Digitalization has become an integral part of our lives, and it comes as no surprise that we are also seeing it impact the steel industry. However, for several reasons, the changes brought about by digitalization in the field of metals production are harder to grasp than the steady transformation of certain aspects of the private realm. Most of us carry a smartphone and have seen virtual reality devices in action. Some of us might even have experienced self-driving cars. Not everything about these technologies is clear to us, but their complexity appears to be somewhat manageable —in part because we tend to trust the likes of Google and Apple to deliver reliable solutions. When it comes to "Industry 4.0"-type technologies for the steel industry, though, even seasoned plant operators are occasionally overwhelmed with what to make of them. There is the feeling that these solutions will inevitably be characteristic of the future of steel production, but their full potential and their optimum implementation strategy have a huge question mark attached to them. More guidance and support are needed, giving the customer magazine of Primetals Technologies a solid reason to thoroughly and responsibly address open questions around the subject matter of digitalization.
What you can expect from this issue of Metals Magazine is a comprehensive overview of the solutions of Primetals Technologies that will bring your steel-production plant into a fully digitalized future. Many of these solutions will be new to you, and we hope that they will pique your interest. But some you might have known of for several years. Therefore, you might wonder on what grounds they were chosen for inclusion in this magazine edition. Shouldn't Primetals Technologies offer a completely new set of innovations to tackle the challenge of digitalization?
The short answer is "no." The steel industry has been ahead of other fields for decades and should be proud of its far-advanced technologies, for instance of the process models in continuous casting. It is quite appropriate to put these sophisticated, proven solutions into the context of digitalization—as long as one important factor is maintained, which is their "digital orchestration." Making all production stages and all involved equipment work together in harmony is what's truly at the heart of achieving "Industry 4.0"-compatible steel-production plants.
Digitalization can take many forms and sometimes comes in disguise. To the left, hidden behind the zeros and ones, there is meaning: it is "Primetals Technologies" in binary code. I hope that you will find this issue equally revealing.
Dr. Tom Widter
Editor-in-Chief of Metals Magazine