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A greener future for Europe’s steel, cement and chemical plants

Armed with digital technologies, the EU-funded HyperCOG project is helping to create the factories of the future. Its smart system promises to increase production performance and reduce emissions and energy use in Europe’s process industries.

Digital Economy
Industrial Technologies

Industry 4.0 is bringing about a complete overhaul of existing processes, and blurring the lines between the digital and physical worlds. By using digital technologies such as AI and data analytics, Europe’s process industries that produce materials such as steel, cement and chemicals have the potential to optimise their physical processes in ways not possible before. However, on the whole, they have failed to adopt such technologies. “To compete in the modern world, companies in the process industry need highly flexible manufacturing environments, capable of continuously adapting to changing conditions by means of advanced technologies and decision-making processes that take advantage of big data in real-time,” the EU-funded HyperCOG project explains on its website. HyperCOG is developing a cyber-physical system that will meet these requirements, increasing production performance and reducing emissions and energy consumption in Europe’s process industries. The smart system is now being tested at the project’s first pilot site, a large steel processing plant owned by HyperCOG project partner Sidenor, in Spain.

Real-time responses to changing conditions

HyperCOG’s cyber-physical system senses and controls industrial environments using interconnected nodes – an innovative architecture that enables the interaction and communication of all aspects of the manufacturing process in real time. There are 11 different node types performing different functions: extracting information from devices used in the steelmaking process, collecting data and measurements from a database, saving data collected on the other nodes, supporting decision-making through algorithms or models, and enabling monitoring by a human operator through human-machine interaction. “This provides a real-time virtual representation of industrial processes known as a digital twin that enables agile responses to changing conditions during manufacturing in real time. These responses can either be automated or suggested to operators through a decision support system,” a recent video released by the HyperCOG project reports. The system also provides a layer of protection through integrated cybersecurity features.

Testing the technology

At the Sidenor pilot site, the project team aims to demonstrate how the cyber-physical system can help steel plant operators solve online production planning problems caused by failures during the steelmaking process that lead to delays in scheduled production. At the moment, planning of the sequence of the different stages in the steelmaking process is done offline by humans. Changing from one sequence to another causes manufacturing downtime, and problems can also arise in the middle of a sequence or when changing to a new sequence that require online planning to be scheduled. The HyperCOG node architecture is now being used to optimise the process, solving the Sidenor plant’s offline and online production planning problems. HyperCOG next plans to test its technology at another two pilot sites: a cement factory in Turkey and a chemical plant in France. “The HyperCOG solution is modular, scalable, integrates expert knowledge and can be adapted for industrial processes of any size. It will help factories reduce their CO2 emissions, waste spills, energy use and raw material consumption … contributing to a greener industrial future,” the video states. Additionally, the HyperCOG (Hyperconnected Architecture for High Cognitive Production Plants) project is devising strategies for training and reskilling people to meet new professional needs in industry. It is also developing business models to help companies adopt the HyperCOG technology. For more information, please see: HyperCOG project website

Keywords

HyperCOG, Industry 4.0, manufacturing, industry, industrial process, steel, cement, chemical, cyber-physical system, plant, factory, process industry

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