Tata Steel Innovation Journey
We invest heavily in our people in order that R&D can support some of the finest minds in the industry. Yet innovation is more than just creative thinking. It relies on a deep understanding of our customers’ businesses and the marketplaces they operate within. We recognise that market demands mean that our customers’ needs are constantly evolving, so we work with them closely, in order to fully understand their complex requirements. We invest in sustainable collaborative business relationships. Our innovative steel products and solutions allow them to fully exploit design and application possibilities, supported by competent and accessible technical experts.
No challenge is too great. Using state-of-the-art technology we can respond creatively and proactively to the challenges our clients face, driving continual improvements to the quality, performance and range of our steel solutions. Twenty-first century ‘metal solutions’ demand twenty-first century infrastructure, so we continually upgrade our manufacturing processes and use the very latest methods in process analysis and design, product design, modelling/simulation, and prototyping and application development. Our large-scale test facilities allow new products to be tested on an industrial scale, whether that is packaging manufacture, the production of blanks for car parts, welding of components, or corrosion testing of structures.
Our commitment to Research and Development is evidenced in our workforce: we employ almost 400 researchers across Britain and the Netherlands and work in close collaboration with universities and research institutes across Europe.
Wide Funnel Approach
Our innovation funnel benefits from encouraging the in-flow of a wide range of ideas with staff being allocated time to develop these for potential inclusion in the main R&D programme. This approach recognises the creative imperative of innovation and allows our people to trial a variety of ideas in order to find the perfect synergy between inventiveness and strategy that leads to true advancement. Not all ideas will be successful – but that is part of the research challenge and allows our researchers the space to continually demonstrate their expertise.
Building the Future of Steel
At Tata Steel, we are proactively building the future of steel – and more. With an eye always at least 10 years ahead, we anticipate the challenges our industry – and our supply chains – will face so we are uniquely placed to ensure that our products are future-fit and responsive to change.
We promote a culture that is open, inclusive and inspirational. Our goal is to deliver tangible commercial benefits that are measurable and applicable in real-life situations. The work we do creates genuine commercial advantage for our clients and for ourselves; and the diversity inherent to the role means that it is uniquely satisfying.
Our Research & Development activity relates to every stage of the production process, from the preparation of raw materials to the processing of the final product by Tata Steel customers. Our specialised areas of research expand across the full spectrum of metal processing and production, including steelmaking and casting, rolling, coating, welding and applications research, in sectors such as Automotive, Construction, Engineering and Packaging, offering our people an enormous portfolio of projects.
We are heavily focused on process improvements and new product development and our success in these areas is dependent on our in-depth understanding the raw materials we use and how they are processed. We invest in research into the way that steel interfaces, bonds and reacts in diverse situations and this commitment to the fine detail ensures we work on the right projects in pursuit of customer satisfaction and product added value.
We have a team working on completely new steelmaking processes. This breakthrough technology is a £multi-million and multi-partner European programme called HIsarna and will reduce CO2 emissions by up to 25% in our steel plants of the future.
Tata Steel's Research & Development function operates from centres in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, providing a top class capability for world-wide manufacturing and commercial operations. In the Netherlands we have the IJmuiden Technology Centre on the site of our integrated steelworks. In the UK we have our Warwick Technology Centre based at the University of Warwick and in South Wales we have our Swansea Technology Centre based at The Steel and Metals Institute (SaMi) at Swansea University's Singleton Campus.
Developing high performance on the side
Side door-impact beams (SIB) in vehicles provide shock absorption in case of impact from the sides and therefore provide better crash performance. But developing products that can perform consistently and meet commercial customer requirements is a challenge.
The Product Group of R&D in Jamshedpur, working with the Tubes division, has developed a medium carbon, boron-added hot rolled thin strip (1.6mm thickness) steel to meet the unique demands of this specific area of the vehicle.
The process involves hot rolling to the required specifications and tube-making. These tubes are then sent through an additional processing phase to further harden the steel to achieve the right level of performance. Final heat treatments parameters are optimised to meet the exact properties desired by our customers.
In conclusion, the products are a success both from a process and a commercial perspective. Steel has been successfully made and rolled, followed by tube making and final heat treatments. Excellent final properties were obtained and met all the customer requirements.
Our Materials Engineers come from diverse specialisms: metallurgists, metallurgical engineers, ceramic engineers and welding engineers. Together, they form a team with the knowledge, expertise and talent to deliver products that meet specialized design and performance specifications. Creative, innovative and imaginative, they’re simultaneously practical, pragmatic and product-focused, delivering evaluations, specialist machinery and processes that inspire new uses for known materials.
Within this role, you will find yourself working with advanced equipment. Our laboratories are home to bar mills, jar mills and rod mills; electrostatic separators; high-tension separators; isodynamic separators; and magnetic separators. We also use tension testers, systems and chambers for high temperature and high vacuum testing. Balling drums and twin-screw extruders are also important tools used by our Engineers.
This combination of advanced technology and process means that we recruit Engineers from a number of backgrounds. A background in Engineering and Technology or Process and Production will give you an understanding of the principles, techniques, procedures and equipment used in design and production. A Chemistry background provides insight into composition, structure and substance properties. Subjects such as Mathematics and Physics can help you to understand the physical principles, laws and relationships that govern processes and science. All of these disciplines can provide a strong foundation for a career as a Materials Engineer.
Our Materials Scientists gain new insight into how natural and synthetic composite materials can be applied. These include metals, alloys, rubber, ceramics, semiconductors, polymers and glass. You will identify how materials can be combined or strengthened, developing composites with specific new properties for use in our products.
