Monthly archives: February 2020

Can plant designers learn from watching car races?

If a non car enthusiastic plant designer was to click on his remote he could end up on a channel that, just then, happens to be showing the sequencing of a series of lights. These particular lights will signal the time for “popping the clutch of dragster”. His main attention would most likely be on the torque the “huge” engine generates onto the “huge back tires”; he has designed many an installations where large electric motors accelerate towards full speed and transfer that power to a set of mill rolls, if only for a short duration. He would watch the back tires deform under the torque until the torque would be replaced by speed. A few seconds later the parachutes open and the dragster coasts to a (near) stop. The front tires are small (he notices) as the initial torque attempts to raise the front and once the parachutes open, he knows, very little force is again applied to the front. Soon after, the lights are shown sequencing again but, his thought may again be on the application of torque and he may dismiss the fact that the lights and the track are the same, but it is not the same machine this time. When he designed a plant, the motors, reducers, mill, the rolls were repeatedly the same but the billet/round going through it was not. The cycling was frequent, the rolling times were short and, as with the drag races, it kept on going and going (till in this case it was time to change the channel).

Read more

Health and Safety and the “forgotten supervisor”

Most supervisors take their jobs seriously and to the best of their ability. They need to learn information about the process they are involved with, and that is usually provided or learned as part of the job training. However, that information may only be about how it is intended to function under normal conditions but, very little may be devoted for things or situations that could or end up going wrong.

Read more

Is maintenance an expense or an investment, or perhaps both?

One may say “what kind of question is that, everyone knows maintenance is an expense”. Is it? Does that mean it is always so?

Let’s consider a situation. Someone has come up with the design of new process to produce seamless tube in a steel making plant . They will keep the tube round reheat furnace and the piercing mill of the “conventional way” but, they will combine the mandrill mill and stretch reducing mill (that competition is using) and still be able to produce semi-finished tubes (as they come out of the hot mill and before going through the finishing process); in this manner they are able to eliminate perhaps several mill stands along with the same or greater number of two thousand plus horse power motor/reducer combinations (as well all the other associated equipment).

Read more

Considerations for maintaining equipment or a (steel) plant

Perhaps for the purposes of an initial illustration, it is appropriate to start with something that many, if not most people associated with equipment and plants, all have in common, i.e. vehicles.

In many modern vehicles a computer indicates and informs of the need for an engine oil change. The message from the dealer may be the same or maybe not. The vehicle computer does not monitor the engine oil quality but relies on some predetermined calculations, which the manufacturer has established and takes into consideration towards making it recommendation. Those factors the manufacturer uses are, for example, the number of starts, distances driven, total time period since last oil change, etc.. The dealer, on the other hand, may say, “see you in 6 months or another 5,000 km later”. Both or neither may be totally applicable for a particular vehicle based on the actual usage and/or the geographical location. The cost of an oil change, especially if compared to the cost of the new vehicle, or the replacement engine,  may not appear all that significant. There may still be the concern for warranty and thus the issue of which of the two bits of information one should follow.

Read more

Controlling Temperature and Chemistry within a Blast Furnace

Hot metal quality is a of key importance to the manufacturing of steel .  Hot metal quality is described using four criteria, the temperature, and the compositional chemistry of the hot metal, focusing on the levels of sulphur, silicon, and manganese.  The operational conditions of the blast furnace, as well as the quality and properties of the burden materials plays a key role in the manufacturing of hot metal with the desired temperature and chemical composition.

Read more