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Made in America for 100 years: TimkenSteel's Harrison Steel Plant

HarrisonPlantgroupphoto-centennialblog1Editor’s Note: To close out our centennial year, we’re highlighting each of our facilities and its role in contributing to our long-term success. Our Harrison Steel Plant was our very first steel manufacturing facility, opened a century ago in Canton, Ohio. Watch for posts on our other locations in the coming weeks.

TimkenSteel’s Harrison Steel Plant is the company’s longest-operating steel manufacturing facility. It began operation in 1917, when steel business president H.H. Timken saw a need for better control of the supply of steel needed to manufacture bearings.

“I have personally made up my mind that the thing for us to do is to proceed with this steel mill forthwith,” he said.

Harrison began melting steel, it was the country’s largest electric-furnace facility with four, 5-ton Heroult-type furnaces. By the following year, we had invested about $1 million in steelmaking, adding a metallurgy research program to continue product improvements. We began selling alloy steel to other manufacturers in 1920.

Operations at the Harrison plant grew with the installation of three large electric furnaces and one, 100-ton open-hearth furnace to replace the original equipment in 1927. Twenty-five years later, all production moved to electric furnaces.

TimkenSteel’s legacy as an industry leader in technology was apparent at Harrison when, in pursuit of the highest-quality steel, we introduced the first vacuum degasser there in 1962. Three years later, a second vacuum degasser was added.

Another technological advancement was the implementation of a continuous caster in 1968, a cost-effective casting technique still in use today.

With more plant updates in the 1980s, we continued our mission to make the best clean steel in the industry. The Harrison plant began making bearing steel using precipitation deoxidation, adding a ladle refiner as well.

The next decade saw a new rolling mill, which allowed Harrison to produce steel with better size, straightness characteristics and surface quality. The latest change came in 2008, with the opening of a small-bar steel rolling mill at the Harrison plant. This new addition expands the company’s portfolio of differentiated steel products. Today the Harrison plant has two furnaces that produce 900,000 tons annually.

The plant added a $3 million soak, anneal and temper furnace three years later, and a finishing line in 2012.

And so our story, started by H.H. Timken 100 years ago at the Harrison Steel Plant, continues today, taking the company from a one-customer enterprise that made bearing steels to a global company that creates high-performance steel for demanding applications in almost every market.

Plant Director Jim Sanders is proud of his facility’s efforts and of his employees.

“Harrison regularly makes improvements in safety, quality, reliability and costs by working smarter and using existing resources, in a lot of cases with little required capital,” he said. “The employees at HSP take pride in their work and have a can-do attitude.”

Sanders has seen much change in his time at Harrison.

“When I started, steelmaking (with three furnaces, one ladle furnace, one vacuum arc degasser and a newly revamped caster) made about nine heats per day. Almost a quarter-century later, HSP regularly makes 18 heats a day or more, using essentially the same equipment, except that we removed one of the furnaces,” he said. “In the past, we had three rolling mills and did a lot of manual manipulation of the bars during rolling; now there is one rolling mill, making more product at higher quality, and the product is rolled without manual manipulation of the product.”

Harrison’s “sweet spot” is the intermediate size range, which largely serves the automotive business, but the plant remains flexible to serve the needs of all cyclical markets.

That flexibility, Jim said, will position the plant for the next 100 years.

“Harrison will continue to improve to satisfy our customers’ existing and future requirements,” he said. “That’s how we stay ahead of our competition."