When F. Kenneth Iverson visited his first major steel plant as a metallurgy student at Purdue University, it left a lasting impression. In a 1984 interview, Iverson recalled seeing steel workers sleeping at the factory and he vowed never to work under such conditions. Instead, he channeled his keen business sense and passion for the wellbeing of his employees into a successful and profitable steel company.
As an engineer at Nuclear Corporation of America’s Vulcraft unit based in Phoenix, AZ, Iverson made his steel division a success while the rest of the company headed for bankruptcy. In 1965, he was named president of Nuclear and shed the company’s money-losing businesses, focusing exclusively on making steel using new mini-mill technology. Mini-mills manufacture steel entirely in relatively small factories using recycled steel scrap.
Iverson was known for novel ideas and taking risks, and is quoted in a press release, “My goal is to make the right decision about 60% of the time.” One of his better-known gambles was to adopt a technology in the 1980’s that would create sheet steel by casting the steel in 2-inch slabs, much thinner than the standard that existed at the time. Iverson’s technique continues to be replicated worldwide.
By Jen Santisi