With today’s official opening of the state-of-the-art special steel plant in Kapfenberg, voestalpine marks a technological milestone in the production of pioneering high-performance materials for the international automotive, energy, and aerospace industries. The new plant, the world’s most advanced in terms of digitalization and sustainability, is also the first of its type to be constructed in Europe in four decades. The region is reaping significant economic benefits from investment in this major project.
Once fully operational, the new plant has the capacity to annually produce 205,000 tons of special steels for highly sophisticated customer segments.
“Today’s opening of the special steel plant in Kapfenberg is a historic moment, and a decisive technological step for the voestalpine Group. It will allow us to further enhance our competitiveness in the global market. At the same time, this major investment will help to maintain prosperity and jobs in the region over the long term,” said Mr. Herbert Eibensteiner, CEO of voestalpine AG.
The new construction secures around 3,500 jobs at voestalpine’s Styrian sites in Kapfenberg and Mürzzuschlag (voestalpine Böhler Edelstahl, voestalpine Böhler Aerospace, and voestalpine Böhler Bleche); the new plant itself will have a workforce of around 150 employees.
“Having employees with such comprehensive expertise at the site was the key reason for choosing Kapfenberg as the location for the new special steel plant. I would like to thank in particular all those employees whose dedication over the past months and years have made today’s opening of this once-in-a-century project possible. The commitment they demonstrate on a daily basis will help to further expand our leading position in tool steels and special steels,” commented Mr. Franz Rotter, Member of the Management Board of voestalpine AG and Head of the High Performance
High degree of digitalization requires excellent training
The new plant meets the most advanced Industry 4.0 standards: Around 8,000 process data are continuously acquired, implemented, and evaluated in parallel. All the melting processes are directed from a central control station. The employees are given the necessary training in robotics, sensors, and data analysis at the company’s own Digitalization Competence Center. The training of tomorrow’s generation of skilled workers at the modern training center in Kapfenberg focuses on the digital workplace. A new campus for 60 apprentices will be built at the site to ensure future apprentice training. Construction works began in summer 2023, and completion is scheduled for fall 2025.
Another highlight of the new special steel plant lies in its environmentally friendly and sustainable steel production: Heat will be released from the smelters to the district heating system; cooling takes place via a closed loop; and the plant operates extremely efficiently. At the heart of the plant is the electric arc furnace, which will be operated using only green electricity.
Significant economic impact
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new special steel plant, which replaces the old steel plant, was held in 2018. Test operations and the process of certifying the product range are currently underway at the new plant. Until the certification process is complete, the new special steel plant will operate in test mode, in parallel with the old plant. It will become fully operational during the business year 2023/24. The investment volume amounts to around EUR 467 million. As already reported, the difficult business environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as difficulties in the delivery of key equipment caused by suppliers, resulted in an increase of the originally planned investment of EUR 350 million. As a September 2023 Industrial Science Institute (IWI) study shows, the six-year investment period triggered significant economic effects both nationally and regionally. Construction of the new plant generated value of around EUR 350 million, up to EUR 230 million of which in Styria. In addition to the 3,500 jobs at voestalpine’s Styrian sites in Kapfenberg and Mürzzuschlag, during the construction phase the investment also secured around 2,500 jobs in Styria, and more than 4,200 in Austria as a whole.