Group’s research and development (R&D) for the steel-related business units is grouped together under Salzgitter Mannesmann Forschung GmbH (SZMF). SZMF is part of a tight network with universities, research institutes and industrial partners in the context of numerous national and international research projects. We view the resulting research cooperations as preferable to buying in external know-how, which is also the reason that no commensurately high expenses have been incurred during the reporting period. In addition, SZMF actively participates in defining relevant standardizations, also in the international environment. R&D is organized decentrally for the Technology Business Unit.
The ability to innovate is our strength: This is evidenced by 5,924 patents and 1,480 trademark rights registered for the entire Group at year-end 2016 (2015: 5,587 and 1,537 respectively). Of these, 5,238 active patents and patent applications (2015: 4,854) and 587 trademark rights (2015: 526) were accounted for by the Technology Business Unit.
In 2016, the Salzgitter Group spent € 94.1 million on R&D and R&D-related activities, of which € 9.0 million on behalf of external customers. A breakdown of expenses by business unit is shown in the table below:
|Group||Strip Steel BU||Plate / Section Steel BU||Mannesmann BU||Technology BU||Not attributable to a BU|
|R&D expenses1)||€ m||94.1||39.5||11.2||8.3||24.5||10.6|
The R&D activities of Salzgitter AG (SZAG) were leveraged through cooperation projects with other market participants and research institutions, bringing the overall project budget to more than € 190 million. As of December 31, 2016, 733 employees were engaged in R&D and R&D-related activities. Of this number, 276 members of staff work at SZMF and 457 at the operating companies. This allocation underscores how strongly our R&D activities are focused on products – and therefore on our customers.
|R&D expenses4)||€ m||85||85||87||88||82||79||78||81||80||60|
The R&D focus is on market and customer requirements. Demand is not only for products but also increasingly for end-to-end technological solutions. The Salzgitter Group has grouped its automotive activities under the “Initiative Automotive” and presents them on a dedicated website (www.initiative-automotive.de). An example of an ongoing development in the area of automotive is Pretex®focar®, a thin sheet surface procedure enabling a resource efficient and primerless body shell. In the Mannesmann Business Unit, for instance, Super Duplex pipes for deep sea applications were optimized for use in deeper water to ensure a similarly safe media supply. The Technology Business Unit enhances its customers’ competitiveness through its products, solutions and services by enabling them to increase their productivity conserve resources, while lowering their CO2 emissions, thereby achieving significant cost advantages.
More detailed information on the aforementioned projects:
Pretex®focar® – optimized body shell for the automotive industry
With its Pretex®focar® brand, Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH has presented a new product characteristic for body shell applications in the automotive industry. Primerless coating systems are being increasingly deployed for ecological and economic reasons. The requirements with regard to the outward appearance of the painted body shell have nonetheless continually increased. In Pretex®, SZFG has had a sheet metal surface in a leading quality for many years. With Pretex®focar®, small waviness parameters, along with the customary parameters of roughness and peak count, are set systematically and reproducibly.
Super Duplex pipes for deep sea applications
Deep sea supply pipes, also known as umbilicals, are used on offshore platforms for the purpose of transporting control signals, energy or chemicals from the surface of the water right down to the seabed. Extremely demanding requirements are placed on the strength and fatigue properties, as well as on the corrosion resistance of pipes used in locations at depths of up to 2,500 m. Salzgitter Mannesmann Stainless Tubes GmbH (MST) and SZMF have joined forces in developing trial procedures, enabling Super Duplex pipes to qualify for deep sea applications. In close cooperation with the first customers, the pipe properties were analyzed quickly and efficiently and successfully qualified. These results create a valuable database for the ongoing development of this business line.
Nature MultiPackTM packaging innovation
In Nature MultiPack™, KHS subsidiary NMP Systems GmbH (NMP) has launched a unique packaging technology on the market that dispenses with the use of conventional multipacks of cardboard, shrink film and plastic rings. By comparison, Nature MultiPack™ uses up to 85 % less packaging material in addition to energy savings of up to 67 % during production. The PET bottles are bonded together with specially developed adhesives and made easy to carry with the aid of consumer-friendly handles. The packaging has been designed to withstand transport and distribution logistics, while making it easy for the consumer to peel away individual bottles from the multipack.
To ensure that our materials offer particularly sustainable solutions, SZMF analyzes the relevant megatrends in the areas of mobility, energy and raw materials that have a direct impact on use of steel. Moreover, as part of the “Salzgitter AG 2021” group strategy, growth areas to be supported through the respective R&D undertakings in the coming years were identified for all business units.
The Strip Steel Business Unit concentrates on developing ultra-high-strength grades of hot strip steels and cold-rolled multi-phase steels. The resource efficient production of conventional and innovative high-performance steels using belt casting technology is another key area. The Mannesmann Business Unit focuses on the customer-oriented optimization of product properties, examples being precision tubes for higher injection pressure and therefore more environmentally responsible combustion in engines, as well as variable tube wall thicknesses to support an appropriate load-bearing, light-weight optimized application. In addition, solutions for the future production of steel with lower CO2 emissions are under investigation.
SZMF is pushing ahead with advance development projects driving innovative R&D undertakings which entail a longer time horizon. We draw on our extensive R&D network to build up our know-how and conduct targeted research as part of joint, partly funded projects with application-oriented and innovative content.
In the Technology Business Unit, we maximize our endeavors to ensure that our facilities use less energy and resources, which delivers increased cost effectiveness for our customers. The modular structure of plants and machinery remains a focal point in achieving maximum flexibility based on standardized kits. In addition, this results in the further standardization of procurement processes, foresighted stockholding and the associated accelerated availability of parts.