For many decades, our focus has been on new plants or modernizations as well as the production of the most important components in our own workshops. Services in today's sense include the supply of spare parts for many years. But as a rule, a project ends with the final acceptance of a plant.
A mindshift begins when the first technological control systems and process models are moving into steelworks at the end of the 1970s. SMS recognizes that without own expertise in this area, it is likely to become a junior partner in many projects. That is why the establishment of the Electrical and Automation Systems department begins in the mid-1980s. We start with process models such as pass schedule calculation or flatness control in flat rolling mills. As early as the 1990s, we supply the complete electrical and automation systems for CSP® plants, for example, and from the mid-2000s, we also cover the entire process chain in the E&A field.
Testing of the entire automation system using the Plug & Work method becomes a unique selling point. In 2004, our customer magazine describes this approach for the first time for an annealing line at US Steel Kosice. The entire automation system, including sensors and actuators is installed on servers and simulated against a "virtual plant". In this way, problems are detected and solved at an early stage so that commissioning in the works can be carried out quickly and smoothly. At the same time, the customer's operating teams are trained in the Plug & Work tests.
The basic concept of integration testing has been retained to this day, yet it has evolved. The "virtual plant" becomes a digital twin that not only replicates production processes, but is also used to test new products or production routines or, in combination with artificial intelligence, predicts critical aspects of processes, plant condition and availability, and product quality.