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Spotlight On: The UK Steel Industry

Here at Qualitetch, we think it is important to understand global and local industry trends, as well as history to ensure that we offer our customers the very best service – and price, possible.

In the 19th century, the UK led the global industrial revolution and was the number one manufacturer of steel and iron as well as being heavily involved in coal mining, steam power, machinery production, ship building and much more. The UK steel industry was thriving and hugely dominant in the world market for the first half of the century; making a name for British Steel and our industry as a whole.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world caught up and outperformed by the latter part of the century, and with government intervention, the UK steel industry saw a sharp and sudden decline as we edged closer to the 20th century.

Throughout History

Before 1860, steel production was expensive and primarily used for the manufacturing of swords, tools and cutlery. Larger, more commonly used items were frequently made from iron.

As different processes of manufacture were introduced – such as The Bessemer and Open Hearth, the costs of producing steel were cut dramatically. Sheffield was at the centre of the UK steel industry, and is often referred to as Steel City; steel was, and still is, a huge part of the city’s identity.

By the turn of the century, the U.S. had taken over as global leaders in steel production and government cuts led to the UK steel industry waning, with British Steel being privatised and jobs being cut; left, right and centre.

That being said, the industry remained afloat. As the government invested in infrastructure and transport, long-term plans were put in place which created a huge demand for steel. At this point, there were some 800 million tonnes produced globally per annum.

More Recently

When the global recession hit in 2008, the steel industry had been experiencing a peak. The recession led to many cutbacks and cuts on spending, demand for steel fell and prices dropped by up to 40% almost overnight; a shocking blow to the UK steel industry.

While production in the UK industry has gradually recovered, progress has been slow and has suffered many setbacks. Currently, China produces more than half of the world’s steel and is able to undercut Western producers – thanks to cheap labour.

Today, the UK steel industries, as well as other Western producers are known as the sunset industry – on the decline, compared to developing countries like Brazil and India, who are new to the market and colloquially known as the sunrise producers.

As the global economy slowly rebuilds itself and businesses in the industry fall along the way, the UK Steel Industry will go down in the history books as a pioneer of the industrial revolution, despite recent and dramatic setbacks.

Regardless of the steel industry suffering a huge blow in the last twelve months, our work here at Qualitetch provides you – our customers, with high quality, metal component solutions from a wide range of materials for many different uses and industries.

For more information on the work we do, please browse our website or contact us on 01354 658787 to speak to our customer service team.


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1:51 PM Jun 13th|@qualitetch

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