Digitalisation beneficial for steel producers

28th February 2020 By: Mamaili Mamaila - Journalist

Digitalisation will become an increasingly important strategy for steel producers to achieve a competitive advantage in the market, says metallurgical industry plant and integrated systems provider SMS group MD Pieter Bezuidenhout.

“A pivotal mindset change for steel producers is to keep up with the fast-changing world of technology and to invest in Industry 4.0 – this could be achieved using a modular approach.”

SMS group key accounts manager Dawid Louw advances that digitalised plants typically optimise their production processes – from the raw material to the final product in an auto-adaptive way – by employing physical and data-based models as part of the integrated supply chain.

“We anticipate that the steel producers that will be successful in the future will have to counter the continuous increasing costs while attracting increasing demand.

“SMS group plays an important role in this regard – as a technology partner for clients to support their continuous steel production optimisation,” Bezuidenhout tells Engineering News.

He points out that SMS group has established SMS Digital to develop digitalisation value propositions for clients in the metals processing industries.

Some of these digital solutions include online condition monitoring, key component tracking, early fault-detection alarms, data analytics, machine learning and ideation workshops.

“This currently places SMS group in the favourable position to supply the next generation of digital products tailored to client demands,” he underscores.

Louw explains that, for instance, condition monitoring is a predictive maintenance and service system of production-critical components. Sensors are strategically installed on critical components. This enables maintenance departments to remotely track the condition and performance of the equipment and to predict failure in advance, as well as costly downtime.

This applies to aspects such as bearing vibration monitoring, oil film bearing monitoring, servo valve monitoring and motor monitoring.

“Through this solution, a steel plant can plan important preventive maintenance activities during planned shutdowns and manage critical parts in advance. We went a step further than the conventional supply on monitoring equipment, as we can supply real-time technical support to clients,” Bezuidenhout emphasises.

Additionally, the company developed the Genius CM condition monitoring system, designed to work in metallurgical processing plants such as steel production plants, hot and cold rolling mills, process lines and non-ferrous metal production plants.

This platform enables the user to be informed on the current condition of the equipment and send early alarms before the failures occur.

“The overall function of the system is to analyse the condition of the strategically installed sensors on the equipment to detect any failures before reaching a critical point. This is achieved through visually displaying the real-time measured and analysed results linked to process information, which could otherwise be obtained only through complicated and costly individual analysis. It can now be linked online in one software environment,” Louw tells Engineering News.

Further, the SMS group Smart Alarm is an intelligent alarm management system, developed to link all the alarms from clients’ processes to one intelligent and clear interface.

“This platform provides increased transparency – enabling the user to learn more about their plant and improve the availability of plant equipment – to reduce unplanned downtime. The system is easy to install, owing to the existing automation system that can be used without any hardware installation,” Louw enthuses.

Bezuidenhout comments that the increasingly challenging market conditions and macroeconomic conditions make it “extremely difficult” for steel producers to manage a profitable output, making close collaboration between government, labour, steel producers and technology partners “crucial” for the sustainability and growth of the steel industry.