Blog - Wabi Corp

Through the eyes and ears of one “old man”, primarily in steel industry

Hopefully the bits and pieces that follow will have the reader find a common thread that is intended to exist and, in a way, tie them together. Hopefully also, it is more than just something as experienced by one person.

During the college years, a summer job required one to respond to emergencies, service one diesel electric locomotive and have one or more steam hoists ready for operation for the day shift. Consequently, the first thing was to “bank” the fire in the boiler(s), service the locomotive, then, by around 5 am, start building up the pressure in the boiler(s). Once the operators started to arrive close to 7 am and they found out they were assigned to the steam hoist, they could hardly contain their happy emotions. Even though they were required to pull/push on numerous “long” levers, they liked the fact that the hoist allowed them to travel on the tracks, slew, operate the boom and the hook/bucket, all at the same. (To do that, one did not learn it in one day and one had to have a good breakfast before the shift.) The other option would have been to sit in a diesel/electric hoist with short handled knobs, but only having enough power (in the early stages of development) to control, mostly one function at a time, maybe two at the most.

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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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Just to keep a Steel Plant operational or should there be more (continuous improvement)

Most steel plants are unique in that hardly ever are two or more operating areas and/or plants exactly alike. They have a lot of similarities and, at times, do actually have uniquely designed components that are interchangeable from one plant to another. That, at times, may lead to an agreement, between the two plants to share an expensive spare which seldom fails, but if required, comes with a very long delivery time.Thus, if that kind of an agreement exists, it is only for very unusual situations and components.

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Some options when replacing components in an aging Steel Plant

Most people know that tires are made by tire manufacturers. Thus, when buying a new vehicle, they certainly don’t expect the tires to be manufactured by the car company; the vehicle could be equipped with those of any one of the major tire manufacturers. They trust that the vehicle manufacturer made a proper selection and thus concentrate on viewing other aspects of the vehicle.  Perhaps a change to that comes either from their “non standard” vehicle use (where, almost from the first day, they may need special use tires) or later, as tires are consumable, when it is time to replace the worn out tires (they may, at that time, use their own criteria for the replacements, not necessarily selecting the same as originally on the vehicle).

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The Process of Making Seamless Tubes: an illustration of the factors to consider when selecting a reliable supplier

The process for making seamless tubes in a steel making facility, in one design, starts from heating a solid billet/round of predetermined diameter and length. It is then rolled through a “piercing mill” which basically consists of two rolls (one on top of the other) and a piercer bar (a round bar with a pointed tip in the front of it) on the outlet side of the mill.  From the name, one may assume the starting holefor the tube is created by piercing/ forcing the billet/round onto the bar and thus creating a cavity, but, interestingly, that is not so.

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