“Ever since joining POSCO in 1989, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about cold rolled steel quality, operation technology, and automotive steel as I experienced the emergency system for improving cold rolled steel quality while working at the cold rolled steel division,” said POSCO-TCS corporate head JinSoo Lee.
In addition to working as a sales engineer in Indonesia and Singapore for two years starting from 1993, Lee was also in charge of establishing technology strategies for automotive steel sheets as well as producing Tailor Welded Blanks (TWB) at the Gwangyang steel mill. Already equipped with knowledge of cold rolled steel products and automotive steel plates, Lee was able to build two manufacturing centers in Mexico, POSCO-MPPC plant 1 and POSCO-MPPC plant 2. He made big contributions in stabilizing the plants during their early stages while working as the Director of Production for CGL (Continuous Galvanizing Line) 1 and 2 in Mexico, which was POSCO’s very first overseas construction.
Lee, who has successfully completed the construction of Thailand CGL last May, said, “I would like to compete in the Southeast Asian market with our unique POSCO style.” POSCO Today had a chance to speak with Lee directly and hear about his goal of creating the best CGL in Southeast Asia, specifically through taking full advantage of POSCO employees’ work capabilities.
What is the background behind the construction of Thailand CGL and what are some of its expected outcomes in the future?
Thailand has not only positioned itself as the base for the automotive industry in Southeast Asia, but it is also known as the center of the manufacturing for products like home appliances. Speaking of the automotive industry, Japanese automobile companies, which entered the Thai market during the 1960s, currently occupy over 90% of the total automobile production, and these companies all share a demand to receive material supplies from local suppliers. In order to meet such needs and to expand the market further, Japanese steel companies, such as NSSMC and JFE, have entered the Thai market and have been operating CGLs since 2013.
POSCO, which provides around 150,000~200,000 tons of galvanized steel sheets to Thailand every year, has also entered the Thai market in order to provide stable supplies for its existing clients and to further expand the market. This will be accomplished through fulfilling localization needs for the material supply and demand of the Southeast Asian clients, and responding proactively to the recently heightening commerce regulations.
Moreover, with the launch of the AEC (ASEAN Economic Community) last December, it is expected that POSCO will be able to provide an extended supply of its high-quality plating materials to even intra-regional countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.
What differentiates POSCO’s technologies and products from those of Japanese and other international companies?
Although NSSMC and JFE have been operating CGLs since 2013, they are still facing some quality issues. This is not because Japanese steel companies fall behind in terms of their technology, but because of their lack of global experience and inadequate ability in operating overseas production corporations.
POSCO, however, is currently implementing systematic technology support at a favorable time, based on the CGL operation know-hows learned from previous CGL locations, such as Mexico, Indonesia and China. POSCO is also working to standardize operation methods in more detail for employees. Although POSCO may not have been able to get a head start in terms of operating CGLs, the future for POSCO is looking bright from facility and quality aspects.
Tell us about POSCO’s unique marketing strategy in the Southeast Asian market, including Thailand.
Thailand CGL was established in order to stably produce automotive steel sheets and to provide highly competent materials to regional clients. Prior to providing automotive steel sheets, however, a quality certification from each automobile company is required, which usually takes about 1.5~2 years.
Therefore, until quality certification is acquired, POSCO plans on creating profit and expanding its contract base through differentiating the quality of GI products for home appliances and painting, areas in which our competitors are having a hard time producing for.
There is also a number of small local automobile companies in Thailand. These companies do not have an established material buying channel, and they cannot even attempt to establish a relationship with a large steel company like POSCO due to their outdated technology. POSCO, therefore, plans to provide manufacturing technologies, such as mold technology, and automotive steel sheet buying channels for these small local companies through Thailand CGL, which will also allow POSCO to expand its contract base based on a solution marketing system.
What is your plan in terms of creating a synergy with local employees?
No one should be treated differently, no matter where you are from. By all means, standards for employee management should not differ by one’s country or region of origin.
If you are respectful and considerate of others – local employees, that is – synergy among the employees will be maximized regardless of their nationality or region of origin. As long as every employee works with a strong sense of vocation for working at the best steelmaking company, the outcome is going to be successful. For better performance, problems faced among people should be resolved through humane respect and care, while their working styles should resemble that of POSCO’s.
Lastly, what is the ultimate goal of Thailand CGL? And, do you have any final words?
Thailand CGL must compete in the same industry, serve the same clients and compete with the same galvanized steel sheet products as the Japanese steel companies, which are known as the world’s best within the industry.
Every employee at Thailand CGL will be devoted to securing a comparative advantage in advance in all aspects, including quality, facility and corporation operation, and be able to write a POSCO success story in Thailand.
POSCO continues to strive to maintain its role as a leader in the steel industry, integrating into the Southeast Asian market seamlessly through producing premium products for the automotive industry while utilizing their global expertise. Lee is determined to make Thailand CGL a success, and he believes that with the help of POSCO’s dedicated employees and the company’s competitive edge over other major steel producers, this goal can soon become a reality.