For ages now, metals production has been of extraordinary significance to human civilization. Even the first comparably crude forms of metal were viewed as enormously precious base materials. Their novel existence revolutionized the tools available to man and determined what technological progress the ancient societies could make. The terms “Bronze Age” and “Iron Age” still remind us of that fact.

Today, we have firmly arrived in the digital age. This new era is not limited to information technology alone. It has already begun to shape our idea of how industrial manufacturing will be executed in the future—and importantly, it has started to change how steel and non-ferrous metals are produced.

So what will a fully digitalized steel plant look like? How will it differ technologically from the production environments we are familiar with? And what are the crucial steps that metals producers should take today to become the market leaders of tomorrow?

There are no simple answers to these questions, and let me tell you why. Firstly, every metals producer relies on a unique combination of production equipment in a distinctive setup. The investment costs associated with the existing equipment are usually high enough to demand that any addition, however groundbreaking, must maximize the potential of what is already in place.

“It is clear to me that digitalization will be a major driver of progress for the metals industry, and I am proud of the solutions that my company has to offer to facilitate the transition ahead.”

Secondly, digitalization will impact all steps of the metals-production chain, but it will change them with different solutions. Let me give you two examples: We are offering sensor technologies that are perfect for cold-­rolling applications, but they couldn’t be used in a hot-­rolling context. We have automation systems that introduce immense amounts of application knowledge into a particular area—for instance, with the aim of minimizing scrap in continuous casting—but these systems were optimized to excel in their field and could not be easily converted to fit another purpose. So as you can see, digitalization in metals production is complex and requires a multitude of separate technologies working together.

At Primetals Technologies, we have found that this complexity is best captured by use of a metaphor. Our “Metals Orchestra” concept was developed to illustrate that every metals-production plant consists of many different pieces of equipment, which can be seen as the players of an orchestra. All of them need to be brought to a certain level of proficiency, and they also have to be properly directed in order to perform in harmony. In an orchestra, an experienced conductor will ensure the alignment of all players; in a metals-production plant, sophisticated software systems take charge of all connected equipment.

This issue of Metals Magazine gives you an overview of numerous important solutions that Primetals Technologies has at its disposal to prepare your production equipment for a digitalized future. Depending on your situation and your targets, a distinct combination of technologies will be ideal for taking your plant to the next level.

It is clear to me that digitalization will be a major driver of progress for the metals industry. As I stated earlier, we are at the beginning of the digital age of metals production, and I am proud of the solutions that my company has to offer to facilitate the transition ahead. At Primetals Technologies, the entire staff is fully dedicated to advancing digitalization in metals production. 

I want this issue of our customer magazine to underline our commitment: We are ready to support you in pioneering the future of metals production—in advancing your very own Metals Orchestra, wherever you are located and whatever your goals may be.

Yasukuni Yamasaki
CEO and Chairman of Primetals Technologies