The year 2022 has been an unusual, complicated year, marked by uncertainty in the markets, in energy and in the rolled steel industry. However, this season brought a positive outcome, full of expectations for the future. Major projects are still underway, technological transformation is progressing and Arania continues to grow steadily to face the coming years, which will be full of challenges. The challenges already underway, such as the energy transition, the reduction of emissions and the digital transition, have been compounded this year by the difficulties of the global economic and geopolitical context, marked by the war in Ukraine and volatility in prices.
As the year began, 2022 looked like a challenging time for energy prices and inflation instability. Stresses in global supply chains and supply bottlenecks stemming from the pandemic were already being resolved, and the economic recovery was running at full steam. However, the energy crisis was looming, and the outbreak of the war in Ukraine turned everything upside down.
We are living therefore in a context where the long-term effects of the Covid-19 crisis are combining with external elements that have a significant impact on the rolled steel sector. Nevertheless, 2022 has been a positive year for Arania, with major projects and intense activity in several areas: projects, trade fairs, sustainability, technology, innovation, vocational training… But above all, the Project Arania 2025, designed to shape the strategy for the coming years, could be defined as follows: quality, service and efficiency to maintain steady growth and face a future full of challenges.
Despite a 15% reduction in turnover in 2022 compared to a record 2021, Arania continues to maintain the confidence of its clients and suppliers thanks to its leadership in quality and service, and the company is fully committed to the investment plan as part of the Project Arania 2025.
Arania’s strategy for the years to come is set out clearly. The medium-term vision involves reinforcing the fundamental values that have driven Arania’s name as an international benchmark in rolled steel, starting with excellence, both in terms of products and services. Thanks to the policy of long-term oriented investment/replacement projects focused on new materials, automation, new production capacities and quality, the objective of the 2022-2025 company plan is to further improve recent years’ excellent figures for quality, reliability and product excellence, especially during the changes of rhythm and when managing a high number of derogations.
En el aspecto medioambiental, Arania avanza con paso firme en el camino hacia la descarbonización, con diferentes iniciativas y proyectos destinados a cumplir los objetivos de emisiones de CO2 marcados por la Unión Europea. Esto implica mantener una dinámica de mejora continua y un compromiso de todos los niveles y departamentos del Grupo Arania.
On the environmental front, Arania is moving towards decarbonisation, with a number of initiatives and projects aimed at meeting the CO2 emission objectives set by the European Union. This means constant improvement and a commitment at all levels and departments of the Arania Group.
Within the different actions already underway in the environmental sphere, this year it is worth highlighting the strategic collaboration agreement for the supply of green Steel with Salzgitter Group, wichh ensures the receipt of a specific tonnage of zero C02-emission steel. This project focuses on the use of hydrogen as a reducing agent to replace carbon, as well as the use of energy from sustainable sources, in contrast to the traditional steel production process. As a result, Arania becomes the first steel processor in southern Europe to meet the market needs with green steel products manufactured with zero CO2-emission, guaranteeing the highest levels of quality in terms of input material and supply performance.
At a time when we are moving towards a very active low-carbon economy, it is becoming essential to reduce the environmental impact of logistics chains and to adapt the reality of companies on a path towards decarbonisation. Accordingly, Arania is a reference in the rolled steel sector in terms of efficiency and environmental commitment, with figures improving year after year and more initiatives aimed towards meeting the targets set by Europe in terms of emissions and waste reduction.
We should also highlight two of the main projects that Arania is currently working on: on one hand, the PILAR project, which aims to develop an interoperable, deterministic and distributed connectivity, computing and artificial intelligence solution for industry. On the other hand, we have the LOWHC project, designed to develop cold-rolled steels for the electric sector, with enhanced magnetic properties, thus meeting the new technological requirements of the flourishing electric car industry and manufacturers of electrical equipment in general. Both projects have been co-financed by the Basque Government and the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund 2021-2027 (ERDF) via the Hazitek programme.
New technologies are knocking at our door, and Arania has decided to set the pace of digitalisation in the rolled steel industry. The introduction of an innovative automatic warehouse right at the heart of the plant has been a cornerstone project in 202: a state-of-the-art logistics solution developed by in-house engineering with the assistance of several departments in Arania Group, alongside cutting-edge businesses working in the digital technology and automation.
The automation of the intermediate storage area is critical for Arania as it represents an ideal situation to tackle similar processes in other areas of the production site.
In addition, during the first quarter of 2022, Arania increased intermodality in international transportation to clients, outperforming the figures for the entire previous year. In addition to intermodal transport, the supply of raw materials by railway will also play an important role in the new supply chain sustainability of the Arania Group, both to the detriment of road transport.
The rolled steel industry is characterised by its innovative nature, and professional vocation is essential to consolidate its future, to keep growing and to continue developing the profiles and jobs linked to this exciting sector. It is extremely difficult for companies to recruit specialised workers for industrial areas, and the field of steel transformation is not exempt from this challenge.
Over the last years, Arania has been seeking to promote its potential and appeal for young people, in order to attract talent by taking part in different educational programmes with institutions and training schools. We need students with an industrial vocation, especially women. For this approach to vocational training and its ten years of commitment and collaboration, Arania received the Corporate Social Responsibility Label awarded by IKASLAN BIZKAIA, the public network of vocational training centres in Bizkaia (Basque Country, Spain) at the beginning of the year.
The steel industry is not willing to miss out on the best talent. Juan Ramis, General Manager at Arania, talks about the generational changeover required to undertake the transformation of the rolled steel sector in terms of efficiency and sustainability. “Students are the future. The innovations we will need in the next 15 to 20 years must come from young talent; young people must be the ones to lead these changes.”
Against an uncertain backdrop in the steel sector and wider economic uncertainty, Arania is facing the future with optimism, but with extreme caution. Certainly, beyond 2022, coming years will be marked by major challenges magnified by a context that is difficult to predict, which will require flexible relationships with clients, suppliers and employees. Our focus remains to sustain growth and continue to improve quality, carry on with technological transformation and digitalisation, while not forgetting energy efficiency and carbon emission reductions targets.
In spite of forecasts predicting a recession in the Eurozone by 2023, our DNA involves facing the future with exciting and very powerful projects, in order to meet an important demand in the medium term. Those key projects come together with a strategy that is already underway to promote new sectors and markets. We are living in a time of change and opportunity where Arania wishes to keep growing, while upholding the Group’s main values: commitment to sustainability, quality and effort in order to remain at the forefront of the rolled steel industry.