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Quantity Focused… Quality Jeopardized?

Quantity Focused… Quality Jeopardized?

The booming infrastructure focus while is driving our economy to reach its desired heights, the TMT Rebars industry might land in a quality doom.  EPC World uncover an analytical eye-opener on the current scenario of the TMT Rebars industry in India.
What should I buy? Where should I buy from? Which one should be preferred? Why should I compare? How should I use it?...the five simple yet most critical questions that circle around us in our daily lifestyle. From minute household essentials like kitchen utensils to automobiles or any luxurious service, we ‘The Customers’ put ourselves into a period research before opting for a particular product or service. But how aware are we while opting for our fundamental essential? Or rather how long can we safely survive by being unaware about the critical components that build our fundamental need – life-space?
Infrastructure is a vital component of human civilization and even a minor error in it leads to the cause of one’s life. Today, we are hardly left with a day without the occurrence of any infrastructural mishap or accident…and we bluntly blame it on the negligent decision on the administrative authority. But the most vital concern is as a ‘Responsible Customer’ how much does the contractors or even commoners like me and you know about the quality of minute essentials like building materials being used in the project. TMT Rebars, the Thermo Mechanically Treated steel bars, is one such vital component determining the longevity and strength of any project. Though much research and awareness is now being spread about building materials like cement, concrete, mixers, paints and adhesives…very little is being researched about the steel TMT rebars used in the process of construction. 
We, as being a part of ‘The Fourth Estate’, took this opportunity to delve down much deeper and churn out the actual existent yet shocking scenario on the availability of quality TMT rebars in our country. While the topic has gathered a pedestal limelight among the media and discussion forums, very little is being talked about the actual and most essential components that has been the ignored since long in the process of construction.
Dissecting the Market Pie
It would be of no surprise if the Steel Industry can be titled as the backbone for economic development and growth in any country. As rightly mentioned in a release by the Indian Steel Association, the level of industrial growth in a country has a direct correlation to the growth of its steel sector. India is currently the second largest steel producer globally, overtaking Japan recently. India also is the third largest consumer of finished steel in the world behind China and USA. It is expected that India will overtake USA as the second largest steel consuming nation in a couple of years.
Despite all the developments and historic trend transformations, the quality assessment report determining the ability of the steel rebars available in our country has been a shocking eye-opener hard-hitting in this phase of epic progress. 
“The steel industry in India has seen a massive transformation to reach the levels at which it operates today. It was one of the first few sectors to be deregulated. Subsequently, control and regulation gave way to competition. Administered prices were replaced by market driven or demand-and-supply determined prices. A ‘Seller’s market’ got transformed into a ‘Buyer’s market’,” opines Dr. Bhaskar Chatterjee, Secretary General and Executive Head, Indian Steel Association. Giving an analytical insight into the market pie, he further shares that in India steel is produced by adopting three main process routes - Basic Oxygen Furnace (BOF), Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) and Electric Induction Furnace (EIF). While the large integrated steel producers have primarily adopted the BF-BOF route, the Indian steel industry is also characterized by the presence of many small steel producers who utilize sponge iron, melting scrap and non-coking coal (EAF/IF route) for steelmaking.  As on March 2018, there were 346 sponge iron producers that use iron ore/ pellets and non-coking coal/gas providing feedstock for steel production; 56 electric arc furnaces and 1187 induction furnaces that use sponge iron and/or melting scrap to produce semi-finished steel and 1395 re-rollers that rolls out semi-finished steel into finished steel products for consumer end use.
As per the Indian Government’s New Steel Policy the annual steel consumption of our country would scale up to 300 million tons per annum by the year 2030. Amounting to three times the current consumption pegged at about 100 million tons/annum. As per the market analysts, rebar consumption in India currently is estimated to be about 24 million tons/annum valued at about Rs. 120,000 crore. 
We could rightly hence call Rebars as the epicenter of any construction – from foundation to column, beam or the slab in any structure – primarily the reinforced cement concrete structures. Hence, even a minute negligence in the quality of minute component in making of the Rebars affect the overall structure and ultimately at the cost of human lives being put to danger. While taking the average steel intensity, about 10 per cent by value, in an RCC construction in India, the total construction industry can be valued at 10 times the valuation of the rebar industry which works out to an astronomical figure of  Rs. 12 lakh crore/annum. Such a large construction industry is critically dependent on the quality of steel rebars used. It is therefore imperative that all efforts are made to produce and promote the usage of good quality rebars in India. 
It is worth applauding though to mention about the constant attempts and pushes by the Ministry of Steel as well as the Bureau of Indian standards by anchoring numerous transformations and amendments to bring in a qualitative change on the availability and usage of steel across the country. Numerous such initiatives were evidently seen in the past, for instance the Mandatory BIS certification for all grades and sizes, Steel Quality Control Order, to name a few. The constant endeavors and proactive approach being put forth by the Ministry and BIS has been commendable over the years to upgrade the quality and regulate the availability, supply and usage of quality material across the country.
It’s Time to Call a Red Alert !
