Men of Steel

RHI Canada’s Hans Joerg Junger and Friedrich Schweighofer bring RHI AG’s refractory-production prowess to North America

Hans Joerg Junger’s master’s of science degree in metallurgy makes him the perfect director of the board for RHI Canada.

For RHI AG, the world’s leading refractories company, growth is not just a goal but a way of life. Ever since the company began in 1834 as Chamottefabrik F. Didier, a brick- and lime-firing plant, the target has been to acquire other production plants, merge when possible, and use profits to build new facilities around the world. More than 175 years later, after the mergers of Veitscher, Radex, and Didier, the company, now known as RHI AG, is still doing exactly that.

RHI AG currently has about 10,000 customers and 100 production and sales locations, including RHI Canada. “RHI has two main divisions: steel and industrial,” explains Hans Joerg Junger, director of the board of RHI Canada for Steel NAFTA. “RHI is present in almost every country in the world. Here in Canada, in Burlington, Ontario, we have the North American headquarters, and service the local steel and industrial customers.”

RHI Canada has been able to carve out a spot for itself thanks to centralized experts and the use of local sales staff and technical-service people. “There have been many acquisitions in the past, going all the way back to a very early date,” says Friedrich Schweighofer, vice president of RHI Canada, Industrial NAFTA. “RHI Canada really went through many different names and owners in the past, just as all of RHI did.”

Schweighofer started at RHI AG in 1979, as a production worker at one of the company’s European refractory plants. After attending night school, he was able to transition into a management role at the plant and then into a sales role. Following subsequent management positions in Austria, Indonesia, Scotland, and China, Schweighofer finally settled into his current role in Canada.

Junger, on the other hand, knew he was destined for the business world early on and studied marketing in high school before specializing in economics and earning a master’s of science degree in metallurgy at university. A gut feeling led him to RHI in 1994. “I wanted to follow the ambitious vision of the CEO at that time by providing the best products, services, and solutions to the industry,” he says. “It was a calling for me.”

Left: Molten metal is distributed into a mould via a tundish installation. Right: The refractory materials lining the inside of this ladle glow from the extreme heat.

RHI AG’s long history of growth is due to the vision of its leaders and the constant evolution of their strategic plan. “There are daily and monthly fluctuations in the market and the economy, and we can’t control those, but there is a very clearly defined plan for RHI AG and all of its operational units,” Junger says.

As RHI AG looks towards 2016, with a revenue goal of €2.5 billion, it is also working on the tasks at hand, including new acquisitions or capacity increases in Brazil, India, Russia, and China, where Schweighofer had a firsthand experience of RHI’s expansion during the six years he worked there.

“Although China may be the largest producer of steel in the world, the North American market is extremely important to RHI for all applications: cement, petrochemical, nonferrous metals, and steel,” Schweighofer explains. “We are using high European and American standards in all of our work. That is something we offer all over the world and retain, no matter how much we grow. All of our production sites are linked to the R&D centre in Austria, which oversees all manufacturing-quality standards. As a reliable and experienced partner, it is our constant aim to add value to our customers by achieving the best performance ratio with our refractory materials and services.”