The UK steel industry has the skills and materials required to help the government navigate through the COVID-19 crisis, according to an industry representative body.

UK Steel, part of the manufacturers’ organisation Make UK, said it would do “whatever it takes to support the national effort” during the pandemic.

Some examples of how UK Steel believes it could help include:

  • Providing skilled individuals to manufacture essential equipment.
  • Producing specialist materials for use in the pandemic response.
  • Supplying components for use in hospital equipment.

But the organisation’s statement, published in March, also called on the government to provide the UK steel sector with important safeguards to ensure producers can get back to business once conditions start to improve.

“Primary steel production sites do not have the flexibility to simply switch off production without major long-term consequences,” UK Steel said.

Instead, including UK steel suppliers in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus could be key to allowing producers to continue working and leave them in a good position once the pandemic comes to an end.

What can UK steel suppliers offer?

UK Steel’s suggestions fall into the three categories mentioned above: personnel, materials and components.

The sector employs 30,000 people across highly skilled disciplines including chemists, engineers and technicians.

Many of these skills could easily be redeployed to meet other needs by the government, for example the manufacture of technical medical devices.

Specialist grades of steel are necessary for the manufacture of some of those devices, which are currently facing very high demand.

The steel industry can work with medical equipment manufacturers, not only to supply the required grades of steel, but to flexibly respond to shifting demand across different grades.

Finally, UK Steel conceded that directly manufacturing complex equipment might not be appropriate for the primary steel sector, but added that some simple components could be manufactured.

“There may be some ability to convert facilities to produce components and less complicated equipment,” the organisation said. “The steel industry would welcome discussions with Government on where this can be of use.”

Across all possible areas, UK steel producers and suppliers stand ready to respond, and have been prepared to do so since the outbreak of the coronavirus – with an eye also on the future as conditions begin to improve.