Saturday, August 6, 2022

ATI/Allegheny Ludlum Steel Company

Before I started studying industrial history, I had heard of a lot of steel companies, but I had not heard of Allegheny Ludlum Steel, which is now owned by ATI. One reason I was not aware of it was that all of its plants are in Pennsylvania and I'm from the Midwest. Another reason is that they specialize in special metals such as stainless steel and titanium so their output is not as big as the carbon steel mills. The company is worth noting because it owns some significant firsts.
ATI owes its leadership in specialty and stainless steels largely to Allegheny Ludlum, a pioneering innovator in steel alloys and processes. Incorporated in 1901 as Allegheny Steel & Iron, it was the first company to use the electric furnace in manufacturing alloys. The company also commercialized stainless steel in the United States, winning its first patent in 1924. Stainless from Allegheny Steel was used in New York’s iconic Chrysler Building, in trim for the Ford Model A, and other industry firsts. The company merged with Ludlum Steel Company in 1938 to become Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation, and became a founding component of ATI when it merged with Teledyne in 1996. Today, the heritage of Allegheny Ludlum lives on in several ATI metal rolling operations, including our Specialty Rolled Products and Standard Stainless Products businesses.

Washington Steel was the first U.S. company to use a Sendzimer Mill.
A Sendzimer Mill

Allegheny Ludlum's genesis can be traced to the 1938 merger of Allegheny Steel Company of Brackenridge, Pennsylvania, and Ludlum Steel Company of Watervliet, New York. Both companies were manufacturers of specialty steel, and each desired facilities the other possessed; for example, Allegheny wanted to enter the bar business, and Ludlum wished to get into the flat business. Consequently, the merger produced scarcely any duplication of facilities and enabled the newly formed corporation, named Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation (ALSC), to move to the forefront of the specialty steel market by virtue of the combined product lines of the two companies. W. F. Detwiler, a former night-shift apprentice for Allegheny Steel Company, became the corporation's first chairman of the board, and Hiland G. Batcheller, president of Ludlum Steel Company, was appointed its president.

At the completion of ALSC's first full year of operation in 1940, the demand for specialty steel had shown a steady increase for the past decade. ALSC reported more than $37 million in sales for the year, 58 percent of which were made in the final quarter. The United States' entry into World War II took the steady increase of the market to unprecedented heights. As the demand for jet airplanes and armaments spiraled upward, research engineers at ALSC intensified their search for metal materials that would answer the growing demand. ALSC developed heat-resisting alloys for use in the construction of aircraft turbine engines. By 1944 the number of employees had ballooned to 17,000, almost three times the number at the outbreak of the war. Sales had climbed to more than $114 million, and ALSC parlayed this wartime-induced success toward an $80 million expansion and modernization program in 1946. The expansion program focused on increasing ALSC's production capacities of stainless steel--which had more than quadrupled in use since 1920--and the burgeoning demand for flat-rolled silicon electrical steel, used in the manufacture of electrical transformers and communication equipment.

[In 1956,] ALSC also made improvements in production efficiency and the quality of its products by installing the steel industry's first semi-automated system for hot working steel. Instead of having to manually set the measurements each time a slab of steel passed through a rolling mill--a process that could take up to 15 passes to achieve the desired thickness and shape--the semi-automated system required only one operator to insert a card containing the specifications for the slab into the system and then push a button. This procedure greatly diminished the chances of error since the measurements were dictated by a computer, and consequently the quality of the formed steel product was improved.

After posting sales of $292 million in 1964, its highest since 1956, the corporation invested $28 million in new plants and equipment, focusing its efforts on the conversion from open hearth furnaces for silicon-steel production to basic-oxygen furnaces in 1966.

In 1992 ALC completed construction of the first prototype casting machine to produce stainless and carbon steel products from molten steel. The casting machine, called COILCAST and developed in cooperation with a company in Linz, Austria, would eliminate the need for several stages of the production process, thereby improving the efficiency of production and lowering costs. When commercialized, it would provide a continuing advantage for Allegheny Ludlum over its competition.

Allegheny Ludlum locations that I have encountered so far:

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