Customer satisfaction at its best

To Nucor Steel Gallatin, Ghent, Kentucky, U.S.A., system supplier SMS group delivered a new “heat-to-coat” plant, a new plant type combining pickling and hot-dip galvanizing. Engineering, process technology, equipment, electrical and drive systems as well as the entire X-Pact® plant automation and digital sensors: SMS group designed and built the line as a complete unit.
In addition a holistic digitalization package for material tracking, quality documentation and sophisticated production planning was installed turning the new “Heat-to-coat” plant into one of the most sophisticated pickling and galvanizing lines in the world.

To shorten the ramp-up and ensure efficient production right from the start SMS group conducted holistic integration tests for the complete automation system that also included the digital production planning system.

"Just for being a partner in general - SMS group did a great job!

From a Nucor point of view, it was very helpful to have all equipment, mechanics, electrics, and automation from a single supplier. It really let the technical know-how of SMS group flow between it, and we were able to get one integrated line by doing it that way."

Production planning with the Manufacturing Execution Suite 4.0

To boost the production efficiency of the new “Heat-to-Coat” plant even further, SMS group also integrated the Manufacturing Execution Suite 4.0 into the scope of the automation and digitalization package. The Manufacturing Execution Suite 4.0 features a state-of-the-art software architecture and modular, extendable structures that offer economic benefits to that modern and highly productive company. It was seamlessly integrated into the X-Pact® automation solution of the new strip processing line and into the customer’s ERP system. Thanks to its modular structure the customer got to chose exactly those modules that ideally matched production requirements:

  • Technical Order Generator turns customer orders into production orders, including predefined set points and other production relevant production parameters.
  • Production Sequencer determines the optimal sequence for the strips to be produced
  • Business Intelligence Manager offers interactive, web-based reportings on key production data.

Comprehensive integration test before delivery

Long before the plant was fully commissioned, its digital twin, fitted with the same automation technology, went through an extensive series of integration tests as part of our X-Pact® Plug & Work concept. SMS group
experts installed the automation system for the new line in the test center in Mönchengladbach, Germany and then connected it with a virtual simulation of the plant and of the production process. All operation modes and processes were simulated in real-time and visualized by using X-Pact® Vision, with the original hardware and software on the customer’s systems.
That way, a high level of integration was achieved. Especially that concerned the Manufacturing Execution Suite 4.0: the loop from Nucors ERP to the virtual production and back was fully tested. With this test, Nucor was very confident to start with reliable system and achieve steep curve for production start-up. The staff, trained on original control panels, left the test field feeling positive and highly motivated. This meant that the line could be put into operation much more quickly later on.

The Plug & Work commissioning process was probably one of my favorite parts of the entire project. From two stand points: One, it gave us a chance to test all of the automation systems together, offline. That way when everything got here, it just worked. The second was it gave time for our operators and maintenance people to build a relationship with the commissioning engineers. And that made commissioning go much quicker, because those relationships were built ahead of time.
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