Innovative digital technologies are being applied to manage slab processing at the Steel Division in Linz. They include heuristic models for calculating optimum transport procedures, and GPS technologies which make it easy to locate slabs.
Research project to automate stacking and sorting
For the first time a system is being tested at the Linz site, in the hot storage area of the continuous casting line, which fully automates the stacking, sorting, and transport of slabs. The cranes are instructed how and where they should deposit the slabs in order to make the logistics as simple and efficient as possible. In response to increased steel production at the site this project was started together with partners in industry and research, and under the leadership of the FH Hagenberg, in order to design intelligent, forward-looking stacking strategies which keep the use of space and vehicles to a minimum.
To date it has been the employees who control the logistics process. With their training and experience they know how slabs should be stacked and grouped to ensure sensible transport processes. Earlier attempts at using pre-defined, fixed rules to support the stacking and removal process failed due to the complexity of the task. This research project is developing a fully-automated approach to this task for the first time. The first tests were promising, and now long-term testing will follow.
GPS technology in slab storage
Around 8,500 slabs are stored in over 2,000 stacks in the open air warehousing areas at the voestalpine site in Linz. Here intelligent logistics systems are essential to ensure a functional, downstream process chain, because mixing up the slabs could result in fatal damage during processing, for example in the rolling mill. That’s why the Steel Division has applied GPS technologies in slab storage since the early days of automation. Each storage position is assigned GPS coordinates, and each straddle carrier is equipped with a GPS device. Comparing the two coordinates ensures that the transport trolley is at the correct stack, and that the selected slab can be processed into a high-quality end product.