Servicing processing lines through remote access

Dramatic advances in IT and data-management technologies enable a new dimension of service support

Many aspects of steel production have changed dramatically with increasing levels of digitalization and data- management systems. This also applies to metallurgical plant service. For more than ten years now, Primetals Technologies has been focusing on having the necessary hard- and software in place to be able to efficiently provide digital-based remote services. Activities include setting up the right software functionalities and establishing dedicated service expert teams. As such, it has been possible to respond to customer requests in a timely manner to avoid production disruptions and to sustain quality levels. The merits of remote servicing of processing lines to create value for customers has already been demonstrated by Primetals Technologies.

Quality monitoring systems and services

To assist steelmakers in quality and process optimization across the entire steel production chain, and also to effectively handle important data from different automation and monitoring systems, Primetals Technologies offers a through-process quality-control system (TPQC). This know-how, rule-based system for metallurgical plants can be steadily extended and upgraded with additional know-how rules derived from operational data and experience, such as metallurgical, numerical and process-related rules.

Another product that can be integrated in the TPQC as well as installed as a stand-alone solution is the TCOptimizer (total condition optimizer). This unique and advanced software is used for just-in-time warnings and features computing intelligence that highlights relevant events without overwhelming users with gigabytes of data (Figure 1). This central expert system collects data and signals from all parts of the production chain by means of the embedded Business Rule Management System (BRMS). The BRMS is based on simple logical expressions and decision trees to allow non-IT specialists to handle the incoming signals and to manage the generated relevant- only manufacturing events and just-in-time warnings.

Designed for enabling remote access, in-line functionalities can be accessed directly from offices of Primetals Technologies and their network of experts. Of course, remote activities are only carried out with the prior authorization of the customer. The BRMS is used to pre-analyze the selected data so that only the relevant information and alarms are transmitted to the connected expert. Through this approach, timely answers to specific issues can be provided, even via lower-speed Internet connections. In processing lines, for example, pre-processing of data is based on 10 m long coil segments for addressing quality- tracking requirements and optimizing data volumes to be loaded.

Technical assistance through remote access is usually provided to help diagnose process deviations and to tune business-rule parameters, such as alarm thresholds. With this approach, additional assistance in the metallurgical field can be provided in a very efficient manner to determine the possible root causes of deviations.

Screenshot display of a laser welder monitoring system showing clearly arranged key information

Quality measurement gauges:
SIAS surface inspection

Surface-inspection systems monitor quality, and therefore ensuring maximum availability of the installed hardware and software systems is vital to optimize overall plant yield. For years, these components have been supplied and serviced by Primetals Technologies on a continuous basis, such as for processing lines (Figure 2). More recently, however, remote-access functionalities have been implemented to ensure a broader field of support. Advantages include timely hardware diagnosis, support over a longer time span and defect-detection analysis.

Condition-monitoring systems

Typically, 80% of maintenance resources in world-class facilities are spent on predictive and preventive activities. This is decisive to sustain productivity, to assure high quality levels and to create value through optimized use of production equipment. Primetals Technologies now offers a predictive-maintenance package that employs condition-based monitoring and advanced maintenance technologies to monitor equipment condition. Figure 3 shows an example of a screenshot display of a laser-​welder monitoring system. Here again, the vast amount of data produced every day – that often remains unused – is identified, selected and processed to deliver accurate machine and plant diagnoses. With decades of experience in the metallurgical business, specialists at Primetals Technologies know where to look and recognize the most valuable information from this data as the basis for optimizing plant performance.

Remote service fully backed by on-site service

Thanks to the evolution of data-management technologies, a wide range of new services are offered by Primetals Technologies to support optimized plant performance. As described above, these services cover a wide range of topics that extend from equipment diagnosis to process-data analysis. Nonetheless, on-site assistance will continue to remain a cornerstone of the service portfolio offered by Primetals Technologies to deal with issues that cannot be resolved remotely. The combination of online and remote service in the context of a lifecycle partnership is the ideal combination to create value for producers.