Friday, March 27, 2009

The EU RoHS Compliance

A few weeks ago, a prospective customer conducted a supplier audit of our company; business process, raw material and finished products, quality control, procurement system, etc. This customer is into the manufacture of electrical equipment mainly exported to Europe, specifically Germany. Thus beside assessing our management systems (our company is certified to both ISO 9001 and ISO 14000 Quality and Environmental Management Systems), focus was also on our being "EU Compliant on RoHS Directive".

RoHS ( Restriction on Hazardous Substances) Directive 2002/95/EC of the European Parliament and European Council, published on February 13, 2003, restricts the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. It states that by July 1, 2006, products sold in the European Union member states must be made free of these substances.

These hazardous substances were identified as Lead (Pb), Cadmium (Cd), Mercury (Hg), Hexavalent Chromium (Cr +6), Brominated flame retardants Polybrominatedbiphenyl (PBB) and Polybrominateddiphenyl ether (PBDE).

The issue on lead actually made headlines sometime ago when it was discovered that the maker (in China) of a popular US toy brand were found to have beyond tolerable levels of lead. Just recently also, on primetime Phillippine news, thousands of slippers for children of a popular brand were cut to pieces and destroyed by government regulating agencies and thousands more were recalled from the market shelves because of the presence of lead used in the paint for the slippers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

When an Indian Steelman Saw Maria Makiling

Our company recently bought a new welder for our Continuous Galvanizing Line (CGL) from Kriton Weld Equipments PVT, LTD, an Indian company based in Makarpura, Vadodara, some 400kms from Mumbai. It is a limited overlap seam welder to replace our old and original Japanese overlap spot welder. Test run was conducted late Saturday afternoon (March 14) and when we resumed operations Monday morning(March 16), our operators were already operating it normally. So far we got what we wanted; a wastage normally due to overlap and zinc drag of only 3-4 inches wide from the previous of more than 1 meter for every weld portion. Over time, we would know its performance as far as weld strip break is concerned.

Mr. J, the electrical engineer sent by Kriton to train and oversee the commissioning run was just all praises for our production and maintenance personnel whom he said were fast learners. In just a day or two, he declared that he has nothing more to do but wait for his scheduled flight back home this Friday, March 20. A pure vegetarian, he does not have any problem with food either, since another Indian (living near our plant and a friend of our employees) is preparing for him. Somehow, this reminded me of my visit to Kolkata seven years ago and how I cope up with Indian food.

We took him to nearby Los Banos to see Mount Makiling's nature endowed eco-tourism places. We went up to the Philippine High for the Arts and admired its panoramic view of Laguna de Bay and Laguna environs. Makati's skyline in fact were even visible. There at the peak, inside the unfinished amphitheater, we had our Indian lunch of basmati (rice), chapati (bread), dal (monggo), cord (yoghurt) and bengam bharta (vegetable dish).

After that filling lunch, we dropped by Pook ni Maria Makiling, a resort area with cottages and Olympic size swimming pool surrounded by age-old trees and vegetation. The peace and quiet are definitely an attraction.We toured UP Los Banos and I always have this comforting feeling every time I set foot in this school. Then we took our Indian visitor too to IRRI (International Rice Research Institute). We told him that the rice scientists from Thailand and Vietnam credited for the success of their countries' rice production all studied in this institute.

He enjoyed his nature trip but will be going back to India, with his mind boggled about the phenomenon and mystic of the Magnetic Hill. Incidentally and this has to be confirmed by others, especially scientists, we discovered a shorter version of magnetic hill somewhere along the many slopes near the school of arts.

Our last stop was an ice cream merienda at the famous Dalampasigan, a floating restaurant by the lake. Mr. J's place is very far from the sea, and seeing the kids enjoying their summer swim in the lake, murky the waters maybe, somehow, like any foreign visitor, he could see the richness of our country- from the mountains to the sea. They may have "Incredible India" but amazing Philippines have " more than just the usual."

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Day In My Life in Russia

Twenty five years ago today, on March 20, 1984, I arrived in Moscow on a very cold winter morning (7am Moscow time; 12 noon Manila time) to attend the 27th UNIDO/ UNDP Fellowship Program in Iron and Steel Industry at Zaporoztahl Iron and Steel Works in Zaporozhye, Ukraine. I was one of the two engineers representing the Philippines (both of us were from National Steel Corporation in Iligan City) with 15 other engineers from 9 other developing countries attending this 4-month training program. It was my first foreign travel and I traveled alone (my other colleague would follow a week later), and the jitters of experiencing all the firsts in my life I would never forget.

It was a long trip. I left Manila the day before at 3pm bound for Singapore. Here, I would change aircraft, (from Philippine Airlines to Russia's Aerofloat) and had a brief stopover at New Delhi (India) where I was almost left behind. I could not forget the stewardess announcement as we were about to land in Moscow.

