Sanjay Dayal, chief executive of BlueScope Steel Asia, talks to Jayne Alverca about the myriad ways in which the company is transforming a commodity into value-added building solutions.
Steel is often thought of as a commodity, but not in the hands of BlueScope Steel. The company is the largest supplier of steel building products and building solutions of its type in the world, but the focus lies not in what takes place in the upstream blast furnace and steel making, but in opportunities and value created through innovation and technology in its mid and downstream activities.
Sanjay Dayal is chief executive of BlueScope Steel Asia, which represents the single largest Australian investment in the whole of Asia. He is convinced that the growth and potential of the Asian market makes it the most exciting place to operate on earth. The company has had a footprint in the region for almost 40 years, but never before has the region shown so much promise.
“Not only are the Asian economies showing strong growth, but we are also seeing a marked tendency to trade up and improve quality across all segments of the construction market. As these economies strengthen, they are increasingly aligned to the BlueScope offering. We find a natural synergy as Asian customers increasingly seek out a premium product,” he states.
In what is known as its midstream business, BlueScope supplies coated steel coils which are then transformed by the customer into the steel structures of industrial buildings, sports complexes, public buildings and increasingly, residential dwellings. Further downstream, BlueScope takes the process closer to the customer and has created a special niche as Asia’s leading supplier of pre-engineered buildings.
The company has accumulated a wealth of expertise in design and has the capability to take over the entire building construction process from concept to completion. This is an increasingly attractive proposition for companies with a global reach who want the agility to react rapidly to market opportunities, rather than be weighed down in the intricacies of time-consuming conventional build projects, which in any event do not typically form a part of their core competency.
“We excel at innovation and adding value in steel building structures,” Dayal continues. “Our brands are recognized throughout the region, promising high quality and consistency in multiple locations which is a very strategic consideration to the international companies that are expanding across Asia.”
BlueScope’s branding is a multi-faceted undertaking. The company has achieved particular renown with its solution to the major problem of tropical staining related to the hot, humid climatic conditions of much of the region. The problem affects most building materials leading to discoloration and ugly stains appearing when dirt particles from pollution, haze and smoke are deposited on a building’s exterior. These particles are then subjected to high levels of solar radiation and humidity which cause them to bond permanently to the building’s surface.
In partnership with specialist paint suppliers—particularly surface chemistry experts AkzoNobel, BlueScope’s largest supplier—years of research and development have produced the unique Colorbond system. This prevents dirt particles from bonding to a building’s exterior even in the hottest and most humid of environments.
“In the process we have developed together, the paint or coating is applied as an integral part of the manufacturing process, not something that is applied afterwards as a top coat. With cheaper, lower-tier products, there may be significant fading over time, but with Colorbond steel, the colour and finish will never change or fade. We provide a written 22-year guarantee, but in reality Colorbond steel will stay pristine for ever. It is a really important additional benefit for public buildings like airport and railway stations which require a high quality finish that needs to stay looking good for a very long time.”
Another major product brand for BlueScope is ZincAllume. This is sheet steel which has an alloy coating composed of 55 per cent aluminum, 43.5 per cent zinc and 1.5 per cent silicon. The result is a superior coated steel product, which can be used in a wide range of building and manufacturing applications and offers up to four times the life expectancy of zinc galvanized steel.
Both these coatings are used in BlueScope’s mid and downstream products but in downstream, branding relates not to the precise recipe of the steel or its coating, but to the way the steel structures have been engineered. Dayal is particularly proud of the Probuild trademarked solution that BlueScope has developed and the globally recognised Butler brand which originated in the US. Both incorporate pre-engineered steel sections and innovative pre-engineered building systems for customers who want speed and efficiency in building erection and low or non-existent maintenance costs. All components are modular in design and are fabricated by BlueScope before final assembly on-site, where they are fitted together like a giant Meccano set.
“It is a great advantage to our customers to have us take responsibility for the entire build process. We have developed excellent design software to use the minimum amount of steel necessary and the system can easily be adapted to structures of any specification. A key advantage of steel over bricks and mortar is that it is a much faster and simpler form of construction, so our customers can get down to business very quickly. For example, a 2,000 square metre warehouse can be erected in less than 30 days,” he continues.
“We are continuing to refine the Colorbond and ZincAllume brands. For example, we are involved in ongoing research with our partners in paint to further improve the UV resistance of our coatings.
“In terms of pre-engineered buildings, we are already the largest supplier in the world, but in Asia we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. As the market develops and awareness of the benefits of these structures becomes more widely known, we are confident that we will see many more downstream opportunities to get even closer to our customers and develop a greater understanding of the value and advantages we offer over the total lifetime of a building,” he concludes.