Smart factories promote high-quality development of steel companies and help reduce costs and increase efficiency

1. Driving force of smart steel mills


1) Promote high-quality development and realize the conversion of old and new driving forces

Since the “19th National Congress” proposed high-quality economic development, a consensus has been reached within and outside the industry to promote the accelerated transformation and upgrading of my country’s industry and achieve high-quality development. As a basic raw material industry, the steel industry can only meet the demands of high-quality economic development by continuously creating high-quality, high-performance steel products. In the future, the real economy and the digital economy will accelerate and in-depth integration, and new infrastructure construction represented by 5G networks, industrial Internet, artificial intelligence, big data centres, etc. will grow rapidly and inject new momentum into my country’s new round of economic growth, and will also provide new opportunities for the steel industry. Accelerate transformation and upgrading to inject new impetus.


2) Promote industrial transformation and upgrading


The steel industry has strong cyclical characteristics, fierce homogeneous competition, long production processes, and a large amount of equipment involved. In the long run, lower comprehensive costs, higher product-added value and differentiated services will become the core competitiveness of enterprises to stand out.

China’s steel industry should seize the opportunity period of intelligent manufacturing and realize the transformation from big to strong. In essence, the intelligent upgrade of steel companies is not simply automation and informatization, nor is it simply migrating offline business models online. What it requires is to integrate all factors and reconstruct the entire business structure. , supply chain and industrial chain, and build a new digital ecological community, thereby promoting industrial transformation and upgrading, adjusting and optimizing the industrial structure.


3) Help reduce costs and increase efficiency


There is no doubt about the strategic importance of smart factories. Early practice shows that smart factories can help improve corporate operational efficiency and improve profitability. In the United States alone, as many as 86% of manufacturers believe that by 2025, smart factories will become the main driving force for improving corporate competitiveness.

Various studies continue to show that smart factory technology that combine capabilities such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), cloud computing, edge computing, robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence and machine learning, vision systems, augmented reality systems, and virtual reality systems It can reduce business costs and improve productivity, product quality, safety and profitability.

Intelligent manufacturing in the steel industry is reflected in the development from mechanization and automation to digitalization, networking, and intelligence, and from computers and the Internet to cloud computing, big data, and artificial intelligence. For more than ten years, intelligent manufacturing in the steel industry has been booming, helping steel mills to effectively shorten product development cycles, reduce operating costs, improve production efficiency, improve product quality, reduce resource and energy consumption, and improve the working environment of employees. On the other hand, most steel companies lack systematic digital and intelligent information platforms, and there are data barriers in the connection between the procurement, production, and sales links of the industrial chain, which directly leads to artificial intelligence technologies such as big data and the Internet of Things. The smart factories of most steel companies have not yet fully exerted their effect, and have not yet realized huge and significant value.


2. Intelligent steel plant system architecture


According to the horizontal (industrial chain and value chain), vertical (equipment-automation-informatization-management), and end-to-end (production-R&D-sales-service) dimensions, a comprehensive intelligent manufacturing system architecture is constructed, and through system integration in each dimension, build a strategic competition and cooperation digital ecosystem, and create a steel smart factory with unlimited potential.


1) Intelligent decision support


At the intelligent decision-making level, we integrate domestic big data construction technical solutions and examples, consolidate the hardware foundation for big data computer room system development, and integrate basic data collection, data association and data governance into the entire process and production process. Combining general indicators in the metallurgical industry with production-specific indicators, a comprehensive production and operation KPI system is constructed. In the management cockpit system, the output, production inventory, manufacturing cost, equipment operating status monitoring and other aspects of each unit during the production process are visually displayed, and the production and operation KPI system is modelled.

The above measures help senior managers to monitor production and operation status intuitively and efficiently, and effectively support reasonable management and risk control. For example, Ansteel Group, on the one hand, uses big data, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, industrial robot cluster applications and other technologies and intelligent equipment in the metallurgical production process to achieve simulation optimization, digital control and adaptive and self-decision-making control of the metallurgical manufacturing process; On the other hand, based on the construction of the industrial Internet platform, we promote the integrated collaborative application of product life cycles, user services, and supply chains to achieve intelligent management and control, information linkage, and intelligent decision-making.