"Ladies and gentlemen, in a few minutes, we willl be landing at the Shereyetmevo International Airport. Ground temperature is 10 degrees below zero. Welcome to Moscow."

Below, I could see airport and police personnel on guard, in thick fur coats and hats, the red insignias prominently visible. At the arrival area, for the first time in my life, I felt a sense of helplessness. Nobody spoke English; I could not understand a single Russian word nor comprehend what they were saying. The only word that made sense was "NYET" which I understood to be "NO" because I took out a trolley which the guard prevented me from taking. I was fortunate, a kind European lady helped me in filling out Customs and Immigration papers.

I was expecting and looking for somebody to meet me. But when everyone else had already gone out, I decided to go out also. Just then, a stocky medium height guy approached me and asked "Are you Mr. Delid?" When I answered back, "Yes I am," he offered his hand and introduced himself. "I'm Oleg. I'm from UNIDO. I have come to meet you. Welcome to Moscow." I felt a big big relief.

In the taxi, I asked,"Mr.Oleg, the aide memoir says it's springtime now. But it's still winter." He replied, "Mr. Delid, to the Ukrainians, it's still wintertime. But to the Muscovites, it's now spring." It seemed to me then that Ukraine is far and different from Moscow. Events later will tell that indeed, they are a different people and two different republics.

I stayed in Rossia Hotel, reputedly then, the largest hotel in Europe with 3000 rooms. It was a stone's throw away from the majestic and famous Kremlin and the Red Square. I slept the whole day. In the evening, I joined my classmates from Peru and Yemen for dinner. With the Red Square and Lenin's tomb in the background, we toasted for our safe arrival and wished for our pleasant stay for the next 4 months.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Reaction from Vietnam

I'd like to share the following comment from a former colleague who is now an expat working in a galvanizing plant in Vietnam.

This is his reaction to my post about Vietnam.


I had a look at your other blog in "steelconnect". Unfortunately, there was no mention of any details on your visit with the other steel plant (presumably Phu My Flat Steel) near BlueScope Steel which Antit Macatol and yours truly worked.

Anyway, just to give a little perspective on the status of the steel industry in Vietnam, the following are some of the latest updates:

1. Korean owned POSCO Vietnam located within the general area of the Phu My 1 industrial zone which you visited is currently commissioning a continuous pickle line dovetailed to the 5 stand 6-high tandem cold mill, continuous annealing line and a recoiling line. The reported capacity of this new 5-stand cold mill is 2 million tonnes per year (MTPY). Target commercial run will be on September 2009.

2. A single stand reversing cold mill is currently being put up beside the Phu My Flat Steel in partnership with Vietnam Steel (owner of Phu My Flat Steel) and 2 other investors. The capacity is about 350,000 tonnes per year.

3. Another hot mill & cold mill complex is planned to be put up by an Indian investor (the company name escape me at this time) with about the same capacity as POSCO Vietnam of 2 MTPY.

Why am I enumerating this? This just shows how far the Philippines has lagged from other Asean neighbors. If others are "naghihinayang" about what happened to the erstwhile NSC, I am very deeply disappointed. Whatever happened to our plan to put up an integrated steel plant is now nothing but a dream and continues to become a nightmare as we regressed our development. It won't be long when we really will be the sick man of Asia.

Should there be a gathering of former NSC colleagues soon, I'd certainly try to be there.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

ASTM Standards for Galvanized Steel Products

Our sales people often ask me a common question among our customers in the construction industry; that is, whether our galvanized steel products conform to ASTM A 525 whose complete descriptive title is Standard Specification for General Requirements for Steel Sheet, Zn-coated (Galvanized) by the Hot-dip Process. Another standard similarly asked is ASTM 446 for Standard Specification for Steel Sheet, Zinc-coated (Galvanized) by the Hot-dip Process, Strucutral (Physical) Quality. The latter is the standard specs commonly quoted for Metal Decks or Steel Decks.

The answer to this is, both standards are not anymore used by ASTM. In my copy of the 1996 edition of ASTM Book of Annual Standards, Volume 1.06 Coated Steel Products, it is thus explained; to wit, "Formerly under the jurisdiction of Committee A-5 on Metallic Coated Iron and Steel products, this specification was discontinued in 1994 and replaced by Specification A 924 for General Requirement for Steel Sheet, Metallic- coated by the Hot-dip Process and Specification A 653 for Steel Sheet, Zinc-coated (Galvanized) or Zinc-iron Alloy-coated (Galvannealed) by the Hot dip Process.

In newer versions of this ASTM Book of Standards, such explanation can not anymore be found, leaving those who do not know the background wondering what happened to these standards. On the other hand, it is quite surprising and a pity to say the least that 15 years after these standards were discontinued, awareness and dissemination on the newer applicable standards are left wanting.