To see the future, look around you...

If I were speaking to an engineer of the future, I would say: Look around you. The world you live in is a fascinating mix of material and digital dimensions. These are evolving very fast and in an unprecedented way. Solutions to the world’s biggest challenges will be dictated by how both these dimensions interact with each other.

In mining and steelmaking, digitalisation is transforming the very way in which the fabric of society is designed and made.

As an organisation, we’ve been embracing the potential of digitalisation for several years. But now the opportunities are expanding exponentially. Global R&D is focusing on launching digital transformation projects throughout all aspects and segments of the business. We need to digitalise our entire company as a critical part of our strategic focus on building a high-performing organisation.

Transforming manufacturing for higher yields and lower impacts

In manufacturing we’re making exciting progress, with global R&D working closely with our production sites. Our ArcelorMittal big data platform and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms are helping us in vital areas such as defect recognition and quality assurance, which will lead to higher yields and lower environmental impacts, including CO2.

Deep learning technology is also helping us detect defects to enable predictive maintenance. Combining artificial vision with analytics is enabling us to improve safety and monitor environmental impacts at our production sites.

And the enormous potential of 3D printing for steel clearly relies on digital expertise.

There are other transformations enabled by digital thinking. Better analytics are helping our sales teams with their forecasting. Adopting common platforms and AI is transforming our supply chain and logistics. And, while this area is still evolving, blockchain technology could well have a role to play in providing customers with reductions in transactional costs as well as supply chain assurance.

Global R&D works in all these areas with a clear focus on creating platforms and tools that are rapidly scaled across the whole Group and in very different business areas. This is one of the major benefits of digitalisation: replicability.

Rapid change requires a digital mindset at every level

Despite all this progress, we know that industry is only beginning to see the opportunities of digitalisation – for instance in the ‘internet of things’ – and the pace of change is going to keep accelerating. So it is clear that a digital mindset needs to be everywhere. It is key to how we work now, and to the skills we need in the future.

We’re already recruiting people with profiles that would never have been seen in the steel industry even a few years ago. And each of us in the business must be a digital leader, able to identify digital opportunities for value creation and differentiation, drive the development of new capabilities and make full use of our digital capacity. We all have the potential to become ‘disruptive innovators’ and I am sure we have the right people and the right ideas to do it.