Work begins on €350mn 'digital' steel factory in Austria, Europe's first for 40 years

By Johan De Mulder

Construction has started on Europe's first new steel factory for 40 years in Kapfenberg, Austria.

Voestalpine's €350mn Industry 4.0 project, the plans for which were initially unveiled last September, will see its current facility replaced with a state-of-the-art, digitised plant that will produce 205,000 tonnes of high-performance steel every year.

Beginning on Monday, the construction phase is expected to take three years and will generate 1,000 jobs alone. The 3,000 jobs currently in place in Kapfenberg will be safeguarded at the new facility but staff will be trained in specialist areas such as robotics and data analysis.

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Advanced technology will run at the heart of the factory, with fully-digitalised production processes leading to the majority of workers' roles specialising in monitoring and system management. The plant will also be the 'global benchmark' for environmental and energy efficiency.

According to Voestalpine, its work 'marks a technological milestone in the manufacturing of pioneering high-performance steels for the international aerospace, automotive, and oil & gas industries'. The project also represents a huge boost for the steel industry in Europe, which has suffered hugely in recent decades against the backdrop of far cheaper production costs in China.

"The new special steel plant gives us an unparalleled, global innovative edge, both by digitalising our processes and by continuing to raise the quality of our products," said Franz Rotter, board member at Voestalpine.

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