ABB partner in the digitalization of the steel industry

Digitalization equals both opportunities and challenges when the steel industry develops for a sustainable future. To build value-creating, integrated and optimized solutions, visions, comprehensive approaches and stable partnerships are required.

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Ola Norén, Head of Metallurgy, ABB.

First published in Bergsmannen, No 1, February 2023.

Innovation, technology development and digitalization are crucial when the industry changes to a sustainable society. Several trends affect the future of the steel industry. This includes powerful, integrated solutions that accelerate the phasing out of fossil fuels, new business models to ensure value creation and competitiveness, and autonomous operations across transparent value chains.

The steel industry is under great pressure to change from an environmental, political and cultural perspective. Our customers in industry set ambitious goals for energy management and reduced emissions, increased productivity, uptime, cost control and optimized capacity. To succeed, data from equipment, processes, engineering and business systems must be integrated so that basic data requirements are met and can be used in digital applications, says Ola Norén, Head of Metallurgy at ABB, who works with technology solutions that improve cost and energy efficiency in steel and aluminum manufacturing.

First smart steel industry of its kind

Data models and analytics make it possible to optimize production and increase safety, and with the help of artificial intelligence, advanced support systems can be built, systems that are trained by looking at historical data and decades of process knowledge.

But while access to large data sets, advanced algorithms and powerful computing capacity is a prerequisite for progress, the focus is often limited to individual process sections. It is only when all systems can communicate with each other that real benefits can be achieved from the possibilities of digitization. An example is JSW Steel Ltd. Together with India's leading steel company, ABB has created the first smart factory solution of its kind in the steel industry. Here, a digital solution connects several process steps and with real-time data from the smelter via ladle and tap systems to casting, it becomes possible to optimize thermal losses. The digital solution responds to one of the steel industry's major challenges; to reduce energy consumption while ensuring high quality.

JSW Steel expects to increase the company's EBITDA profit by approximately $2 million per year through higher casting speeds, time savings and additional production. The lower energy consumption also means fewer consumables and a lower carbon footprint, says Ola Norén.

The digital solution ABB Ability™ Smart Melt Shop enables metals producers to closely track and schedule the transport of molten metal from furnace to caster. Photo: Adobe Stock

Energy management improves predictability and reduces costs

Digital solutions create customer value throughout the entire life cycle. Around the world there are more examples where ABB, together with customers, has reduced costs and risks, and improved safety, productivity and energy efficiency. At France's second largest industrial plant, an optimization model for energy costs based on real-time data has been implemented. Thanks to increased accuracy in the forecasts, big savings are made every month.

With the help of digital solutions, there are great opportunities to integrate, visualize and automate processes and thus create flexible facilities where production can be adapted to varying energy prices, says Ola Norén.

The steel industry's products are indispensable for the development of a sustainable society. Collaboration is crucial for the development of a sustainable steel industry.

In partnership, we can build a digital, autonomous and fossil-free steel industry. By continuing to challenge and be challenged by our partners in industry, we at ABB will be involved in driving technology development further, says Ola Norén.

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