US$12.76mn digital project to transform UK metal industry

By Georgia Wilson
The Materials Processing Institute takes on a leading role in a US$12.76mn digitisation project for steel, manufacturing and supply chains...

With the potential to ‘transform UK industry’, the Materials Processing Institute has announced that it will be playing a leading role in a new US$13mn digitisation project.

Materials Processing Institute will be working alongside Liberty Steel Group’s Hartlepool Pipes mill, Liberty Speciality Steels, Shiftec and TSC Simulation, at its Teesside based research and innovation centre. The project will look to create digital twins of the plants to demonstrate the huge potential that can be achieved in the production process.

The overall aim of the project is to highlight the benefits of introducing industrial digital technologies (IDT) into the steel industry as well as sectors serving strategic manufacturing and construction supply chains.

In addition to Liberty Steel Group’s Hartlepool Pipes mill, Liberty Speciality Steels, Shiftec and TSC Simulation, the two year project - worth US$2.55mn to the institute - is receiving funding from Innovate UK via its Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge - part of the government's larger Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

“The Fourth Industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, utilises IDT to enable the recording and analysis of data across machines for continuous improvement, creating a more cost-effective, efficient, flexible and faster process,” commented the Materials Processing Institute in a company statement.

Using its Normanton Steel Plant the Materials Processing Institute will undertake an initial pilot project which will assess and improve the IDT prior to being implemented in the production process for Liberty Steel Group.

“The real challenge in adopting smart technology is how it can be retro-fitted to improve the performance of existing plants. Whilst this project is centred on the metals sector, it can easily be applied to any process where digital imaging can be linked to machine learning and intelligent process control,” commented Chris Oswin, who leads the Institute’s Digital Technologies Group.

“The three sites involved will act as demonstrators for IDT – enabling the lessons learned to be shared across other foundation industries, including energy, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and the process industries.”

Liberty Steel Group

Via this project, Liberty Steel GRoup is seeking to make a significant improvement to its productivity and product performance by working with the Institute, Shiftec and TSC.

The project will look to harness cameras and imaging technologies, alongside intelligent processing and machine learning in order to increase accuracy via process characterisation, the creation of digital twins and intelligent interactive process models.

“This is a hugely exciting and prestigious project which places the Institute at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I'm confident this project will show how the latest digital technologies can be adopted by small businesses and successfully applied to foundation industry factories. We will enable companies to tackle the difficult, but all too common problems of brownfield sites, legacy systems, lack of connectivity and ageing equipment,” added Chris McDonald, Chief Executive of the Materials Processing Institute.

“Many of these technologies have been developed here at the Institute and we are confident they will optimise production facilities – providing far-reaching opportunities to develop the future UK economy,” concluded McDonald.

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