Delivering a 1.5 Year ROI on a $2M Line Automation Recontrol

A large steel service center client was seeing troubling trends in its temper mill cut-to-length line: increasing downtime, lower-than-desired yields, and higher scrap losses. The client needed the problem(s) identified and mitigated ASAP so as to avoid more productivity loss and material hemorrhaging.

Obstacle: Hack a Standalone Black-Box Control System

The client was hampered in its ability to troubleshoot and improve the processes because the OEM equipment and its controls and drives programs were a “black box” solution. This meant only the OEM and its technicians had the source code of the software used to run the equipment. Without expert eyes, there was no way for the client to access and properly reconfigure the equipment and its controls.

Solution: Perform a Comprehensive Process Analysis on the Mill Line

Enter E Tech Group.  With a 30-year Center of Excellence in the metals industry, electrical and mechanical engineering expertise, and deep knowledge of coordinated drive systems and automation modernization, E Tech Group consultants studied the client’s entire temper mill line. This included evaluating all of the upstream and downstream processes, the equipment and automation platforms, and the variety of alloys being cut to length.

E Tech Group has held long-term partnerships with key automation manufacturers having executed thousands upgrades and recontrol projects over the past thirty years. As a Gold Partner with Rockwell and Solution Partner with Siemens, we confidently proposed the Rockwell PLC and Siemens Drives – a combination used often throughout many of E Tech Group’s previous projects that delivers the “best of breed” for both the PLC and Drives platforms.

In addition, newly replaced levelers, hydraulic stands and piping were coupled with the far more accurate sensor and data reporting from the new PLCs and Drives back to the operators for enhanced and timely notification and decision making.

Results: A Complete Control System Solution to Productivity Problems

E Tech’s study resulted in the delivery of a fully priced and detailed design/build/deliver solution. Modernized controls and programmable drives were the solution foundation needed to address the core problems of uptime, performance, and open platforms for our client to be able to support internally and over the system life cycle. In just two months, the value of this control system upgrade was clear:

  • Average uptime is >95% versus previous 80%.
  • Flatness of rolled steel is better than when the equipment was first installed.
  • Scrap losses are trending significantly lower.
  • Cost of ownership and operation is much lower with open platform and training from E Tech Group.
  • The client’s onsite maintenance team is already first line of support, with our automation engineers assisting remotely as needed.
  • Flexibility to manage and innovate has greatly improved with the open code and easy access to trained support resources.

Finally completed and fully operational, the total investment for E Tech Group’s client was roughly $2 Million. The projected ROI is 12 to 18 months based on the client feedback noted above: improved uptime, better performance, and reduced scrap. We were proud of this project’s efficacy and value these long-term client relationships, which allow us the client familiarity need to offer top-tier, custom automation system services to each one.