FOLLANSBEE - Wheeling-Nisshin is on track to have its new corrosion-resistant, hot dip coated steel sheet line in production by the end of the year, a company spokesman said Friday.
The company is spending $28 million on the upgrades. While the new product line will only maintain the status quo in terms of jobs now, over time company and community leaders hope to see the workforce grow because of it.
"We consider it a big thing," said Wheeling-Nisshin Human Resource Manager Nick Cortese. "We are looking at the first couple weeks in May to do a non-commercial trial. It would be a very short trial, because there is still other work that has to be done to complete the project. The target is, and has always been, to start the commercial run late in November of this year."
The new coating, known as ZAM, was developed by Wheeling-Nisshin's parent company, Nisshin Steel Co. Ltd. It's 91 percent zinc, 6 percent aluminum and 3 percent magnesium, so it's long-lasting, more resistant to corrosion and scratches and thus can help customers streamline manufacturing processes. A relatively light coating is all that's needed, so it's also a resource-saving product.
"The project is pretty much on target from our initial planning stage," Cortese said. "There've been a few changes, but nothing drastic ."
While they're still "very much in the preliminary stages" in terms of building product buzz, so far "the feedback has been very positive," he said.
"That's our objective here, in the next several months," Cortese added, "to try to get information, samples, to as many potential customers as possible."
So far, he said the project hasn't impacted current operations.
"There are certain aspects of the project that have been worked on at the same time as the line that that particular project is going on has been running," he said. "But other phases of the installation have to be done when the line is down, and we typically take our lines down once per quarter for various maintenance. Probably the next outage will be a little longer than normal because of ZAM-related changes."
For now, he said the company is stepping up its marketing efforts. This week, Wheeling-Nisshin named Art Bertol, employed at Wheeling-Nisshin since 1987, the general manager of ZAM marketing, a new position. Brian Petrella was promoted to assistant general manager commercial, while Jonathan Deyton was promoted to supply chain buyer.
Cortese called it an "investment for the future."
"Hopefully (it will lead to) an expansion of our market share," he said. "We've been here for 25 years, certainly we want to be here for at least another 25."