Steel Glossary K - O


Ladle 4

A “bucket” lined with refractory (heat resistant) bricks, used to transport molten steel from process to process in a steel plant.


Ladle Metallurgy Furnace (LMF)

An intermediate steel processing unit that further refines the chemistry and temperature of molten steel while it is still in the ladle. The ladle metallurgy step comes after the steel is melted and refined in the electric arc or basic oxygen furnace, but before the steel is sent to the continuous caster.


Lance 4

A long metallic tube through which oxygen is blown into the BOS vessel under high pressure.



Delivery time for an item of inventory to be moved from a source location to a destination via a specific route. Detail is specific to the level of the location. Also the time to produce a customer’s order from order placement to shipment.


Legacy Costs

Any costs that are associated with prior operations. Employee liabilities (pensions and health care benefits) and environmental cleanup costs usually are included under this moniker.



The process by which a leveling machine flattens metal strip, coil, or sheets by bending it up and down over the interrupting arcs of upper and lower sets of long, slender work rolls. Machines generally employ 17, 19, or 21 relatively small diameter rolls whose deflection under load is controlled by additional back-up rollers and a rigid frame.


Life Cycle Costing

An accounting method of costing where expenses are allocated over the life of the product. Life cycle costs are often lower for stainless steel than for alternatives despite a higher initial outlay, because stainless products generally last longer and require little maintenance.


Light-Gauge Steel

Very thin steel sheet that has been temper-rolled or passed through a cold-reduction mill. Light gauge steel normally is plated with tin or chrome for use in food containers.


Line Pipe

Pipe used in the surface transmission of oil, natural gas and other fluids.


London Metal Exchange (LME)

A metals trading center for the Western World. The LME also determines the metal price for aluminum trading for current and future delivery.


Long Products

Classification of steel products that includes bar, rod and structural products, that are “long,” rather than “flat.”


Low-Carbon Steel

Steel with less than 0.005% carbon is more ductile (malleable): It is capable of being drawn out or rolled thin for use in automotive body applications. Carbon is removed from the steel bath through vacuum degassing.



M sections (Bantam Beams™, Junior Beams™)

Light footweight beams primarily used in the construction of pre-engineered housing. These beams are produced in lighter footweights, usually six to ten pounds per foot, than traditional structural products.



Refers to performing multiple processes to a piece of metal to produce a customer specified component part.



A light, silvery, moderately hard metallic element used in processing metals and chemicals, and in alloying aluminum to give it desired metallurgical properties.


Man-Hours per Ton (M-H/T)

This is a measure of labor efficiency — the ratio of total hours worked by steel employees to the tons shipped for a given period of time. Changes in the inventory level and work that is contracted out will affect the reported measurement.



Small category of stainless steel characterized by the use of heat treatment for hardening and strengthening. Martensitic stainless steels are plain chromium steels with no significant nickel content. They are utilized in equipment for the chemical and oil industries and in surgical instruments. The most popular martensitic stainless steel is type 410 (a grade appropriate for non-severe corrosion environments requiring high strength).


Matte Finish 1

A dull or grit surface appearance achieved by rolling on rolls which have been roughened by mechanical, chemical, or electrical means to various degrees of surface texture.


Mechanical Properties 1

Those properties of a material that reveal the elastic and inelastic reaction when force is applied, or that involve the relationship between stress and strain; for example, the modulus of elasticity, tensile strength, and fatigue limit. These properties have often been designated as “physical properties,” but the term “mechanical properties” is much to be preferred.


Merchant Bar

A group of commodity steel shapes that consist of rounds, squares, flats, strips, angles, and channels, which fabricators, steel service centers, and manufacturers cut, bend, and shape into products. Merchant products require more specialized processing than reinforcing bar.


Metric Ton (mt)

A unit of mass and weight equal to 1,000 kilograms, or 2,204.6 pounds.



Normally defined as steel mills that melt scrap metal to produce commodity products. Although the minimills are subject to the same steel processing requirements after the caster as the integrated steel companies, they differ greatly in regard to their minimum efficient size, labor relations, product markets, and management style.


Molybdenum (Mo)

An alloying element used as a raw material for some classes of stainless steel. Molybdenum in the presence of chromium enhances the corrosion resistance of stainless steel.


Months of Inventory

Ratio of the end-of-period inventory to average monthly level of sales for the period.



Net Operating Loss (NOLs)

An income-averaging provision that allows companies with losses to either carry forward the loss up to 15 years to offset otherwise taxable future income, or carry back the NOLs up to three years to receive a refund for taxes previously paid (see FAS 109).


Nickel (Ni)

An alloying element used as a raw material for certain classes of stainless steel. Nickel provides high degrees of ductility (ability to change shape without fracture) as well as resistance to corrosion. Approximately 65% of all nickel is used in the making of stainless steel.


Nickel-Based Superalloys 5

Nickel-based alloys developed for very high temperature service where relatively high stresses are encountered and where high surface stability is frequently required. Typical applications are aircraft turbine and land-based turbine components.


Niobium 5

An exotic alloy valued for its strength at extremely high temperatures and its ability to superconduct, or pass electricity with minimal resistance, at very low temperatures. It is used in aerospace applications, in superconducting magnets in MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) equipment, when alloyed with titanium, and in particle accelerators.


No. 1 Heavy Melt

Obsolete steel scrap grade, at least one-quarter inch in thickness and in sections no larger than five feet by two feet. Much of the metal comes from demolished buildings, truck frames and heavy duty springs. Minimills are primary consumers of No. 1 heavy scrap.



Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG)

Label applied to the pipe products used by petroleum exploration customers. OCTG includes casing, drill pipe, and oil well tubing, which, depending on their use, may be formed through welded or seamless processes.


OPEB Expense

Other Postretirement Employment Benefits: Usually refers to health care obligations to a mill’s retired workers, although its meaning also can include layoff benefits (see FAS 106).


Open Hearth Furnace

A broad, shallow hearth to refine pig iron and scrap into steel. Heat is supplied from a large, luminous flame over the surface, and the refining takes seven to nine hours. Open Hearths, at one time the most abundant steelmaking furnaces among integrated companies, have been replaced by the basic oxygen furnace.


Operating Rates

The ratio of raw steel production to the mill’s stated capacity. Each December, steel companies report to the AISI their estimated capacity (if they could sell all steel they produced) for the following year, adjusted for any facility downtime.


Order Rate

The ratio of new orders recorded to the mill’s capacity to produce the steel to fill the orders. Many analysts view trends in the order rate as harbingers of future production levels.



A method of winding narrow strip steel over a much wider roll. Customers want to have as much steel on a coil as will fit in their machines, so they can spend less time moving the material and more time using it. By coiling the strip like fishing line (or thread) over a spool, a much longer strip can fit onto a coil of proper diameter. Oscillate-wound coils allow the customer to enjoy longer processing runs.

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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Steel…But Were Afraid to Ask

Michelle Applebaum Research provides this collection of terms and concepts used in our research, company and industry reports, and other steel publications as an invaluable tool for those in the steel industry.

Reproduction of all or part of this glossary is specifically prohibited without the written consent of the author.