Potential roles include Glass Scientists, Ceramic Scientists, Metallurgical Scientists and Polymer Scientists. In all of these roles, you will perform experiments on the structures and properties of materials, conducting research, developing computer models and turning your findings into feasibility reports, new product proposals and technical manuals.
You will gain exposure to a diverse array of leading-edge equipment. We use the latest laboratory kit such as abrasion testers, nitrogen furnaces, nanoscope atomic force microscopes and dielectric spectrometers. We also deploy the latest analytical and scientific software So we are looking for people who can bridge the gap between practical chemistry skills and an appreciation of technology, mathematical theory and the skills to draft accurate reports and manuscripts. Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics are all good starting points. But you need to combine those with a clear appreciation of Engineering and Technology – and good English Language, grammar and writing skills.
Nanotechnology Engineering Technicians
Nanotechnology is helping to make our steel products stronger, more durable and more cost-effective. Our Nanotechnology Engineering Technicians operate commercial-scale production equipment, working closely with Nanoscientists, Engineers and Technologists to produce, test or modify materials, devices or systems of molecular or macromolecular composition.
We believe that the highest levels of technical innovation can only be achieved with the best equipment. The teams at Tata use a range of Scanning Probe and Electron Microscopes, Spectrometers and Semiconductor Process Systems, in tandem with analytical, scientific and photo-imaging computer software. You will be at the heart of the process, calibrating equipment, writing process specifications and compiling reports on experiments or applications.
The range of tools and equipment allows us to approach challenges with different techniques, for example: interference fitting, solvent bonding, adhesive bonding, heat sealing, or ultrasonic welding. So the people who suit our teams are adaptable, resourceful and methodical in their approach, capable of ensuring that laboratory processes are followed and experiment results are recorded accurately.
Non-Destructive Testing Specialists
Our Testing procedures are rigorous, robust and detailed. Our Specialists use x-ray, ultrasound, fibre-optic and other related equipment, testing the safety of structures, vehicles and vessels in accordance with applicable codes, standards, specifications or procedures.
We are looking for people from a Mathematics, Engineering or Technology background who can apply their skills and knowledge to the design and production of various goods and services. Knowledge of engineering science, production processes and quality control is important, with a clear understanding of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and calculus. At the same time, we are looking for good customer service skills too, with knowledge of the methodology required to assess customer needs, meet quality standards and measure customer satisfaction.
This role requires the use of software technology, such as CAD design/photo-imaging software, and tools such as micrometers, oscilloscopes, radiation detectors and x-ray equipment. You must be able to select, calibrate and operate equipment, and apply Non-Destructive testing techniques to a wide range of structures and vehicles, such as: aircraft, trains, nuclear reactors, bridges, dams, and pipelines. You will also be able to interpret and identify the results of testing, such as acoustic emission, electromagnetic, leak, liquid penetrant, magnetic particle, neutron radiographic, radiographic, thermal or infrared, ultrasonic, vibration analysis, and visual testing.
Adam Bannister - Scientific Fellow
"The variety of the work is the best thing about my job, typically ranging from urgent customer issues to longer term projects on offshore pipelines, and often there are major cost and structural safety implications."I work mainly on fracture and fatigue prevention, life assessment of structures and fitness-for-service. There is no shortage of surprises in terms of in-service and fabrication demands customers place on our products such as extreme low temperature service, impact loading and high stresses. Development of methods to enable accurate assessment of these is a key part of my job. The expectations on the assets Tata operates are also increasing, hence it is essential to prevent failures by understanding potential degradation mechanisms and making best use of the latest prediction and inspection techniques.
Sharing good practice both between hubs and across sectors is also one of my roles, a challenge in such a large and diverse organisation; a fatigue issue solved for an earth-mover can often be used to benefit our own plant, but a view of the wider picture is needed to enable this.
In my spare time I mainly head for the mountains, climbing, skiing or mountain-biking. There is plenty of scope for these in the UK but I try to get out to the Alps as often as I can and am (slowly) trying to tick off of all the 4000m summits. Alpine climbing has some similarities to my work- you do your best to plan ahead but you need to be flexible as there is always something unexpected around the corner.
Marcel Schilder - Research Assistant
I find my job very attractive because it is variable and remains versatile. At one time I may for example perform precise analyzes, may interview a client or do literature research to gain specific knowledge of a topic. Analyzing and resolving customer issues by means of specific simulation equipment is what I like. It feeds my job satisfaction the most. Sometimes that leads to a patent. Happened to me twice. Experience and understanding can grow with the years but there is room for development, and that is what I receive back.
In my spare time I also love to be versatile. Some hobbies of mine are motorcycling, kayaking and doing odd jobs. In doing these jobs I use every conceivable machines such as welding equipment, grinders, drills etc. I try to keep an open mind for possibilities, think logically and without a negative bias. With this in mind I can tackle any problem, and it almost always leads to a nice result.
Louisa Carless - Researcher
Working abroad and learning to adapt to another culture is one of the great perks about working for an international company like Tata Steel. I was lucky enough to be seconded to the Netherlands, where I work as a researcher in the Automotive Applications Department. I started my career as a graduate trainee in Port Talbot and after three years transferred to the labs in IJmuiden.
In my current job I plan, analyse and present research work for a range of Tata Steel business units. One field of my work is assessment of the tribological performance of surfaces and coatings, with the aim of optimising friction and wear in our customers’ forming processes. I am also involved in measuring the hardening and deformation behaviour of sheet metals in order to provide accurate material data parameters for forming simulations of car body panels. A sideline of my job is being involved in the communications and PR for my department and assisting with the internal R&D Magazine.