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Internet of Things Application for Metals, Mining and Industrial Product Industries

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In the age of digital transformation, Industry 4.0, Internet of things and services (IOT) is at the forefront of realising smarter factory vision. In this blog, I answer three questions What is it ?; Why is it important now? and How metals, mining and industrial product companies can take advantage of this technology ?

What is  Industry 4.0 , Internet of Things?

From 1970s we have employed electronics and information technology (IT) to achieve automation in manufacturing processes. Now, Industry 4.0, IOT makes it possible to integrate entire network of manufacturing process (including smart machines, robots, warehousing systems and production facilities) which can autonomously organize themselves based on predefined KPIs. This enables flexible production, to meet individual customer requirements and profitable lot size of one. These autonomous Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) are the digital model of a given entity, residing in the physical world, which receives real time data from the entity (using sensors) in physical world. It uses advance analytics to assist the entity, communicate with other CPS and direct how to behave.

Why has Industry 4.0 , IOT become important now ?

Three reasons for mainstream application of this technology are

1. Proliferation of low cost, smaller sensors and chips that can be embedded in anything and can communicate over the Internet

2. Advanced analytics capabilities based on big data, statistical and cognitive models

3. Availability of scalable cloud architecture with secure  connectivity, mobile access,  data storage and connected eco-system for managed services deployment

How can metals, mining and industrial product companies benefit with Industry 4.0, IOT?

In order to take advantage of this technology broadly two things are required. First connect and collect real time information and second analyse and interact based on specific data conditions. I take three use case examples below to illustrate these concepts.

 Use Case 1: Improve quality in steel industry 

In steel production quality variations occur frequently. Example, in a hot strip mill process data is captured from hundreds of sensors and typically remains in local data historians. Industry  4.0, IOT platform can provide real time availability of this information across all levels and CPS presents an opportunity for autonomous quality correction both on this mill or at the next / previous operation in value chain (possibly done by another company or plant). This platform also helps in predictive maintenance of the mill like abrasion, fatigue of work roll.

 Use Case 2 : Drive zero incidents in mining 

In mining operations operator safety is a major concern due to hazardous working conditions (blasting, dangerous gasses and moving equipment). IOT sensors (environment, location, motion and bio sensing) mounted on helmets, jackets of employees are part of CPS and communicate with other mining equipment CPS (Dragline excavators, haul trucks, crushers, LHDs etc) to ensure employee safety.

 Use Case 3 : Reduce maintenance costs for windmills 

There are two main failures in windmills, bearing failure and gearbox failure. Typically vibration is monitored but since wind conditions are constantly changing, so different vibration measurement could potentially be at a different speed and load condition. Thus in practice, frequency spectrum pattern is monitored for changes and those changes are related to the type of bearing, machine. Industry  4.0, IOT platform along with CPS can be cost effectively deployed on a large scale to predict windmill failure.

Conclusion

Industry 4.0, IOT  journey is about business model innovation. We are at the beginning of this journey and to get started we must take a business benefit driven approach. This means to first solve existing problems, that were not properly solved in the past and then to innovate on the above principles driving innovation.

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For more information about our metals and mining solutions, technology and consulting, visit our website.

Senior Managing Consultant

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