If the marketing wing decides in favour of a specific product profile, it becomes incumbent on the production department to take appropriate steps so that it maximises the rolling of the selected product.
Product promotion has long been accepted as an essential ingredient of a sound production and marketing strategy. If the marketing wing decides in favour of a specific product profile, it becomes incumbent on the production department to take appropriate steps so that it maximises the rolling of the selected product. In actual practice it does not happen so smoothly. While for a small firm, the change of production scheduling is manageable, for a large unit, the concept of economic volume or tonnage determines the viability of rolling. If ordered volume is much less than this pre-determined level, the selected profile may not see the light of the day as the costs involved in frequent roll change in a continuous process of production are enormous.
This is particularly relevant for order of high value steel items whose market from the emerging new segments and also from the existing segments is growing. But as Indian steel users are not uniformly on the high value special steel radar, the problem of meeting the need of smaller volume order for specific category from individual customer would continue. This leads to a piquant scenario. While the product development wing wants credit for a new product based on its capability of meeting the demand once from a reputed buyer, its inability to cater to more such demand in small tonnages and appearing infrequently from other buyers prompts these buyers to procure from imported sources. This nullifies the product development efforts of the producer. The new products are to be made available on a consistent basis, before the consuming segments are assured of regular indigenous availability of the same product and they can incorporate this profile while making the structural design. The marketing wing is to promote this profile by organising seminars and workshops with user segments, designers and architects where the capability of this and similar other products can be shown. But consistent availability remains an issue. Alternatively a small warehouse can be set up jointly by few producers aspiring to make available various high value added steel and a part of the costs can be made up by charging a higher margin for the special product. The end using segments as they are saved from entering into separate import agreements and documentations required for imports, would not mind paying a higher price. The participating producing units can enter into separate agreements with each other for not sharing the details of product development and only sharing the cost of storage and thereby be outside the purview of cartelisation.
It is a fact that most of our major steel mills as a part of their production and marketing strategies do organise various seminars in the presence of academicians of engineering colleges and institutions, architects and structural engineers who are working on choice of steel products as a preferred source of material in construction and designing engineering products to disseminate information on their new products (recently developed and aspiring to develop). This knowledge raises expectation in the minds of the designers about consistent availability of the product in question and therefore an innovative and out-of-the-box strategy must be worked out to ensure regular availability of the special steel.
Similar issues are involved in promotion of design technology and processes. But the problems involved are many. A number of well established organisations and agencies are working on development of new codes and standards relevant for specific segments. The process of developing a new code for design purposes seemingly involves considerable amount of studies, inputs, analysis and specifications before these codes are made applicable in the country. An international equivalence study envisages analysis of the region wise differentials in working conditions, culture and practices, traditions, stage of development, security considerations and a host of other factors. The committee formed to approve the design code comprises of a host of experts and professionals, architects, designers, academicians and end users and therefore analyse the code from all conceivable angles. The purpose of this committee is to publish a design code which would significantly benefit the users in terms of costs, safety, comfort and ease of application.
One case in point is IRC 22 code (Indian Road Congress) which was drafted under the close supervision, guidance and support of an eminent group of experts and has now been finalised and released for implementation. The manual for the code has also been prepared. This code is for use of steel concrete composite technology for ROBs (road over bridges). The use of this technology makes the construction much faster, easy with no congestion during construction and with less carbon emission. In a number of seminars and workshops the details of this code have been elaborated to promote its use on a much wider scale. However while implementing the design via EPC mode of tendering, the promotion of the steel concrete composite design is hardly effected by the issuing government agencies and this is entirely left to the decision of EPC contractors for whom the cheapest is the best. As there is no feasible scope for promotion of this design among the EPC contractors, no estimates are available either with the government, IRC or with the agency which had drafted the code for the laudable purpose of promoting steel based design in the country as to how many ROBs have been actually constructed by following IRC-22 design code. This issue needs to be addressed jointly by the government, the steel producers and other stakeholders.
DG, Institute of Steel Growth and Development