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Consolidation (and Simplification) in the Flat-Rolled Steel Industry

by John K. Mahaney, Jr. and Donald L. Mongeon

We read much in the business pages about the need for consolidation in industry and business in order to improve effectiveness and efficiency and thus increase competitiveness. The benefits of consolidation also apply to ASTM technical committees as evidenced by recent activity within Subcommittees A01.19 on Steel Sheet and Strip and A05.11 on Sheet Specifications. A01.19, of Committee A01 on Steel, Stainless Steel, and Related Alloys, and A05.11, of Committee A05 on Metallic Coated Iron and Steel Products, have taken a lead in the consolidation and simplification of the standards under their jurisdiction. Together, the groups have consolidated many flat-rolled products into single standards for many similar products rather than present individual product standards for those types of steel. This direction means the user of the standards now has only one place to look for chemistry, mechanical properties, and other product characteristics. Further, the subcommittees overseeing the standards have only the relevance of one standard to maintain. In the past, many standards existed and it was very difficult to keep them in concert with updated terminology and other aspects of standardization. Consolidating standards also makes them easier for the consumer to use. How did this consolidation come about?

A Joint Activity

Subcommittees A01.19 and A05.11 are very active groups that share many members. For the past several years the subcommittees have tried to keep the standards under their jurisdiction in agreement with regard to terminology, chemistry, mechanical properties, etc. All items that influence both subcommittees are discussed in the subcommittee meetings, but also in depth at the joint task group meeting, which is chaired by the two subcommittee chairs and involves all members of both subcommittees who desire to participate.

While this cooperation had been informal for a number of years, during the late 1990s discussions on product tolerances and product names showed that a more formal relationship was needed. This joint activity started out as a series of task group meetings involving representatives of producing steel mills and users of such products from the United States and Canada. The group was originally formed to deal with commercial changes in the thickness ordering practice for flat-rolled steel products. While this change was commercially driven, the change in the ordering pattern for material thickness resulted in several different interpretations of the thickness tolerance tables in the ASTM general requirements standards for coated and uncoated flat-rolled products. Thus, it became necessary to generate standard thickness tolerance tables for both the conventional and new thickness ordering patterns. Naturally, these tables also had to be both in English and metric units as the standards in question, both general requirements and products, are dual standards.

The use of this small joint task group proved very successful in bringing the tolerance issues to ballot and the implementation of the new tolerance methods. The members of the subcommittees recognized the value of the joint effort and decided to move forward in the same manner on some other issues involving both subcommittees.

Complex Issues

Within the industry, product names have developed over time and, as the marketplace demanded, new product standards were developed to cover such products. At the same time, the general requirements standards were updated to take into account the new product standards. With the proliferation of product standards, it became difficult to manage them all and the subcommittees found that some were updated with new technology while others were forgotten. It was also noted that the various product standards had different words being used to describe the same requirements and some conflicts were evident as some standards were updated and others were not.

In addition, the meaning of the product names was becoming less clear in the market. The names were being applied to other aspects of the material than intended by the standards and the subcommittees. Also, a number of terms and the products represented were no longer available in the market and many new products had been introduced that were not adequately described in the standards. It was clear that the standards in use did not fully represent the products in the market and therefore were not fully relevant.

In response to these concerns, the same subcommittee members who had dealt with the tolerance issues again started meeting to better describe and simplify product names and their corresponding standards. It was soon recognized that these activities needed more input and discussion than could be achieved with the small group involved. At that time, it became clear a joint task group was necessary, with membership open to all the members of both subcommittees.

The subcommittees started by identifying new names for products and naming which products were no longer viable in the market. Also, the subcommittees added typical mechanical property references to the standards for products that do not have required mechanical property limits. Once the new product names were agreed upon, the existing standards were changed to reflect the new terminology and the addition of typical mechanical properties to the standards dealing with such products.

At this time, it was noted how many product standards existed and how the wording, not the intent, varied from standard to standard. Thus, it became obvious that managing the large number of standards was difficult. The consolidation of the various product standards into a few standards, rather than the many that existed, would provide better control of wording and allow a customer to locate and compare a number of different products in one standard rather than having to reference a number of standards with different terminology. The procedure for the development of the consolidated standards was to generate one standard containing all the applicable products and using wording that was common to the existing standards.

