Public sector/SAIL

Made of steel

Print edition : February 19, 2016

A steel melting shop at the Salem Steel Plant in Tamil Nadu. Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan

Wheels and axles.

TMT bars.

Spiral weld pipes.

Steel Authority of India Limited, which makes a wide range of products, has been synonymous with India’s development and is one of the country’s fastest-growing PSUs.

“THERE’S a bit of SAIL in everybody’s life.” This slogan of the Maharatna public sector undertaking (PSU), Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), is no tall claim. From diaper safety pins to satellites, SAIL’s five integrated steel plants in Burnpur and Durgapur (West Bengal), Bokaro (Jharkhand), Bhilai (Chhattisgarh) and Rourkela (Odisha), and its three special plants —Alloy Steel Plant, Durgapur; Salem Steel Plant, Salem, Tamil Nadu; and Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel, Bhadravathi, Karnataka—produce a wide range of products to meet the growing demand for steel from not only the various sectors but even households. From an unmatched range of mild steel, both in long and flat categories, to the wide variety of special and stainless steels, the “trusted and tested” SAIL products are acknowledged as being of the finest quality. The company makes “myriad products” for “myriad solutions”. Its hot-rolled coils and sheets in various sizes find application in the manufacture of liquefied petroleum gas cylinders, cycle rims, pre-fabricated structures, structural components of automobiles and even hair clips; its cold-rolled products are used in the manufacture of automobiles, railway coaches and wagons and cycles. SAIL offers an assortment of structural products —beams in different types and dimensions, mild steel angles with excellent welding, drilling, machining and punching characteristics, and channels that can carry horizontal and vertical loads. These find uses in building modern airports, phylons and elevated expressways.

SAIL steel has been synonymous with India’s development. It provides the steel framework of vital as well as basic infrastructure facilities along the length and breadth of the country. The steel-maker continues to meet the growing demand for steel from the sectors contributing to the growth of the economy: infrastructure, railways, power, transportation, defence, oil and gas, heavy industries, construction, white goods and automobiles. SAIL steel is the preferred choice of leading engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies. Some of the modern “made of SAIL” steel structures are the awe-inspiring new airport in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, the majestically winding Delhi-Faridabad Expressway, the breathtaking solar power project in Rajasthan, the magnificent under-construction building of the International Convention Centre in Patna, Bihar, the beautifully designed building of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, and the imposing Kopar-Khairane railway station in Mumbai.

SAIL steel is quality-tested at every stage of production. High-grade iron ore is sourced from the company’s captive mines located in Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Prdesh, and the steel-making process takes place in environment-friendly plants. The company is India’s second largest producer of iron ore and has the second largest mines network.

A classic motto of SAIL is “we don’t only make steel, we build lives”. It has been SAIL’s endeavour to make quality steel available to every consumer. It declares that it works towards empowering the smallest steel consumer in the remotest corner of the country to enable him to build long-lasting, cost-effective and safe structures—homes, schools, hospitals, bridges, and so on. To build your dream house, SAIL’s “Apna SAIL Shop” provides SAIL TMT (quality steel rebars for a strong and secure structure) and SAIL JYOTI (galvanised plain and corrugated sheets and light structural to cover your dwelling).

The story of SAIL is a story of great turnarounds. The enterprise, which at one stage faced a severe crisis of survival, is today one of the largest state-owned steel-making company and one of the top steel-makers in the world. It is one of the seven Maharatna companies of the Indian government. The public sector company has an annual turnover of Rs.50,627 crore (financial year 2014-15). It trades publicly in the market. The Government of India owns about 75 per cent of its equity and retains voting control of the company. However, SAIL, by virtue of its Maharatna status, enjoys significant operational and financial autonomy. SAIL has 93,352 employees (as of March 31, 2015). With an annual steel production of 13.9 million tonnes, it is the 24th largest steel producer in the world. The hot metal capacity of the company is expected to touch 23.5 million tonnes a year by the end of the financial year 2015-16.

