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

A steel service center was experiencing a troubling trend in increasing downtime and scrap losses. E Tech Group proposed modernized controls and programmable drives, implementing an automation solution with a 12-18 month projected ROI.

The Project: Troubleshoot Black Box Automation Equipment

A larger 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 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.

The Solution: Partnering Rockwell & Siemen’s Automation Products

Enter E Tech Group: a leading North American control system integrator providing top-tier industrial automation services for clients across sectors. 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’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 our client would be able to support internally and over the system life cycle.

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 System Integrator with Rockwell and Solution Partner with Siemens, E Tech Group confidently proposed utilizing the Rockwell PLC and Siemens Drives – a combination used often throughout many of E Tech Group’s previous projects in order to deliver 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.

The Results: Significant Changes that Add Immediate & Future Value

The elegant design of the new control system architecture reaped almost immediate rewards; the results of this recontrol were obvious in just two months:  

  • Uptime is now >95% versus 80% on average
  • 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 an open platform and training from E Tech Group; the client’s onsite maintenance team is already first line of support with E Tech Group automation and IT professionals 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 turnkey factory automation solution was roughly $2 million. Based on the client feedback noted above – improved uptime, better performance and reduced scrap – ROI for this project will happen in just 12-18 months.