The subcommittees recognized that many worthwhile improvements could be made to the consolidated standards but it was agreed at the beginning that such suggestions would become items of new business and that the first edition of the consolidated product standards would represent no major changes from the existing ones. It should be noted that the consolidated standards did not contain any products deemed no longer viable in the market by the subcommittees. With the approval of the consolidated standards, the old product standards were withdrawn and noted as replaced by the new consolidated product standard.

Hot-Rolled Steel

For hot-rolled sheet products, the consolidated standard was given the designation of A 1011/A 1011M, Specification for Steel, Sheet and Strip, Hot-Rolled, Carbon, Structural, High-Strength Low-Alloy and High-Strength Low-Alloy with Improved Formability, and it included all or portions of the following standards:

• A 569/A 569M, Standard Specification for Steel, Carbon (0.15 Maximum Percent), Hot-Rolled Sheet and Strip, Commercial;
• A 570/A 570M, Standard Specification for Structural Steel, Sheet and Strip, Carbon, Hot-Rolled;
• A 607, Standard Specification for Steel, Sheet and Strip, High-Strength, Low-Alloy, Columbium or Vanadium, or Both, Hot-Rolled and Cold-Rolled;
• A 622/A 622M, Standard Specification for Drawing Steel (DS), Sheet and Strip, Carbon, Hot-Rolled; and
• A 715, Standard Specification for Steel Sheet and Strip, High-Strength, Low-Alloy, Hot-Rolled, and Steel Sheet, Cold-Rolled, High-Strength, Low-Alloy, with Improved Formability.

At the same time, it was recognized that one standard for hot-rolled products represented a product that was no longer available in the market place, in the opinion of the subcommittee, and that standard, A 621/A 621M, Specification for Forming Steel (FS), Sheet and Strip, Carbon, Hot-Rolled, was withdrawn without replacement. The subcommittee noted that all materials formerly called forming steel were actually replaced with drawing steel due to changes in manufacturing processes for steel. Thus, there was no need for ASTM to recognize and define forming steel as a product for hot-rolled steel.

Cold-Rolled Steel

For cold-rolled products, the consolidated standard was designated as A 1008/A 1008M, Specification for Steel, Sheet, Cold-Rolled, Carbon, Structural, High-Strength Low-Alloy and High-Strength Low-Alloy with Improved Formability. This consolidated product standard included all or parts of the following:

• A 366/A 366M, Standard Specification for Commercial Steel (CS), Carbon, (0.15 Maximum Percent) Cold-Rolled;
• A 607, Standard Specification for Steel, Sheet and Strip, High-Strength, Low-Alloy, Columbium or Vanadium, or Both, Hot-Rolled and Cold-Rolled;
• A 611, Standard Specification for Structural Steels (SS), Sheet, Carbon, Cold-Rolled;
• A 620/A 620M, Standard Specification for Drawing Steel (DS), Sheet, Carbon, Cold-Rolled;
• A 715, Standard Specification for Steel Sheet and Strip, High-Strength, Low-Alloy, Hot-Rolled, and Steel Sheet, Cold-Rolled, High-Strength, Low-Alloy, with Improved Formability;
• A 963/A 963M, Standard Specification for Deep Drawing Steel (DDS), Sheet, Carbon, Cold-Rolled; and
• A 969/A 969M, Standard Specification for Extra Deep Drawing Steel (EDDS), Sheet, Carbon, Cold-Rolled.

The subcommittee recognized that A 619/A 619M, Specification for Non-Killed Forming Steel (NKFS) Sheet, Carbon, Cold-Rolled, represented a material that was no longer physically available in the marketplace and that all material ordered to this standard had been replaced by A 620/A 620M. Therefore, A 619/A 619M was withdrawn without replacement.

The subcommittee then addressed the heavier thickness products and a consolidated standard was developed and identified as A 1018/A 1018M, Specification for Steel, Sheet and Strip, Heavy Thickness Coils, Hot-rolled, Carbon, Structural, High-Strength Low-Alloy, Columbium or Vanadium, and High-Strength Low-Alloy with Improved Formability, which replaced the following product standards, which were then withdrawn:

• A 907/A 907M, Standard Specification for Steel, Sheet and Strip, Heavy Thickness Coils, Carbon, Hot-Rolled, Structural Quality;
• A 935/A 935M, Standard Specification for Steel, Sheet and Strip, Heavy Thickness Coils, High Strength, Low-Alloy, Columbium or Vanadium, or Both, Hot-Rolled; and
• A 936/A 936M, Standard Specification for Steel, Sheet and Strip, Heavy Thickness Coils, High-Strength, Low-Alloy, Hot-Rolled, with Improved Formability.