2) Intelligent production resource management


With the goal of “reducing costs, improving quality, and increasing efficiency”, we implement the principle of “sharing resources and strengthening collaboration”, adhere to the upgrade path of “informatization, modelling, and intelligence”, and deeply integrate the new generation of information and communication technology into steel technology Process, operational technology, operations management. Promote single-point breakthroughs in the application of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, industrial robots, machine vision, and 5G in key scenarios, focusing on smart production lines, smart operation and maintenance, smart stockyards, smart logistics, smart services, smart parks and other fields to comprehensively complement the shortcomings of production line automation and informatization should be strengthened to strengthen the basis of production line modelling.

Among them, the intelligent production scheduling subsystem pursues large-scale production and optimal economic batch size on the basis of fully considering the individual needs of customers, and effectively coordinates the contradiction between production and marketing. Through the optimized sequencing of production orders and the optimal configuration of production resources, the system can flexibly respond to emergency orders, special orders and order changes. It not only achieves rapid response to order delivery times, improves the accuracy of product delivery time, but also optimizes the production rhythm. Improve equipment utilization hot delivery and hot loading rates. For example, the integration of Baotou Steel Group’s production management system and management information system has further realized the transformation from an empirical judgment model to a data-supported decision-making judgment model, making the production process more stable and smooth.


3) Intelligent production, marketing and research process collaboration


From the perspective of intelligent collaboration between production, marketing and research, based on the big data platform, we integrate marketing, actual sales, production quality and other data to conduct sales modelling, changing “manual forecasting based on order history” to “intelligent forecasting based on actual sales” to improve forecasting Accuracy. On the basis of accurate forecasts, customized intelligent production scheduling solutions built for the company’s internal mechanisms can be used to iterate production plans in real-time based on actual orders based on sales forecast results, shortening the production cycle. Starting from customer needs, we strengthen the role of marketing guidance, build a product research and development platform based on knowledge base means, realize the digitization of product research and development, conduct fundamental thinking and redesign the product research and development design process, shorten the research and development cycle, accurately identify and lead demand.

Based on big data modelling calculations, it is possible to comprehensively consider the layout of marketing resources, factory production resources, and distribution resources, and achieve optimal construction of the logistics network. Intelligent Production and Marketing Research carries out in-depth intelligent transformation from aspects such as sales, production scheduling, logistics, R&D, and technical quality, and builds a product collaborative manufacturing management system with product operation collaboration as the core to collaboratively support production and marketing connection, order management, quality design, and planning and scheduling. and other business segments, thereby achieving significant improvements in operational efficiency. For example, through the construction of information system projects, Rizhao Iron and Steel promotes the integrated and coordinated application of product life cycles, user services, and supply chains, so that advanced information technology and production and operation elements can be fully coordinated and integrated.


4) Intelligent quality process control


From the perspective of full life cycle product quality control, by improving the quality information of each process, increasing the granularity of quality information, integrating multi-process related data, and laying a solid foundation for quality management data; establishing a process control marking system based on product performance prediction models, Realize dynamic quality design and refined quality control of the production process, which not only optimizes the schedule but also reduces the range of finished product quality fluctuations; conduct product quality inspection from the aspects of customer demand, product development, manufacturing, logistics, customer use, waste recycling, etc. Tracking and monitoring realize the quality management of the entire product life cycle, which greatly meets the personalized needs of users.

By using the big data analysis technology of smart factories, we can accurately locate the comprehensive judgment results of the size, performance, surface quality and other aspects of each production process in the entire product process. Control the entire process of product quality, monitor and adjust abnormal conditions in real-time, and further reduce the scrap rate and correction rate, thereby achieving quality optimization. By implementing online quality automatic detection to identify the number of defects and their found locations, it can identify multiple processes with high defect rates, thereby helping companies to promptly troubleshoot production line problems and optimize process flows, greatly improving the accuracy of determination. At the same time, combined with the customer’s order requirements, the guidance post automatically executes intelligent slitting, thereby achieving accurate slitting of finished products. With the help of digital and modular management tools, quality engineers promote and improve quality control throughout the product life cycle based on the management control process of quality improvement support, quality process enhancement and quality design supplementation. For example, the steel rolling system of Shougang Co., Ltd. realizes online diagnosis of rolls, automatic monitoring of process indicators, and automatic determination of product quality.


5) Interconnection of smart devices


From the perspective of equipment intelligence, we combine steel manufacturing processes and product characteristics, apply new technologies and new concepts, focus on supplementing and improving collection sensing devices, apply industrial robots, build intelligent equipment management systems, and create intelligent equipment to achieve equipment management. Information depth perception, intelligent optimization decision-making and precise coordinated control.

