Looking to streamline production, enhance quality control, and boost plant efficiency, SSAB turned to SMS group’s digitalization experts to support them on their path towards a fossil-free steelmaking process. The future target is to move from blast furnace production to sustainable electricity-based steel production in the north of Europe. We support this transformation by installing a system platform that consists of our level 3 MES 4.0 production planning system as well as interconnected level 2 logistic modules. The goal is to smoothly replace a comprehensive production planning solution, which was developed inhouse. Established workflows and the requirements of the transformation towards fossil-free steel production are to be considered, and advanced functions must to be integrated. Besides the supply of the new system platform, it is of major significance for SSAB that long-term sup­port and maintenance is ensured.

Integrated automation and digitalization

This project is a perfect fit for our MES 4.0 production planning – a holistic production planning suite, specifically developed for the metals industry. The modular system can get to work as early as anticipating customer behavior to incorporate this analysis into further production planning, from capacity allocation to detail planning.
For SSAB modules for the generation of technical orders, sequence planning as well as rescheduling of production orders in case of need were implemented. The system’s quality control module analyzes all relevant data from the entire production process against the order’s specification. Deviations are detected early on so that adjustments can be made accordingly.

Also integrated in the Manufacturing Execution Suite 4.0 was the optimization of charge materials for the EAF which must consider the transformation phases of SSAB from scrap and pig iron to primary DRI charges. In addition, the ladle management system tracks ladle positions, defines transport jobs and monitors transport times. The timely interdependences in steel making processes make a close integration of production planning with the logistics systems for hot metal, liquid steel and slabs indispensable. This way, the entire material flow becomes transparent with minimal latency time. Further models for automatic heat pacing and overall temperature management from melting units up to completion of casting improve overall production. Especially in unforeseen situations, it can be optimally reacted, e.g. to prevent stoppage of caster sequence or to avoid down-graded products.

Supporting the customer’s extensive and ambitious transition towards fossil-free steelmaking with our Manufacturing Execution Suite and automation solutions involved specialists and resources from many SMS group divisions.

Enabling a fossil-free future

SMS group delivered optimized and reproducible process control that reduces production costs, enhances product quality, and improves productivity. Furthermore, with the integrated slab yard system, our Manufacturing Execution Suite optimizes the two continuous casting plants and the slab yard with a complex diffusion treatment. This allows the entire logistics to be controlled and optimized. The Business Intelligence Manager evaluates the production data and presents it as an effective key performance indicator for continuously optimizing costs and quality.

With our integrated solutions the customer is now able to maintain a very high degree of process and quality control throughout the transition to a fossil-free steelmaking process. The whole process from receipt of customer orders until shipment of finished goods can now be tracked and optimized. An unmatched transparency between production planning and execution was established.

The future is interconnected

In the future, process stages and even production sites will be interlinked even closer. This requires integrated concepts that can be implemented step by step, depending on the capabilities and circumstances of a plant. SSAB in particular shows that a well-integrated plant can be prepared for a fossil-free future while at the same time optimizes established processes. 
Previous boundaries in automation levels and the interaction with IT systems will thus inevitably become more blurred. The challenge remains to enable this transformation process in automation for existing plants as well as new plants, to avoid an increase in overall complexity and to keep an eye on user acceptance. This is what SMS group stands for as a full provider for automation, digitalization and service.