One of our favorite topics at SMS group may sound a little perplexing at first, but bear with us; it's worth it. Let’s talk about creating a digital reality that is so close to the physical steelmaking reality, that they are virtually indistinguishable from one another in terms of the data they produce. Why would anyone want to do that? Because in the context of a modern steel mill, that means saving a ton of resources and money. But that's just half the story - let's take a closer look at the fascinating world of the digital twin and how it fits into the SMS group Lifecycle Partnership concept.

The official definition

Published by Grieves and J. Vickers in 2016 under the unwieldy title of "Digital Twin: Mitigating Unpredictable, Undesirable Emergent Behavior in Complex Systems", here's how the authors put it: "The Digital Twin is a set of virtual information constructs that fully describes a potential or actual physical manufactured product from the micro atomic level to the macro geometrical level. At its optimum, any information that could be obtained from inspecting a physically manufactured product can be obtained from its Digital Twin."

The Digital Twin is a set of virtual information constructs that fully describes a potential or actual physical manufactured product from the micro atomic level to the macro geometrical level.

What that means for you

For our purposes, the idea is that you create a digital representation of a physical object to simulate every aspect of its actual or potential behavior without having to deal with the real-world consequences of changes you make to the thing or the processes it is part of. In other words, you can perform simulations without consuming resources or incurring costs. Think of it this way: Let's say we built a digital twin of you. Based on your actual physical traits, we could now program your twin to forecast what would happen to you if you lived on nothing but broccoli for 3 weeks straight. We'd know the changes to physical parameters such as shifts in heart rate under stress, blood sugar levels, and body weight. We could even extrapolate effects on life expectancy and general health—all without you eating a single piece of broccoli. But we’re of course not talking about you. The principle of what we’ve just described applies 1:1 to what we at SMS group do when we create a digital twin of a steel mill.

From data to reality

Before our client put a single bolt of the new facility in place at the Big River Steel plant in Osceola, USA, the entirety of the future equipment had already been tested and optimized, and staff had been fully trained on it - on the digital twin that helped reduce commission time by up to 30%.

The stages of a digital twin

The digital twin is much more than just a planning or prototyping tool. Once its real-world counterpart exists, the real-time data that the two exchange - process data, master data, metadata, or ERP data - can be used in algorithms and applications to predict, optimize, and execute processes faster, more accurately, and efficiently than ever before.

Business advantage

And now for the exciting part: The digital twin offered by SMS group creates a bottom-line business advantage. Overall, when your digital solutions are implemented as part of a digital twin implementation, annual EBITDA increases of 6-8% are entirely within reach.

Looking at some concrete areas of application, it becomes clear how such impressive gains are almost unsurprising:

  • Monitoring: The vast amount of information available and the ability to sort, structure, and visualize it according to roles and responsibilities, creates a view of the plant and its processes unprecedented in scope, depth, and clarity.
  • Simulation: Testing and optimizing new products or processes in a digital twin simulation is faster, less resource-intensive, and lowers risk.
  • Optimization: Being able to make changes to optimize the entire plant without interfering with production or risking machine failure is a huge win.
  • Prediction: Using machine learning and artificial intelligence tools, critical aspects of processes, plant condition, availability, and product quality can be predicted and optimized.
  • Training: The rich and comprehensive virtual replication of machines and processes is an ideal training environment that doesn't interfere with production, maximizes training time, and produces zero risk to active operations. We are taking a more in-depth look at the advantages of digital twin training in our Plug & Work article

Digital twins open up wide-ranging perspectives for optimizing metals production. They can be implemented regardless of the lifecycle phase of your plant - even as part of modernization or when replacing individual components. Contact your SMS group consultant or our digitalization specialists to talk about how you can benefit from digital twin technology.

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