In September 2017 ArcelorMittal announced a major US$1 billion, three-year investment programme at its Mexican operations, focussed on building the company’s downstream capabilities in Mexico.

The investment followed confirmation that Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán, home to ArcelorMittal Mexico’s primary steelmaking operations, had been named as a Special Economic Zone. The programme will enable ArcelorMittal Mexico to meet anticipated increased demand requirements from domestic customers, realise in full the operation’s productive capacity of 5.3 million tonnes and significantly enhance the proportion of higher-value added products in its product mix.

The main investment is the construction of a new hot strip mill, with the first hot rolled coil scheduled to be produced in 2021. A nine-month ramp up curve will then begin in order to reach projected production of 2.5 million tons annually. Coils from the new hot strip mill will be supplied to domestic, non-auto and general industry customers. Up to 2,000 people have been employed, working in different assembly and engineering tasks, directly impacting the economy of the region. With the construction of the new hot strip mill, ArcelorMittal reaffirms its long-term commitment to Mexico.

Industry 4.0 in action at the Hot Strip Mill

The arrival of the fourth industrial revolution and the Internet of Things, which are built-in to the new hot strip mill at Lázaro Cárdenas, will enable operators, through Artificial Intelligence techniques, to continuously ensure the quality of rolled coils and the performance of the plant.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the pillars of Industry 4.0. In its broadest sense, it enables devices ranging from home appliances through to sophisticated industrial plant to connect with users in real time through the internet. At the hot strip mill, it will, through use of remote sensors (temperature, pressure, humidity, etc) enable improved data analysis in real time, and thus decision making. This ‘data mining’ process will include detection of equipment failure before it happens, and development of potential solutions.

Hot strip mill during construction period

One of the most useful technological tools in the Industry 4.0 portfolio is augmented reality. Through the application of processing power, data is transformed into realistic visualisations of industrial equipment such that activity can be studied in action far more closely than would be the case otherwise, due in no small measure to safety and access considerations. Typical applications of augmented reality include:

- Reduction of execution time for maintenance routines
- Quality inspection and monitoring
- Preliminary and scale design improvements
- Simulated training to accelerate the learning curve
- Use of augmented reality video to support repair operations

Preliminary activity to accelerate the learning curve of hot strip mill personnel includes the development of a video prototype consisting of an animated 3D representation of a key part of the hot strip mill manufacturing process: the shelf and the transfer bar. The replication of the process in animated 3D will achieve a superior and more efficient understanding than conventional on-site training. Its main advantage is that it will be possible to realistically simulate risk situations in a way that enables far closer inspection that would be previously possible, without exposing personnel to any safety risks.