Koninklijke Hoogovens - History - IJmuiden Steelworks - 1945-1999


After the end of WW2 reconstruction of the Netherlands began, as part of this process the steelworks was invested in; a separate company Breedband NV was established 19 June 1950, receiving funding from both the state and the United States Marshall Plan. The project introduced a hot and cold rolling mills for thin plate, of 60 and 75 thousand tonnes per year capacity respectively, and a galvanising line. All three installations were operating by the end of 1953. During the same period Architect Willem Marinus Dudok was commissioned to design a head office for the company in Velsen; completed 1953. The Breedband project moved Hoogoven's emphasis into flat rather than long products, which continued in later decades.

During the 1950s and 1960 the facilities were extended; the plants first oxy-steel converted was put into operation in 1958, a second cold rolling line was added in 1961, electrolytic galvanising machines were added in 1958, 1962, and 1967, hot rolling capacity had increased to 1.6million tonnes per year by 1965. On 4 May 1965 KNHS took over company Breedband NV. Also in the post war period an automated casting machine was installed in 1948, and two new blast furnaces activated in 1958, and 1961, a mill for steel rod and wire production was commissioned in 1964. The sixth blast furnace began operation in 1967, and a second oxy-steel plant in 1968. In 1969 a block mill capable of handling 45t blocks, and another hot strip mill with a capacity of over 3.5 million tonnes pa were opened.

Labour relations at the plant were usually good; during the first two decades of the enterprises existence the organisational structure was relatively simple, with limited hierarchies, there were limited attempts at a benevolent social policy by the plant's management. Psychological testing of potential workers was gradually introduced, first for skilled workers, and after WWII for unskilled workers. Vocational training was slowly introduced after 1938. In the post war period foreign workers from Italy, Spain, Turkey, Yugoslavia and Morocco began to be employed at the plant; in the 1960s the practice of housing foreign workers in floating hotels was begun. Post war there was no major industrial action until 1973 when 2300 workers went on strike at the Ijmuiden plant. During the Steel crisis there were no strikes, despite significant lay-offs.

In 1972 the first two blast furnaces were decommissioned. The same year (1972) the IJmuiden steelworks (Hoogovens IJmuiden BV.) were formed into a 50:50 joint venture named Estel with Hoesch of Germany as the other partner, who merged their Dortmund steel plant into the concern. IJmuiden with good access to seaborn raw materials was to act primarily as a raw steel supplier to the plant in Germany, which was closer to a large market for finished steel products - the steel crisis of the 1970s prevented any positive expansion and the company was disbanded in 1982 when funding arrangements for the loss making Dortmund plant could not be agreed.

After the de-merger from Hoesch the company required restructuring, and investment: the company was producing too much raw steel with not enough semi-finished product manufacturing capacity. This led to the installation of a continuous casting, hot rolling, and steel coating lines of the next decade. The dutch state supported the process - with a loan of 570million guilders. The workforce was reduced by 3000 (14%) over 4 years from 1982, with the company becoming profitable again in 1984. The subsidiary Demka was also closed.

The company's first continuous caster was put into operation in May 1980. In 1990 a production line for producing paint coated steel rolls was started. The third blast furnace was decommissioned in 1991.

In the late 1990s two blast furnaces were purchased by the Indonesian steel group Gunawan Steel Group and dismantled and shipped to its development in Malaysia; Gunawan Iron and Steel. The dismantling work was carried out by a Chinese contractor which was found to be paying its 120 Chinese workers less than the dutch minimum wage, with poor safety conditions, with 14 accidents resulting in 2 fatalities due to falls from height. The Chinese contractor was fined for breaches of safety practice, and made to improve working conditions, as well as retrospectively paying its workers 15,000 Guilders.

In 1996 the company changed its official name to Koninklijke Hoogovens. A new continuous caster was installed between 1998 and 2000.

In 1998 Hoogovens employed around 23000 people, and produced approximately 8 million tonnes of steel (and 450000tonnes of Aluminium) per year, with sales of over $10 billion. The company's main products were rolled steel, including tinplate (thin gauge steel), coated steels, and aluminium extrustions. Production was distributed 20% in the dutch market, 60% in the rest of Europe and 20% to the rest of the world.

Read more about this topic:  Koninklijke Hoogovens, History, IJmuiden Steelworks

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