AMAG, the Austrian aluminium producer, has been pursuing a consistent growth and modernisation strategy for several years now with its AMAG 2014 and AMAG 2020 projects. The developments around Industry 4.0 provide additional impetus and highlight the importance of digitisation as part of the chosen path. If seamless integration of new production plants, rising requirements in terms of real-time transparency for ongoing production or synchronous quality monitoring; AMAG has chosen PSI as its partner to realise these objectives. PSI has now supported this strategy for a few years and will continue in the future to be a guarantee for a high-performance IT foundation for implementing digital production at AMAG.
AMAG, which is based in Ranshofen, Austria, is using the AMAG 2014 and AMAG 2020 investment projects to meet increasing market requirements with the help of complexity and efficiency gains. In doing so, the intention is to fully exploit the opportunities that modern production plants offer in terms of self-optimization, process feedback messages, process data and communication present. Investment in a new production management system was therefore needed for this purpose. A customized version of the system previously installed supported AMAG in recent years, however, it was not designed to cover future challenges.
The new system must therefore be able to bring into line the commercial processes in SAP with the production-related business processes of rough, detailed and plant planning through to actual production at the plants. In addition,the new solution is designed to function as a platform to integrate all plants that form part of the production process. Maximum flexibility is therefore required from the platform, because not only existing plants must be connected during the initial phase, but all new plants will be installed one by one as part of AMAG 2020. But what does AMAG hope to gain from this investment?
„The introduction of a new production management system and the uniform connection of all plants and processes involved in production has created the prerequisites to evaluate future data volumes as defined by smart data analytics, on the one hand,for process improvement and, on the other, for predictive analysis as well.“
To minimize the risk of replacing the system, and to avoid a balancing act without a net, PSI has been chosen to implement the first prototype. Only a limited production area was therefore considered. Thanks to the experience gained in this preliminary phase, both parties were able to build the trust necessary to begin a long-term partnership. For us, the modern system architecture, specialization in our industry and the high degree of adaptability were the reasons why we finally chose PSI Metals for the solution”, stated Aumayr.
In addition to the existing plants, in recent years the new plants for the “AMAG 2014” investment project have been integrated based on the PSImetals product. Using PSI at this stage guarantees excellent production quality for all plants. Currently, more than half of all plants are running the new solution, with all other plants being integrated one-by-one.
The mutual understanding of their respective operations forms the basis for such a strategy. IT integration of a new plant, its installation and commissioning must all be coordinated with each other, which requires the client and supplier teams to be closely integrated. “Isolated thinking would be out of place. Only ongoing and trusting communication enables us to successfully implement this complex and time-consuming project”, stressed Roger Necker, PSI project manager.
The main objective of all activities was, and is, to connect one of the most modern facilities in the aluminium industry with state-of-the-art production software solutions; this connection allows production processes to be integrated and aligned according to Industry 4.0.The real-time feedback opportunities gained using the new software solution create the conditions necessary to enable automated decisions to be made based on the current production situation and therefore to be made quickly. The result is shorter mean lead times and thus a higher level of customer satisfaction thanks to faster delivery times.
The AMAG and PSI project teams are already working on preparations for integrating the AMAG 2020 investment project plants, which will go into operation throughout this year.
PSI: What is the role of digitalization in the framework of AMAG 2020?
Dr. Aumayr: Digitalization does not just play a role in AMAG 2020. It is the wish of our customers, and therefore our aim, to map all data gained during the production process.
PSI: In your opinion, is the aluminium industry a pioneer or latecomer in the area of Industry 4.0?
Dr. Aumayr: Due to extremely long plant lifetimes in the aluminium industry, complete digitisation poses a huge challenge, because plants that are several decades old need to be integrated alongside the latest equipment. But I would not describe the industry as a pioneer or a latecomer, but rather as a willing integrator.
PSI: In your view, what are the biggest advantages of the new PSI system?
Dr. Aumayr: Thanks to the new PSI system, it is possible to achieve the objective of paper-free production and its modern interface supports the migration of users from paper, with computer monitoring, to completely digital processes.
PSI: How would you evaluate the collaboration of the AMAG and PSI teams and what proportion of the project’s success can be attributed to this cooperation?
Dr. Aumayr: Working together in a joint team is crucial to the success of a project. The continuity of team members and the balancing act between formalism and pragmatism are the most significant aspects.