Welcome to the smart factory of the future!
Did you know we’re on the eve of a fourth great industrial revolution? It will ring in a world in which maximum use is made of internet-based technologies. Let’s take a look at how we’re working at Industry 4.0 in ArcelorMittal Belgium.
In the first industrial revolution, which took place at the end of the eighteenth century, the introduction of steam and machine-based production took centre stage. The second revolution brought electricity, and the third and most recent revolution rang in the age of computers and robots. The digital technologies that arose from this third revolution have, in the meanwhile, become so powerful, communicative and autonomous as to bring about a fourth revolution.
As an innovative company in which information technology and automation are levers for our technological advancement, ArcelorMittal Belgium already took the first steps towards this fourth revolution and Industry 4.0 some years ago. For example we’re pioneers in the field of large-scale crane automation. We developed the underlying technology entirely in-house and have meanwhile also deployed it to other sites in the ArcelorMittal group.
The Internet of Things
Becoming a ‘smart’ steel factory also involves the associated installation of sensors in our facilities. These sensors will share measurements with our co-workers and/or with other facilities via the network. The fact that facilities and not just computers, smartphones and tablets communicate with one another is described as the Internet of Things (IoT). Facilities will learn from other facilities, so they will be able to predict a quality problem or upcoming maintenance for example. The more facilities are interconnected, the more data can be exchanged and so the smarter these facilities become. In our day-to-day life too the Internet of Things is increasingly making its presence felt. You have only to think of self-driving cars, 3D-printing, etc.
The huge quantity of data generated by the Internet of Things comes under the name ‘Big Data’. Big Data are data sets that are too big to be handled by conventional data management and processing methods. At the same time, these volumes of data are produced at greater speed and in a wider variety of data formats. The challenge for our co-workers consists in extracting the right information from these data sets with which to then construct mathematical models that can lead to more efficient production processes, improved cost efficiency, additional automation, etc.
In the past few years at ArcelorMittal Belgium we’ve paid great attention to the above subjects. Every day our co-workers, together with ArcelorMittal’s worldwide R&D teams and external collaborators, go in search of the next step towards the ‘steel factory of the future’, constantly pushing the limits of steel making.
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