While numerous commendable initiative and tech transformations are being implemented by the governing authorities and industry stakeholders, a critical concern clouding upon the industry is on the quality of rebars available in India. And a major factor, according to the market experts and analytical quality assessment report is the dominant presence of secondary players in the market. To be more specific, the TMT rebars in India today can be dissected into two major portions – the primary producers and the secondary producers. Quality wise though the primary ones enjoy a stronghold on its secondary counterpart in the market, when looked on to the scale of quantity or supply into the market it is the latter who dominate the market pie. 
“Today about 55 per cent of the Indian rebar supply comes from the Secondary producers. Though we have numerous majors like Steel Authority of India, Rashtriya Ispat  Nigam Ltd., JSW Steel, Jindal Steel & Power Ltd, TATA Steel, Essar Steel etc. who run the show on quality basis, most of the secondary majors are more quantity focused in the country. A major boon for the secondary majors is due to the growing clusters and production hubs across the country. Today we have 15 such most prominent clusters in India, at Mandi Gobindgarh, Raipur, Dhanbad etc. to name a few,” informs a senior official source associated with one among the country’s leading primary steel major. The rapidly emerging micro clusters and tendency to compromise on the quality parameters to be cost competitive has been a major cause of concern today for the fruitful growth of the TMT rebars industry, adds the official. 
As an old proverb rightly says, it takes every single stone to be perfect to shape up an alluring palace. This same ideology can be put to practice in any infra-construction projects. Even a minute compromise in the quality can churn out the hidden dangers and lead towards fatal deaths of human lives. There is no better historic example than the heartbreaking sinking of the aqua-stunner ‘The Titanic’ which drowned with it not just the dreams of many but has still left back a haunting imprint in our minds before stepping into a sea-voyage. 
“TMT Steel Bars are made with high ductility and forte. This is the most needful and crucial building material used widely during the construction process as it functionally holds the concrete blocks and upholds the structures. The current infrastructure market abounds in a plentiful of TMT Bars available in India and it is too perplexing to understand which TMT bars might stand good for the building construction.  Today the Indian market is flooded with so many brands like JSW, Tata and Sail TMT Bars to name a few, thus leaving the buyer to be spoilt-for-choice.  These bars are typically made available in two main types, that is Primary and secondary TMT Bars.  Between the two, primary bars are better in quality, flexibility, elongation, corrosion resistance and are a good option in terms of durability and can be used for long terms. Moreover, TMT bars are these days available in diverse grades and ranges of diameter varying from six to fifty mm but mostly eight mm to twenty-five mm of TMT Bars are utilized for building construction,” says Aditya Kedia Managing Director, Transcon Developers, from his expertise in the field of real estate. He further adds, “Majority of developers are using Secondary TMT bars in construction as they claim to be complying the standards of IS-1786. At certain instance it is observed that there is no consistency in quality standards by Secondary TMT Manufacturers. So, we would like to suggest that these secondary TMT bar manufacturers must bring improvement in Quality.”
Sharing opinions on similar lines is architect Manoj Gupta of Dehleez Spatial Design Pvt Ltd. He shares, “TMT rebars are an important component and play important role in the process of construction. However not many are much aware and willing to research or invest time to know about the quality of rebars being supplied and available in Indian markets today. When looked into the quality specifications it is the primary majors who stand true to their word of commitment on quality as against the secondary ones. A major cause of concern is the lack of awareness among the small and budding contractors who step into the process of construction. Such players often invest and opt for cheap products, which suits their budgets and often neglect the longevity of the total project. As an architect, we prefer and recommend to our clients only the best in the market that meets all the required guidelines and make them well aware about the need to invest in buying only quality TMT rebars.”
Ashish Beriwala, Director, SRMB Steel says, “In this segment emphasis should be given to the manufacturers who manufacture reinforcement steel (TMT) directly from Iron Ore and Coal to ensure integrated quality control on the manufacturing process. Their main focus should be on IMS certified steel manufacturing organizations who maintain proper documentation and quality parameters which gives benefit to the end users in all respect. SRMB steel maintains a stringent QAP starting from selecting of good quality of raw materials to in process inspection on each and every step of manufacturing of crude steel and TMT rebars.”
An Eye-Opener
However, before jumping into conclusions while opting for any particular product it is of utmost importance to have a basic understanding about the constituents of steel and the role they play in the overall quality of steel being manufactured. Typically the chemical components play a game changing role in determining the quality and longevity of the TMT rebars. So much that even a minute fluctuation in these components can become the necessary evil and ultimately affect the overall quality construction. 
To further delve into matter, EPC World stepped into a field work and collected a total of 44 samples of 8 mm and 16 mm TMT bars of 25 brands. The lab testing was executed with the support of Sunbeam Auto Pvt Ltd, a testing, research and development center. The samples were sent for testing in October 2018. For the purpose of research analysis the sample included products supplied by both the primary and secondary TMT producers and were selected on an unbiased basis.  The results that came out through this process could be rightly called as an eye opener as well as an alarming call for the industry which is now headed towards a grave quality concern. According to the results disclosed by the lab testing, while the products collected from the primary players passed out with flying colors, most of the secondary players (of whom the samples were collected) failed to meet the required parameters.

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