Hot-Dip Coated Sheet Steel

Subcommittee A05.11 also saw a need for consolidation of the hot-dip coated sheet steels. For many years, requirements for hot-dip zinc and zinc-iron alloy coatings were the only ones described in ASTM specifications with a total of six standards in place to cover general requirements and the various products. In addition, there were separate standards for other hot-dip coatings such as aluminum, terne (lead-tin alloy), 55 percent aluminum-zinc alloy, and zinc five percent aluminum alloy. As the standards had been written individually over a period of years, the format of these specifications varied from a single specification containing all pertinent requirements for a coating to specifications that contained a portion of the requirements for a coating and a cross reference to a zinc general requirements standard.

This inconsistency in format created confusion among users and producers and a task group was formed to undertake a general consolidation and revision of the hot-dip specifications. The task group was also charged with revising product names and bringing the product names and characteristics into agreement with current production practices and marketplace expectations. The task group developed an approach to create a product specification for each coating that contains the requirements unique to the coating and a general requirements specification that contains all the information common to all five hot-dip coatings. The new format resulted in the following new specifications:

• A 653/A 653M, Standard Specification for Steel Sheet, Zinc-Coated (Galvanized) or Zinc-Iron Alloy-Coated (Galvannealed) by the Hot-Dip Process; and
• A 924/A 924M, Standard Specification for General Requirements for Steel, Sheet, Metallic-Coated by the Hot-Dip Process.

The following standards were revised to the new format:

• A 308, Standard Specification for Steel Sheet, Terne (Lead-Tin Alloy) Coated by the Hot-Dip Process;
• A 463/A 463M, Standard Specification for Steel Sheet, Aluminum-Coated, by the Hot-Dip Process;
• A 792/A 792M, Standard Specification for Steel Sheet, 55% Aluminum-Zinc Alloy-Coated by the Hot-Dip Process; and
• A 875/A 875M, Standard Specification for Steel Sheet, Zinc-5% Aluminum-Alloy by the Hot-Dip Process.

These actions allowed the withdrawal of the following standards as the products were included in the new and revised standards:

• A 525/A 525M, Standard Specification for General Requirements for Steel Sheet, Zinc-Coated (Galvanized) by the Hot-Dip Process;
• A 526/A 526M, Standard Specification for Steel Sheet, Zinc-Coated (Galvanized) by the Hot-Dip Process, Commercial Quality;
• A 527/A 527M, Standard Specification for Steel Sheet, Zinc-Coated (Galvanized) by the Hot-Dip Process, Lock-Forming Quality;
• A 528/A 528M, Standard Specification for Steel Sheet, Zinc-Coated (Galvanized) by the Hot-Dip Process, Drawing Quality;
• A 642/A 642M, Standard Specification for Steel Sheet, Zinc-Coated (Galvanized) by the Hot-Dip Process, Drawing Quality, Special Killed; and
• A 816/A 816M, Standard Specification for Steel Sheet, Zinc-Coated (Galvanized) by the Hot-Dip Process, High-Strength Low-Alloy.

This new format and consolidation now allows a user to access a single standard to understand all of the requirements unique to a single coating and a single general requirements standard for information common to the hot-dip process. The rational and logical format reduced the total number of specifications for these product types from 10 to six.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that the ASTM Subcommittees A01.19 and A05.11 have generated a total of nine new or revised general requirements and product standards to replace 25 older standards. This has greatly reduced the number of standards that have to be reviewed and referenced by a customer and at the same time improved the ability of the subcommittees to manage those standards and keep them up to date with the changing technology and demands of the market.

Copyright 2003, ASTM


John K. Mahaney, Jr., is chairman of Subcommittee A01.19 on Sheet and Strip Steel and a member of various other Subcommittees including A05.11. He chaired the Committee A01 centennial activities and received the Award of Merit in 1999. Mahaney is president of Metallurgical Consultants, Inc. of Akron, Ohio.


Donald Mongeon has been a member of ASTM Committees A01 on Steel, Stainless Steel, and Related Alloys and A05 on Metallic-Coated Iron and Steel Products since 1977. He is chairman of Subcommittee A05.11 on Sheet Specifications. Mongeon is a fellow of ASTM.