Upgrades, enhancements, and process optimization targeted performance and productivity improvement

March 2021

Kentucky, USA

Continuous annealing and processing lines are used in the steel industry to modify the grain structure of the material.  The process requires extremely tight controls and specifications across several steps to achieve the desired material properties.  Similar to printing, the process involves a web of Aluminum in this case, which positioned us very well to understand the unique requirements of tension control, web steering, process manufacturing, and industrial controls.

Struggling with maintaining consistent performance, one of North America’s largest Aluminum manufacturers looked for help to increase technical uptime and improve overall operational performance.

After completing a detailed audit, it became clear there were several issues impacting performance.  Software issues were impacting functionality of key tasks and operations.  Additionally, we recognized some of the operational processes could be improved by upgrades to software and mechanical components.  The equipment lacked organizational tools taken for granted in the printing industry.  We saw this as a key opportunity to better batch production, optimize production planning, and improve equipment efficiency.

The scope of this project was extensive and took 18 months to complete so work was prioritized in order to realize the greatest returns.  In line with our goal to increase productivity, it was also important to minimize downtime of the line so extensive planning and testing was completed prior to each task to ensure fast and trouble-free implementation and installation.

By the completion of the project, the production line had realized almost double the previous output.  Uptime also improved positively by 30%.  Waste was reduced as a result of optimized production scheduling and operational process improvement further impacting production availability.

Solution Features:

  • Automation upgrades to improve quality & productivity
  • Automation of chemical preparation processes to reduce raw material waste
  • Upgraded control of Passivation Spray Bars for improved product quality
  • Improvement to warnings and fault diagnostics
  • Product tracking and batch labeling to reduce waste
  • Automated smart scheduling of preventative maintenance tasks
  • Additional automation features of re-winders to allow back-to-back operation
  • Installation of redundant backup shear

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