The steel industry plays an essential role in developing the economic standing of any country. Since steel is a necessary component for every primary sector, to keep the country’s economy in full bloom, steel factories need to ensure that all production processes are running smoothly, which can be hindered by unplanned downtime.
Unexpected downtime can cost not just a lot of money and time for any steel plant but can also affect the production and growth of downstream industries dependent on steel production. Machine availability and reliability being the top concern in steel production, the cost of secondary damages of such breakdowns can be astronomical. This can significantly affect the quality, operational efficiency, loss of productivity, and increased risk of accidents on site. With such high stakes, using predictive maintenance to avoid unexpected downtime can be a gamechanger for steel plants.
What are the Challenges in Steel Manufacturing Industry?
PROCESS LEVEL CHALLENGES:
Steelmaking involves many manufacturing techniques which are time-consuming and complex. Apart from primary production processes, there are many sub-processes where the intermediate products are reheated, solidified or pressed into various forms, like pipes, sheets, bars, rods, and different structural shapes based on the requirement.
The primary steel manufacturing process is continuous and process-based, whereas the secondary manufacturing phases are discrete. What complicates it further is the fact that:
- Production process parameters from the upstream steel manufacturing processes strongly influence the downstream ones.
- The intermediate products in the process undergo both chemical and mechanical changes, making monitoring quality and output more difficult.
PLANT LEVEL CHALLENGES:
While steel manufacturing is already a complex process, steel plants may also face many on-ground challenges in maintaining efficiency, such as:
- Older & legacy machinery
- Frequent halts in production due to machine failure & downtime
- Expensive coal & raw materials
- Avoiding unexpected accidents on site
- Various external factors like lockouts, strikes, inefficient administration, and shortage of raw materials
Due to these challenges, steel plants face constant pressure to produce high-quality products in less time without any unexpected production halts. Unplanned downtimes can put the whole process on a stop, affect quality and production, and endanger the health and safety of workers on site.
What is Predictive Maintenance?
Predictive maintenance is the next level of condition-based maintenance that regularly monitors the operating condition and health of machines through edge computing. It helps predict asset issues before they occur, thus not disrupting the manufacturing workflow, reducing accidents, and improving the machine’s overall availability & reliability.
The data from the edge computing systems continuously provide results in real-time to alert you of machine performances and machine breakdowns. It also alerts you of maintenance based on what machine data indicates, which helps to avoid any unexpected repair costs.
Advantages of Predictive Maintenance for Steel plants
Reducing downtime and Ensuring asset longevity & RUL:
Failure of machines can be pretty stressful and is an added expense. Using predictive maintenance, you can predict issues ahead of time, reduce downtime of machines, increase uptime by 15-20%, schedule maintenance as and when required, and thus improve the lifeline of the old machine by up to 20%.
Reducing maintenance costs
Since all the machines in the steel manufacturing process are constantly monitored and fixed before the problem gets severe, maintenance and spare part costs are way lower than what they would be for reactive maintenance or preventative maintenance. There is also no need for unnecessary planned downtime.
Improving Workplace safety
Predictive maintenance can lower the risk of workplace accidents by flagging off any anomalies that can trigger off an accident on site. Predictive maintenance ensures a hygienic and healthy environment in the plant and reduces safety risks by up to 14%.
By ensuring that both planned downtime & unplanned downtime are at their minimal, predictive maintenance ensures that there are fewer disruptions to production, improving the overall productivity drastically.
How Does Infinite Uptime’s Predictive Maintenance as a Service Solution Work for Steel Industry?
Infinite Uptime’s Predictive Maintenance as a Service uses real-time data to find out the status of the machine and the health of every rotating asset. The edge computing system is deployed to monitor all critical assets in every process and monitors parameters like vibration, temperature, etc. A machine health score is provided in real-time for every monitoring location. Anytime there is a dip between the prescribed machine score, an alert goes to the plant supervisor, along with a recommended remedial action suggested by our Predictive Maintenance as a Service solution. The machine status is further analyzed to ensure that the mitigated solution has improved the status quo.
Customized dashboards for different levels like plant operator, manager, plant head, or manufacturing head (multi-plant) are created & made accessible for the team to ensure agile & proactive decision making to ensure the production continues smoothly.
The steel industry is the linchpin of global economic development. Any unplanned downtime or production stoppage can jeopardize the steel manufacturers and manufacturers of all the industries that rely on it.
Predictive maintenance can be a value-added service for steel manufacturers. With the right Predictive Maintenance solution on your side, you can avoid extra costs, reduce downtime, increase productivity and focus your time and efforts on your business instead of worrying about unexpected downtimes or machine failures.
Want to learn more about how we have helped large global steel manufacturers avoid downtime & improve factory performance? Click here to read a case study.