The Patent Shaft Steel Works Limited - Development Schemes

Throughout 1971 studies on the development of the company, considered to be essential for its future well being, were carried out, and a report was prepared and submitted to The Laird Group in May 1972. The recommendations were based on developing the company at a minimum capital cost, in order to provide moderate growth and to enable further development at a later date, to meet technological and commercial changes.

The report recommended that steel plant production should be increased by replacing two of the six open hearth furnaces with one electric arc furnace, the plate mill finishing facilities should be improved, as should the quality of the section mill products by installing an independently driven finishing stand and a walking beam cooling bank.

The Board decided that the development work recommended should be carried out in phases, commencing with improvements to the plate mill which produced plate in thicknesses from 5mm to 80mm, and with a maximum plate width of 2,290 mm, and a maximum plate weight of 39 tons.

A new mill complex consisting of a slab yard, a reheating furnace, a rolling mill, a plate shearing line, and handling facilities was installed on the Lea Works site to process plate production from 4,576 tons of slabs per week. Work on the new plant was completed in December 1973.

An advert from the early 1960s.

Layout of the primary and plate mills at Lea Works.

Layout of the new steel plant at Brunswick Works.

The Plate Mill.

Building the electric arc furnace bay, the minerals handling bay, and the scrap handling bay.

The second phase of development included the installation of an electric arc furnace at Brunswick Works. It was housed in a new casting bay, on the outside of the existing bay. In November 1973, following the international oil crisis, a second electric arc furnace was installed to reduce the company's dependence on oil supplies.

The new installation was designed by The International Construction Company Limited; which had acted as consultants in the major development scheme of 1956-59.

The electric arc furnaces were 5.8 metres diameter with a nominal capacity of 88.5 tons. They had 500 mm diameter electrodes and were fed from transformers rated at 45MVA.

They were equipped for automatic power input control and had an interface facility for possible future computer control. The new furnaces proved to be entirely satisfactory in service.

The electric arc furnaces.

The scrap handling bay was re-sited and lengthened. It had four overhead cranes, each equipped with a magnet. A new minerals bay for the handling of lime and coke etc. was added, alongside a new furnace bay that housed two UHP electric arc furnaces, located 7 metres above the ground at charger platform level. Slag from the steelmaking process was tipped into a shallow depression from where it was removed by a traxcavator, a combined tractor and excavator.

The fume cleaning plant.

Other new buildings included a state of the art fume cleaning plant, and a new electricity sub-station. The first of the two new furnaces began operating on 1st December, 1975, after the Central Electricity Generating Board had installed a 33kV supply. The second furnace went into service on 30th March, 1976. At the same time a new section mill was built at Monway Works, which began operation in December 1975.

'Goliath' materials handling crane. It could travel over 230 metres and covered an area of 3.8 acres.

The walking beam cooling bed and the saws, in the section mill at Monway Works.

The section mill at Monway Works.

On-line computer planning of slab production in the primary plate mill began to be used in order to increase the output by determining each slab length after an ingot was rolled, but before it was cut, resulting in an increase in throughput without a loss of overall yield. A new computer building was erected to house two Digital Equipment PDP 11/40 computers, as well as the firm’s existing ICL 1902A, which was used for planning, invoicing, and general accounting. The new computers were connected to 36 terminals, situated at various points in the mill and soaking pit areas, as well as in the steel plant, laboratory, and planning department. Details of ingots cast and reheated were fed to the computer which then determined optimum slab dimensions and issued instructions through display panels to the rollers, shear operators, and other personnel concerned.

The services monitoring control room. On the left in the background is the computer, on the right the strip chart display panel, and in the foreground the control desk, VDUs and one of two teleprinters.
A centralised works services monitoring and control system had operated since 1965, based on conventional instrumentation. By 1973, due to the considerable expansion on the site, it needed expanding and updating. A small computer, a printer, and several terminals were purchased for the purpose. Details of any plant faults could be printed out, and operators could see clearly and immediately when a fault developed.

In the early 1970s the company purchased the old Monway Canal Branch that had been used for the delivery of coal to a Lancashire boiler range, and more recently as part of the works water supply.

The canal now formed a physical barrier between the three main works areas and was limiting further development. It was drained in sections and back filled. A reservoir was constructed, adjacent to the new water services pump house for the electric arc furnaces, which was connected by a 0.75 metre diameter pipe to the main canal.

As a result of the development scheme, the number of people working on the site was reduced from 1,800 to 1,725. The resulted in only four redundancies, 36 men were redeployed, and 35 accepted voluntary redundancy.

The redevelopment scheme, completed in 1976, cost around £11.3 million.

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in the Late 1970s