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BSSA Summary of 2022 and thoughts for 2023

At the start of 2022 we were hoping for a calmer, more stable year than the previous two years. The worst of the Covid-19 pandemic appeared to be over, and many of the challenges that had caused seemed to be far more manageable. Working patterns established and vaccine take up giving us a path to a more normal life. The reality, of course, has been quite different from our initial aspirations. 2022 has again been an incredibly challenging year for businesses with rocketing energy costs, the highest inflation rates for 40 years, an unstable government with three Prime Ministers during the year, the illegal invasion of Ukraine, an unprecedented spike in the nickel price, and now a cost of living crisis.

Rob Cooper, Managing Director of BSSA.

The stainless steel market has remained a resilient as we could have hoped for given the challenges we have faced. Many companies started the year in very strong positions with prices increasing and demand holding up well from 2021 levels. Mill lead times had extended and order books and forecasts started the year strongly. However, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February there has been much more uncertainty. Supply concerns about nickel from Russia were exacerbated and a short position made by Tsingshan Holdings betting that prices would fall following the increases seen in 2021 actually saw prices rocket to over $100,000 per tonne and the suspension of the LME. Since then we have seen less activity globally, but we still have some very positive messages for our industry.

Stainless steel usage continues to increase compared to most competitor metals year on year. Many of the new, green industries will utilise more stainless steels so the future looks promising. Our CO2 emissions as an industry reduce year on year, with European mills performing especially strongly supported by scrap utilisation rates around 85-92%. These are impressive figures and the mills should get the recognition they deserve to achieve these results. We have a great sustainable message. Stainless steel is 100% recyclable and more importantly chose the correct grade for the application and stainless steel will give years or decades of use with a low life cycle cost. Not many materials can offer the benefits stainless steel can.

At the BSSA we have had a busy year again. We held our Conference and Dinner in June at the fabulous Grand Hotel in Birmingham. The venue had been newly refurbished and is a spectacular venue. There was a great panel of speakers who gave the delegates some very informative, interesting and at times thought provoking presentations. These included, a view of the mining of raw materials by Anglo American, how banking can be sustainable by Lloyds Bank, advances in the potential to recycle the plastic coatings we use by Poli-Film, material failure analysis and prevention by R-Tech, an update on Government policy from the Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), how to access support and assistance in advanced manufacturing technologies, an update on the new UK Metals Expo and an overview of the stainless market in statistic by MEPS. The evening dinner was excellent and those that attended loved it and will be returning again for our 2023 Conference and Dinner in May. Book your place now!

We attended the inaugural UK metals Expo held in September at the National Exhibition Centre. We had a great 2 days with many visitors to our stand and talking stainless steel to anyone who would listen. The BSSA also hosted a panel discussion about the sustainability of stainless steel in the construction industry, and I thank our contributors Noel Lovatt from X-Treme Systems, Nancy Baddo from the Steel Construction Institute and Tim Collins from World Stainless  In  It was also great to catch up with many of our members who attended and also our friends from other supporting trade associations. The event was a great success and we expect 2023 to be bigger and even busier.

We have hosted a number of Webinars and we will increase the frequency in 2023. There are already plans for more during 2023, including topics such as “How to Robot”, “Understanding the conservation of energy in manufacturing “Navigating currency volatility and cross-border trade”. More to follow, so keep an eye on our events calendar on the BSSA website.

Our technical support has been busy in 2022. We have supported and answered 655 enquiries so far this year which is an increase of 10% from 2021. We aim to accurately and efficiently answer any question you have for us, and I would like to thank John Butler for dealing with these number. One of the main reasons for our existence is to support the industry with advice.

The BSSA has also delivered training to over 115 delegates who attended our on-line and a number of face to face courses in 2022. Our aim is to increase the variety of courses we offer during 2023, and I believe that in working with our new partner R-Tech Materials we can deliver educational, interesting and informative sessions. We will be launching new courses in Q1 2023.

There is also a Seminar scheduled for Thursday 9th March on the topic of Stainless Steels in the Food and Beverage Industries which will be a full day event held at the Warwickshire Resort. The event is co-hosted by the BSSA, The Nickel Institute and the European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group (EHEDG) and we have an extensive panel of experts looking at various key aspects of the Food and Beverage industry and why stainless steel is so important in the safe operation of the industry. Again tickets are available shortly for this and we recommend that the event is attended by anyone who supplies into, fabricates for or has assets in the industry.

So that is a summary of our core activities, but the BSSA is also involved with other organisations and issues. Brexit remain a problem. The transportation and paperwork burden on importers and exporters remains more difficult than many businesses were used to. As do the changes from CE Marking. I was pleased to see that on November 14, OPSS announced that the deadline for when businesses need to use the UKCA mark will be extended. Producers can now continue to use the CE marking and reversed epsilon marking for the GB market until December 31, 2024 – previously the deadline was December 31, 2022. This extended delay, which has been welcomed by manufacturers, is part of the new Ministerial commitment to reduce burdens for industry and is intended to provide businesses with more flexibility to adjust to the UKCA marking within the amended timescales. I have had meetings with the  HMRC, Trade Remedies Authority and  various other parties to try to assist our members to navigate around some of the problems and I am now quite well versed in reviewing and assessing import / export data and procedures. We are involved with reviews of safeguarding measures and have assisted BEIS in gathering information on supply issues, energy costs and industrial gasses to name a few.

We are here to help and assist, so if there is anything we can do or you wish the BSSA to review or assist with, please let me know.

Finally as the year draws to a close, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a successful and productive New Year.

The BSSA will be shut from Friday 23rd December until Tuesday 3rd January 2023.

Rob Cooper

Managing Director