From the perspective of intelligent diagnosis of equipment status, it is very important for steel companies to develop an intelligent control system. The monitoring scope of the smart factory equipment monitoring and intelligent diagnosis system includes the operating status of each component, motor voltage, motor current, gas pressure, maintenance parameters, energy consumption, vibration, temperature, etc. Through the collection, analysis and processing of these data, It can effectively judge and manage the working conditions of the production equipment site, subsequent maintenance and the economic benefits generated, and realize the transformation of “remote online monitoring”, “equipment status big data platform” and “system intelligent diagnosis”.

In order to effectively avoid operational risks, optimize business and centralized operation and maintenance, and reduce labour intensity, automation function upgrades, intelligent video surveillance, intelligent equipment interconnection, and equipment status diagnosis systems must be equipped. By centralizing personnel and operations, the business will be further integrated and a qualitative change in production management will be achieved, that is, the production operation mode will change from decentralized monitoring of multi-point operations on site to centralized monitoring of automatic operation, and the focus of work will shift from focusing on operations to monitoring operations and focusing on process quality control. , to achieve a reduction in staff, increase efficiency, and improve management efficiency. For example, Hegang Group has launched full life cycle management of equipment and online diagnosis of equipment status, realizing intelligent self-diagnosis management of equipment control systems and intelligent management of equipment status.


3. Expected implementation effects


1) Direct economic benefits


The construction of smart steel plants may produce the following direct economic benefits: rational use of raw materials, fuel, and labour resources, optimizing production plans, increasing production capacity, output and product-added value; improving product quality and yield rate; maintaining material reserves and product quantity at Optimum level; improve labour productivity by reducing working hours losses and equipment accidents; save production and non-production labour; reduce costs and consumption; reduce production and non-production expenses. For example, through intelligent production resource management, the supply cycle and inventory can be shortened, and the resulting increase in revenue and expenses can be quantitatively calculated based on the shortened time and inventory reduction; through the saved manpower, the saved labour costs can be calculated wait.


2) Management benefits


Management efficiency mainly refers to the improvement in management level and management efficiency brought about by a series of changes in enterprise management. Through the design and practice of smart steel plants, the enterprise platform architecture is optimized from the technical level, and transformed from traditional information technology support to digital technology leadership; from the production organization level, an intelligent manufacturing demonstration production line is built to organically integrate physical entities and digital Virtual body; from the business management level, through the establishment of a shared service platform, we can obtain all-round, whole-process, and all-field data to truly realize the organic combination of information technology and business management; reform and reconstruct management thinking, development concepts, and organizational structure, technical capabilities, external cooperation, etc., to adapt to the needs of the Internet era and the intelligent era. For example, it helps managers make timely and accurate decisions; by introducing mathematical models, the decision support system interprets data in large quantities and flexibly to make decisions more scientifically; optimizes the information circulation structure; better achieves corporate goals; and improves corporate credibility and visibility. , expand influence, enhance competitiveness, etc.


3) Social benefits


Traditional manufacturing enterprises are an important carrier for realizing the transformation and upgrading of intelligent manufacturing. By building intelligent steel plants, they can achieve business collaboration and information sharing between the upstream and downstream of the industrial chain, cultivate and expand new business formats and new models, and point out the direction and path for the steel industry to transform into intelligent manufacturing. Standards lead the development of the steel industry.

Taking a 4 million-ton hot-rolled strip steel production plant that is at the industry average level as an example (the industry average is mostly at the level of automation and information-based workshops, and is intelligent to a certain extent), assuming that the intelligent upgrade does not affect the company’s existing The production and operation is carried out with the vision of building Baosteel Co., Ltd.’s 1580 intelligent workshop. The construction investment is expected to be approximately 400 million yuan. Since only the output and costs caused by new investments are considered, the new direct costs after project implementation are mainly depreciation and amortization fees increased due to equipment upgrades and other fixed asset investments. Improve production efficiency through intelligent deployment of robots, automatic production lines, etc. The improved efficiency is assumed to be based on a 5% increase in operating income; a reduction in personnel through advanced processing methods and information systems, a reduction in energy consumption, raw material loss and waste rate, etc., and saved operating costs Assuming a 15% reduction in operating costs. (Among them, the revenue and costs of hot-rolled strip steel mills refer to the industry average according to the Steel Association.)

Based on the above assumptions and parameters, through calculation and analysis, the new economic benefits and cost data for the 10 years after the construction of the smart steel plant were obtained (see table). It is expected that the average annual newly-adding benefit after the implementation of the project will be 622 yuan/t.

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