Unmanned crane control of hot rolling mill slab warehouse successfully operated

Optimize the application of intelligent technology in the entire warehouse area and fully realize unmanned cranes in the slab warehouse, which means that production operations such as slab loading, collecting, and dumping that were originally driven by personnel will all be operated by the unmanned intelligent crane control system. Instead, it effectively improves labour efficiency and the level of production management in the reservoir area and also takes an important step towards the intelligentization of hot rolling.

In December 2023, the unmanned operation of the slab warehouse of Zhanjiang Iron and Steel’s 2250 production line successfully passed the test of full-load production of the four furnaces of the production line; in January 2024, the unmanned operation rate of the slab warehouse of the 2250 production line increased for three consecutive months. Breaking through 98% and achieving a “good start” marks the formation of stable and high-tempo unmanned crane capabilities in the slab warehouse of the 2250 production line of the hot rolling mill.

Zhanjiang Iron and Steel Hot Rolling Plant has successfully realized unmanned crane control in all five warehouse areas before and after it, taking the lead in similar hot rolling production lines. It is also the first similar hot rolling production line with an annual output of more than 6 million tons to successfully operate at the slab warehouse unmanned crane and stable operation!


Introduction to the unmanned process of crane control in Zhanjiang Iron and Steel


slab warehouse crane


As of 2023, there is still a 2,250 production line slab warehouse in the five warehouse areas without realizing unmanned crane control in the Zhanjiang Iron and Steel Hot Rolling Plant. However, this is an extremely risky project. Before this, there was no similar hot-rolling production line with an output of more than 6 million tons has successfully achieved unmanned and stable operation in the slab warehouse. If it fails, slab collecting and loading will become the bottleneck for the stable and high-tempo operation of the 2250 production line.

Since the implementation of the 2250 production line slab warehouse unmanned crane project, it has been facing unprecedented three challenges:

1) High-tempo production and project online debugging and construction in parallel

2) There are no mature unmanned crane control cases for slab warehouses with an annual output of more than 6 million tons.

3) The rate of hot delivery and hot loading is increased in parallel with the debugging of the driving project.

Faced with these difficulties and challenges, the hot-rolling team faced them head-on.


1. Plan and debug projects in advance to accurately match production and repair schedules


The project team made a detailed breakdown and planning of the monthly, weekly, and daily installation and commissioning tasks, and then matched the scheduled maintenance time of the production line that month. Before shutting down, make sufficient preparations for manpower and materials, race against time, and utilize the limited test time to implement equipment installation and debugging in an orderly manner.


2. Optimize function debugging methods and productize function modules to save time


In order to avoid long downtime, the project team applied the productized slab WMS system for the first time, significantly reducing the debugging workload. It can make full use of fragmented debugging time, continuously optimize and improve core modules such as driving control logic, task allocation model, and driving scheduling model based on actual production, and effectively test the operating status of unmanned crane driving.


3. WMS warehouse management system “three up and three down” finally succeeded


The unmanned crane technical transformation project mainly includes the modification of the driving body and WMS system program debugging. Since the 2250 production line has been in a high-paced production state, the WMS system cannot be debugged in a formal production environment, which brings huge challenges and pressure to the official launch of the WMS system. The project team seized the annual maintenance opportunity of the 2250 production line and carried out comprehensive online debugging of the WMS system. They worked continuously for more than 70 hours. After “three ups and three downs”, the system was finally successfully launched. This is a milestone step. All subsequent operations in the slab warehouse will be operated on the unmanned warehouse management system, which is a solid step towards the full realization of unmanned crane control.

Online operation is the foundation, and whether the production line can meet the production rhythm is the key to verifying the success or failure of the project.


1. Create a breakthrough new technology for dynamic loading


In the past, unmanned crane control systems used a fixed mode, which often resulted in long waiting times, waste or failure to keep up. To solve this problem, the project leader led the team to think deeply, draw parallels, break conventional thinking, and create technical ideas for dynamic loading and MPC matching. They repeatedly discussed optimization with the development team and pushed forward unswervingly. In the end, breakthroughs in new technologies and models such as pre-loading and dynamic loading were effectively realized, laying a solid foundation for improving driving efficiency.


2. Balance the improvement of hot delivery and hot filling rates with project advancement


While meeting the need to increase the pace of high-load production, it is also necessary to take into account the increase in hot-sending and charging rates of slabs. This has brought new challenges to the unmanned crane control team. Faced with this challenge, the project team was not afraid of difficulties. Through in-depth on-site investigation of difficulties and bottlenecks, they integrated and decoded one by one, and created functions such as automatic DHCR direct connection and hot billet stacking, which effectively reduced the waste of hot billet resources. Since the project was put into operation, the hot delivery and hot charging rate has remained stable at more than 80%.

3. Coordinate the two lines and integrate the two warehouses into one to improve overall logistics efficiency


In the process of realizing the unmanned operation of the 2250 slab warehouse, how to achieve full interoperability between the two lines of slab warehouses? The project team incorporated this issue into the project. Optimize the transfer efficiency of 1780 and 2250 slab warehouses, and effectively reduce the negative impact of transfer on hot delivery and hot charging. The warehouse management system that has been put into operation is responsible for the effective management of complex materials in the warehouse, realizing the informatization and automation of driving and lifting, and ensuring the consistency of logistics and information flow, which not only improves the efficiency of logistics circulation between the two warehouses but also eliminates manual labour errors in information processing.


4. Steadily improve driving efficiency


In the process of promoting efficiency improvement, the rationality of driving instruction distribution is continuously optimized. The project team corrected the roller table positioning and driving instructions next to the high-temperature slab for 10 consecutive days, recorded the problems of each vehicle in detail, and promoted the elimination of defects by reading them every day. In the end, there were 3,826 on-site problem feedback records and 215 driving function optimization items. Through the unremitting efforts of the project team and continuous iterative improvements, the operating efficiency of the 2250 production line slab warehouse unmanned crane driving has been reduced by 25% compared to before the model optimization. The average operation time of a single pass has been reduced by 25%, and slab lifting has been greatly reduced. In total, the automatic rate has been above 98% for three consecutive months, meeting the high-load production needs of the 2250 production line.

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