SAIL was incorporated on January 24, 1973, with an authorised capital of Rs.2,000 crore and was made responsible for managing the steel plants at Bhilai, Bokaro, Durgapur, Rourkela and Burnpur and the Alloy Steel Plant (Burnpur) and the Salem Steel Plant. In 1978, SAIL was restructured as an operating company. SAIL traces its origin to Hindustan Steel Limited (HSL), which was set up on January 19, 1954. HSL was initially designed to manage only one plant, which was coming up at Rourkela. From that humble beginning, SAIL today owns and operates five integrated steel plants, three special steel plants, and a ferro alloy plant (Chandrapur, Maharashtra), producing a wide range of products.

In order to have a global footprint, the company is undergoing a massive expansion and modernisation programme, which involves upgrading and building new facilities with emphasis on state-of-the-art green technology. According to a recent survey, SAIL is one of India’s fastest growing PSUs. Besides a diversified product mix and a robust marketing and distribution division, SAIL has an in-house Research and Development Centre for Iron & Steel (RDCIS). Its other institutions are the Centre for Engineering and Technology (CET), the Management Training Institute (MTI), and the SAIL Safety Organisation (SSO) in Ranchi, Jharkhand.

Human resource development is the backbone of any enterprise. SAIL’s employees have been its strength over the years. The enterprising spirit of its employees became evident recently when they bagged the maximum number (15 out of 28) of Vishwakarma Rashtriya Awards, the annual award given by the Government of India. The Vishwakarma Rashtriya Awards are a public recognition of outstanding achievements and innovations on the part of workers in increasing productivity, quality and safety and improving working conditions, among other things. The awards are given to individuals belonging to industrial undertakings in both public and private sectors. Out of 132 awardees for the performance year 2013, 86 were from SAIL. It is noteworthy that the estimated annual savings resulting from the implementation of the innovative works mentioned in SAIL’s award-winning projects are approximately over Rs.117.12 crore (recurring) and Rs.86.39 crore (one-time). The awardees included employees from SAIL’s Bhilai, Bokaro, Rourkela, Durgapur and Salem steel plants.

The magnificent journey of the public sector giant has not been totally without pitfalls. From a low in 1998-2000, the PSU bounced back, but once again finds itself in turbulent times. A weak global situation and a surge in imports have caused a setback to the steel sector in India, impacting SAIL. The company’s stock has taken a beating and its profits have plunged. While SAIL still has a strong balance sheet, its operational performance has been far from satisfactory despite the company’s having access to captive mines for its entire iron ore requirement. High employee costs and subdued revenue growth have impacted the company’s operational profitability. But the PSU is actively engaged in damage control and is deliberating on offering a voluntary retirement scheme to cut manpower and infuse new skill sets to turn things around.

The PSU hopes to overcome the current crisis under the leadership of P.K. Singh, who was appointed as its Chairman in October 2015. In July last year, he was given the additional charge of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the IISCO Steel Plant (ISP), Burnpur.

An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, P.K. Singh started his career in the Bokaro Steel Plant in 1980. During his association with SAIL, he brought about significant improvements within a short span of time in the Bokaro, Bhilai, Durgapur and Burnpur plants. By virtue of his leadership qualities, he steadily rose to the position of CEO, Durgapur Steel Plant, in May 2012. A technocrat par excellence, Singh is regarded as an expert in blast furnace technology and operations. He has wide-ranging experience in planning, manufacturing, execution, quality control, supply chain management and administration.

A firm believer in employee empowerment and in nurturing talents, P.K. Singh has undergone various specialised training programmes in India and abroad. His motivational leadership and natural flair for cultivating innovation and his out-of-the-box thinking, which has been in evidence on many occasions, will hopefully take SAIL to new heights.

A recipient of several awards, including the “Jawahar” award for outstanding performance at ISP, the “Industry Leader” award conferred by the Central Mechanical Engineering Institute (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research), Durgapur, the “Industry Leadership” award conferred by the Institution of Engineers, Durgapur, the “Best CEO” award for the Eastern region, conferred by the Quality Circle Forum of India, Durgapur Chapter, P.K. Singh brings hope to the Maharatna company.