The average human brain consists of approximately 100 billion cells, otherwise known as neurons. Each of these neurons is connected via so-called synaptic gaps with roughly 10,000 other neurons. This gives an astronomical figure of 1011 x 104 = 1015 or 1,000,000,000,000,000 (1 quadrillion) separate connections. This incredible network and interlinking of neurons is the source of individual personality, ideas, innovation, intelligence, knowledge, wisdom and memory. Weighing an average of between 1.3 and 1.4 kilograms, it has been said that the human brain is the most complex substance in the known universe.
Although incomparable with the human brain, a rolling mill or processing line is nevertheless a marvelous product of decades of experience and engineering excellence. A state-of-the-art hot-strip mill, for example, which includes the reheating furnace, roughing mill, finishing mill, descalers, coilers, motors, drives as well as the integrated electrical, automation, and media-supply systems, is comprised of approximately 250,000 individual parts and components. Each of these discrete elements must directly or indirectly interact with all other parts of the mill in order for the plant to efficiently transform a humble block of steel into a high-quality, value-added strip product that finds innumerable uses in society. Rolling mills are the most complex pieces of machinery in a steelworks. It is axiomatic that a vast amount of engineering competence is required to build a high-performance mill with a service life that extends over decades.
Through the formation of Primetals Technologies in January 2015, an unparalleled cornucopia of technologies in metals production has come together. This is not merely a merger of the process and plant-building expertise of the former Mitsubishi-Hitachi Metals Machinery and Siemens VAI Metals Technologies, it is the integration of the sum total of acquired knowledge and experience from dozens of legacy companies throughout the world – some of which date back well into the 19th century. While the brain serves as an example of an astonishing, functional network of information nodes, the challenge that all technology-driven companies face today is how to combine and exploit existing know-how in order to develop and implement new solutions. Efficient knowledge management is the key, and it will become increasingly important as the quantity and complexity of information expands exponentially.
Yet it is exactly the broad spectrum of available know-how that is decisive for developing the solutions to meet the challenges that lie ahead. Ideas may change the world, but it is the right solutions that lead to progress. With its plethora of advanced technologies covering every step of the iron and steel production route, in addition to the rolling of nonferrous metals, Primetals Technologies can draw upon an immense knowledge database at sites throughout the world that are progressively being interlinked to support producers to rapidly respond to difficult and changing market conditions. Especially now, in times of global steelmaking overcapacity, support is increasingly being requested in connection with the manufacture of value-added metals products.
A recurring theme in this issue of Metals Magazine is therefore that – through the merger of two great companies with a long tradition of technological innovation – a complete product portfolio, particularly in the downstream area, is now offered to metals producers to improve operational efficiency, product quality and the value of metals products.
Dr. Lawrence Gould
Managing Editor of Metals Magazine
Primetals Technologies, Limited