The metal industry is a driving force in our economy, but it is often faced with the issues of trying to merge legacy systems and machinery with emerging technologies in order to improve efficiency and increase profits. 

Not only is the metal industry energy demanding, but it is also difficult to monitor.

This article highlights some important aspects to consider if you want to improve efficiency on your shop floor with IoT technology.

1. Accurate production monitoring 

Monitoring production processes in the metal industry are more complicated than in other industries. This is mainly because there are so many different parameters to track simultaneously.

The IoT system needs to track the equipment vibration, different temperatures (both environmental and internal), ambient air quality, oven and gas analyses, humidity levels, etc.

As you can imagine, IoT solutions need to track all of these parameters in real-time, collect the data, analyze it, and present it on easily understandable dashboards.

The key points here are that the shop floor needs:

  • Accurate data collection
  • Extensive analysis
  • Intuitive dashboards

2. Energy consumption monitoring

One of the most important things to consider, when you want to improve the efficiency of your shop floor is energy consumption. Considering how energy-demanding steel production is, it is important to keep an eye on your costs since energy consumption accounts for 20 to 40% of total costs in metal production.

With a properly set up energy consumption monitoring system, your company can identify new opportunities to save energy, by getting accurate data on how much energy is being consumed. If you can see what activities are not adding value, you can or cut corners, and in turn, reduce overall costs. Like anything innovative these days, the solution relies on IoT and AI technologies.

An alternative (or parallel) approach to energy monitoring could be by taking hydrogen into consideration instead of fossil fuels – good both for decarbonizing the production process and for the possibility of lowering costs. Renewable energy sources are also a great way to mitigate costs, since the energy costs of traditional energy providers are so high, and getting higher. Of course, these renewable energy sources don’t offer only lower costs, but also improve self-sufficiency for the company and production.

Another point to consider in the journey towards lower energy consumption is that recycling requires less energy than producing from raw materials.

Summing things up, you should consider:

  • Setting up an energy monitoring system
  • Looking into alternative fuels for your production process
  • Recycling metal for production

3. Automation

With the help of IoT technology, robots, and automation in the metal industry are streamlining workflows and improving productivity.

Let’s first take a look at the main benefits of automation in this sector:

  • Increased productivity
  • Less downtime
  • More consistency
  • Greater safety in the workplace

For example, robots can handle many physically intensive and dangerous tasks within metal manufacturing: welding, cutting, stamping, assembly, painting, etc. Not only does this improve production efficiency, but also safety in the workplace.

Another benefit of automation in the metal industry is how it can handle time-sensitive tasks. Some parts of the manufacturing process need to be handled within fractions of a second, and human operators just aren’t quick enough.

So, for metal manufacturing and processing, where there are numerous complex sequences and operations to be handled, automation is important for smooth factory floor operation.

4. Supply chain management

For accurate and well-managed supply chain management, data needs to be collected from multiple sources. Sources not only for the raw materials needed for production, but also for auxiliary materials, and fuel.

The best way to handle this is having real-time supervision, and automated reporting for supplies. As you can see, everything starts with data collection and management.

5. Retrofitting legacy machinery

For most metal processing and production plants, replacing obsolete machinery is inefficient. Both the cost and the time it takes to replace the old machinery is too much.

This is why retrofitting should be high on your priority list.

As mentioned in one of our articles on the importance of retrofitting, one in five companies fail to introduce IoT technologies and there is, on average, € 500,000 in annual losses due to the lack of integration between systems.

If you want to learn more about retrofitting industrial machinery, and how companies are currently transitioning to Industry 4.0, read our white paper.