Predictive quality in the overall process chain at Swiss Steel and Steeltec

Eliminate quality defects before they occur. To offer our customers a zero-defect quality. Trace individual steel components back to their origin and trace all quality-relevant process parameters. These are the future trends in the area of safety-critical components, for example for the automotive industry.

OEM suppliers must meet increasing customer requirements and digitalize their processes.  As one of the first long steel manufacturers worldwide, the SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH Group applies predictive quality in all areas at the Emmenbrücke (CH) production site: from the use of scrap via the steel and rolling mill to the bright steel drawing of the wire rod.


The objective: Predictive error avoidance

The trend towards complete traceability of individual components has long been present in the automotive industry. The focus is on continuous improvement and anticipatory error prevention in the production process and in the supply chain. To prove compliance with current standards and specific customer requirements, the future of quality management lies in process digitization.

The data complexity in steelworks where steel bars are produced is high. Examples of data complexity are the more than 200 steel grades produced, numerous dimension variants, several production lines in the hot rolling mill and product and customer-specific process parameters on the way from scrap to bright steel.

Comprehensive process of two business units

The Swiss Steel business unit, manufacturer of long steel, supplies its wire rod as starting material to the Steeltec business unit, which produces bright steel. The two business units of the SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH Group work closely together in the customer-specific development of high-quality special steels for the automotive and mechanical engineering industries. 



Industry 4.0: Predictive quality in long steel production

As a leading international steel group, SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH continuously invests in new technologies, including industry 4.0 applications. Swiss Steel and Steeltec will implement the rule-based quality decision system PQA (product quality analysis) by mid-2018. In the steel production and processing plants in Emmenbrücke, Switzerland, the PQA system integrates island applications that until now have only analyzed individual process steps. In this way, correlations between results in the laboratory and at the rolling mill become apparent. Quality decisions can now no longer only be made at one stage of the value chain, but across processes. A clear step to 100% transparency in the entire production process.
The quality-relevant process parameters include the chemical composition of the respective material, the temperature during casting, thermomechanical factors during rolling, the rolling speed as well as the temperature and the reduction in cross-section during bright steel drawing. The technical causality of data analysis stored in the product quality analysis (PQA) tool gets evaluated by material and process engineers of the SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH Group.

Example of the analysed process steps at Swiss Steel and Steeltec

Quality improvements through human-machine interaction

All data sources of sensor signals and detectors are taken into account for intelligent data acquisition along the entire value chain. Quality relevant process steps, which require an evaluation by the plant operator, are equipped with a traffic light system. The material is released for the next work step on the basis of system recommendations and the competence of the specialist personnel. By visualising factory and process conditions, Swiss Steel and Steeltec benefit from additional knowledge about the correlation of these parameters with product quality. This increases flexibility in production: Rules can now be adapted and individual process steps can be influenced in real time. For example, the rolling temperature can be varied if required for a particular steel grade or a customer-specific steel product.



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