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Codifying industry knowledge into real-time actionable rules to consistently manufacture high quality steel

The key to success for any manufacturing company is real time information and quick contextual analytics through manufacturing intelligence. This in turn leads to improved plant efficiency and product quality, and also enhances asset utilization and wastage reduction.

In Steel production, the manufacturers prefer capital intensive continuous casting as improved efficiency enables the company to make the most out of their existing capabilities. When an international steel manufacturer needed to upgrade their manufacturing practices, they collaborated with Axcend to ‘code’ their industrial knowledge into actionable rules and intelligent technology.

Client

Tata Steel Projects (erstwhile ‘Corus’), an international steel manufacturer hired us to leverage our expert knowledge in this field and our proven competency in the area of Information Technology in manufacturing.

Customer Challenges

 In the competitive world of steel, there is continuous pressure to squeeze the margins in order to win lucrative business opportunities. This margin squeeze puts a strain on the equipment manufacturers who are already under constant pressure from the client.In order to offset this margin cut, the manufacturers were focusing on increasing operational efficiency and reducing the operating costs while demanding higher quality output at the same time.

Post Production Quality Inspection, did not present an opportunity for corrective action to the client. Defects originating from a specific point went undetected until inspection. At which point, it was too late to act. As a result, the entire Bloom was awarded a lower grading. This and the challenge of optimizing steel wastage affected the profitability of the manufacturer.

Axcend’s Solution

From our strategic knowledge-sharing partnership with Tata Steel and several years of experience working with large companies in the steel manufacturing industry, we infer that accurate and efficient grading of steel can help improve labor productivity, increase product quality and reduce scrap all the same time. We introduced ITRACK, an Online Grading and Piece Tracking (OGPT) system for quality improvement and waste reduction in Continuous Steel Casting Process. ITRACK has defined set of rules obtained from casting performance data such as Process Temperature, Casting Speed, Level of liquefied Steel in the mould and Spray Cooling. This set of rules governs the relationship between the casting parameters and the quality of steel produced. The rules provide critical information required to monitor for deviation in parameters during the continuous monitoring process thus providing real time intelligence in defining the quality of steel (i.e Blooms) produced.

Graphs

Providing real-time information on the quality of the Bloom produced leaves sufficient time for the operators to initiate corrective action.

Process Flow

One of the key features of ITRACK is it enables Forward Scheduling i.e. it can create specific schedules for casting based on the customer’s needs and quality desired. The continuous tracking mechanism provides for tracking the process signals based on the sequence length and provides cast-specific information. It is also possible to control the process with output signals. The online grading system establishes the grading rules needed for the desired quality. The continuous tracking system enables automatic upgrade or downgrade of the Bloom based on the process signals and the manual re-grade options. ITRACK also facilitates automated dynamic control for water spray. This enables consistent strand temperature thereby resulting in superior quality steel. Cutting can be scheduled Strand-wise and there are also a manual override options for cutting. Process efficiency is obtained by optimizing schedule to get the maximum possible output for the tonnage cast. ITRACK provides intuitive user-friendly and contextual reports for making informed decisions and historical analysis. The installation of ITRACK directly translated into business benefits for the client. The client straightaway realized higher price for the steel as the quality of the grade improved significantly because of the optimal cooling process using the Dynamic Water Spray system. The client was able to optimize their process flow and plant utilization through real time, automated online Steel grading & tracking. The client’s profitability increased from the reduced wastage as they were able to obtain maximum output through the Optimized Schedule system.

Informed decision making was made possible by real-time visibility of data and smart technology, allowing the management to make meaningful interventions in the operations management.

To know more about how we can help with Real time monitoring system, please visit our intelligence practice. For more on our Product development solutions, see Development.