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Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) Board of Directors' incumbent Chairman is reported to have stated last week that PSM is in the process of revival and recovery. According to him, it needs to reinvent itself as a new organization.
He advocated the following key structural changes to revive a sinking organization:
1. The organizational and governance model of PSM must be reconstructed to create something that is viable and full of vitality.
2. The culture of ownership, competitiveness and continuous improvement must be developed so that PSM could compete with its peers across the world and manufacture quality and market-fit products at competitive prices.
3. To create this new structure as a culture, introduce a new mindset which has all the best aspects of a private sector and a public sector company.
4. The workforce will need to be moulded into practices that exemplify highest standards of work ethics.
5. All the departments must demonstrate excellent team-work, agility and a mindset of putting the mills first.
6. The organization must set up a center of excellence in all required faculties to create self-sufficiency, internal and independent research, development, innovation and a continuous improvement culture.
7. A 21st century workforce mentality is required. "Agile, technically excellent workforce that can compete with any other players in the world in the same bracket and this workforce will also reap the benefits of working for a viable and growing enterprise that invests in training, career development and is a sought-after place of work that pays competitive salaries," according to him.
While appreciating the good intentions of the Chairman, the hard fact is that all of this may qualify as a mission statement of PSM then a realistic understanding of the ground realities and a viable roadmap to turn around a woefully ailing organization.
Over the last two decades, countless visions to turn Pakistan Steel Mills around have been floated around and much has been invested from public money to turn those visions into realities, but without achieving any meaningful success.
PSM is today at level zero and realistically there is no chance for its turnaround if one simply looks at some of the glaring facts:
a) PSM was commissioned in early 1980s. The plant is based on Russian technology which is robust but inefficient from when benchmarked to the US, European or Japanese technologies.
The electrical and mechanical system of PSM plant is largely obsolete and its energy consumption is extremely high and inefficient. In the PSM, energy is the major cost.
b) The competing steel mill plants in the global markets are extremely energy efficient producing better quality of steel at much competitive costs.
c) The competing steel mill plants' processes are now fully automated manned by a few highly skilled and IT-savvy manpower.
d) The global steel market has become highly competitive where even big giants are finding their survival difficult and have gone for mergers.
It is, therefore, unlikely that the products of Pakistan Steel will ever be competitive in global steel market.
Even in the local market in Pakistan, its products will have to face stiff resistance to create any space for themselves because its customers by now have found alternate options by expanding their own plants or through increased imports in response to erratic supplies by PSM.
In this writer's view, PSM chairman's plan or vision does not make any business sense at all. The only viable option for a cash-starved government is to either liquidate or privatize this white elephant without any further loss of time.
(The writer is former President of Overseas Investors Chambers of Commerce and Industry)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020