In this session of Pioneers Talk, we sit down with plant-logistics expert Stefan Mühlbock to discuss how his simulations are helping steel producers to make the right investment decisions.
Pioneers Talk is the new video format of Primetals Technologies, focusing on informative and empowering interviews with experts in metals production and beyond. Topics extend to new advances in digitalization and automation, breakthroughs in green-production solutions, and success strategies for steel producers on all continents.
Well, to realize your plant’s full potential can be very complicated. On the one side a detailed knowledge of the complex interdependencies of processing equipment and transportation system is required. But on the other side the simulation of complex plant logistics and its material flow is an excellent method of uncovering hidden bottlenecks.
Yeah, exactly yes.
Yeah, this is the main task of our investigations to find out bottlenecks, hidden bottlenecks, which are not easy to find. But with our simulation we have an excellent method to find such bottlenecks, and this is what our customer is expecting from us.
Yes, our major expertise is the production scheduling and the simulation of the logistical processes inside a melt shop. In our simulations we take care of the moving teeming ladles with transportation means like ladle transfer cars or cranes in the right way through the melt shop from the primary steelmaking to the secondary steelmaking and later to the continuous casting machines; and in the right way in this context means that the ladle has to be at the scheduled position exactly at the scheduled time.
Indeed, it is a special ladle. It’s a ladle which is circulating inside a melt shop with liquid steel in it coming from the primary steel making aggregate like a BF converter or electric arc furnace (EAF); and then going via the secondary steel making aggregates to the continuous casting machines and then through the casting process.
Yes, it’s a step-by-step approach. At the beginning of each investigation there is an on-site fact-finding in order to be able to obtain a general overview about the actual situation on-site
Afterwards, a realistic steel plant production schedule is created, in other words a simulation model is set up. Information like processing times, production routes, and the product mix and the corresponding quantities are combined to create one schedule of all units from primary steelmaking to continuous casting machines.
After the creation of the production schedule the first production bottlenecks can be already identified. An example can be that the treatment on a ladle furnace takes too long and then the next step is to check the visibility of the production schedule. As a part of the simulation, it is checked if enough capacity of the transportation means is available. If the simulation shows that the ladles are too late at the scheduled position and any delays occur some modifications are required. For example, it then can be considered to operate an additional crane.
Yeah, it’s a nice three-dimensional animation of our simulation where the ladles can be observed on their way through the meltshop.
Yes, indeed. Sometimes there are findings which our customers did not have in mind. In one study, a gradual transition from the classical BOF steelmaking towards hybrid steelmaking was planned to be realized and of course this transformation has an impact on the material flow inside the melt shop. In the run-up to this study our customer already had a very detailed and concrete idea for the transportation route of hot metal through the melt shop, but during the proof of concept it turns out that this special transportation route was not feasible. It wouldn’t have worked because the transportation system was completely overloaded in for this concept.
Together with our customer we developed a new different route which was later then proven by the simulation model and which delivers acceptable results for our customers.
There’s a second study of a big integrated plant where the customer’s focus mainly was on the BOF and the corresponding increase of productivity. The main finding of this study was that the bottleneck isn’t just the BOF converter. After the considered reduction of the tap-to-tap time of this converter, it turns out that the bottleneck was shifted from the BOF side to the secondary metallurgy.
As a result of the detailed investigation the simulation shows that the target production capacity is only achievable with an additional twin ladle furnace in operation
It often turns out that steel producers are operating their plants on a very high level and they almost hit their production limit of their plans
Yes. But I think in the future the steel producers will be confronted with a different kind of challenge like environmental regulations like CO2 regulations and therefore it becomes more and more attractive to operate your plant as a hybrid steelmaking plant.
In a hybrid steelmaking plant one or more electric arc furnaces are operated side by side with a BOF converter
Exactly. This is what we understand by hybrid steelmaking
Stefan Mühlböck is a senior expert in plant logistics at Primetals Technologies. He holds a degree in industrial mathematics with Johannes Kepler University of Linz, Austria, and likes to use his knowledge to understand and solve difficult problems—the higher the complexity, the better. His fascination with the facet-rich interactions of the many aggregates in a steel plant led Stefan to what he does today: solve super-complex problems for steel producers who want to optimize their plant logistics.
Dr. Tom Widter
Tom Widter joined Primetals Technologies in 2016 and now works in the Marketing and Communications department. He is Editor-in-Chief of Metals Magazine, the company’s customer magazine, and co-host of “Pioneers Talk”. Tom cares deeply about didactics, style, branding, the future of metals, personal growth, and the Oxford comma.