An industrial revolution is a period in which one or more technologies are replaced by another technology. The rapid application and adaption of those technologies result in abrupt changes in society.

  • The first Industrial Revolution occurred from the mid-18th century to about 1830 and marked the transition from hand production methods to machinery through steam.
  • The second, which took place between 1870 and 1914, was the result of factory electrification and the implementation of production lines, extensive rail networks, and the telegraph.
  • The third occurred in the late 20th century and was driven by the widespread adoption of computing power and associated digital communication technologies.
  • The latest industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, refers to the technologies that emphasise advancements in communication and connectivity.

“In the old days, it was the big eating the small. These days, it’s the fast eating the slow.” – President and CFO Aditya Mittal re: digitalisation and industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 at work

ArcelorMittal recognises the opportunity digitalisation presents and is investing resources, time and attention to fully leverage Industry 4.0, including the launch of a dedicated digital committee, coordinated by the group chief technology officer with engagement from group and segment leaders in research and development, information and data. The committee is working to expedite the digitalisation of the entire supply chain and enhance the performance and sustainability of the manufacturing and business processes.

Chief technology officer Pinakin Chaubal said: “Digitalisation is an important pillar for the company and is playing an even bigger role than ever before. We have already implemented some of the most innovative solutions available in our different markets and in different parts of the business but by coming together and organising ourselves in this way, we are accelerating our work in this area.”  

The adoption of digitalisation projects has also been enabled and accelerated by the decreasing cost of capturing, storing and computing information. Additionally, the affordability of sensors, which are used by the thousands across ArcelorMittal, and the ability to use big data techniques to process the volume of data generated from those sensors, are creating potential savings related to energy, water, and wear and tear on machinery.

Below are some projects that demonstrate how the latest industrial revolution is coming to life within ArcelorMittal:

  • Centres of digital excellence are being created close to our production sites throughout the world, enabling even faster growth of new technologies from prototype to maturity. More than 100 engineers at ArcelorMittal Gent in Belgium have teamed up to accelerate the plant's automation projects and roll out of those technologies across the Group. Two new digital labs [LINK] in France serve as training and innovation centres for employees, students and local start-ups. 
  • Data collection from tens of thousands of ‘things’ on ArcelorMittal USA’s network is used to improve delivery performance, a critical component to our success in the marketplace. ArcelorMittal USA created delivery metrics to measure delivery performance on a customer-by-customer basis. Those metrics are customised to the customer and how they want to receive their material and viewable from virtually anywhere.
  • Drones are being used to improve operational safety, efficiency and accuracy. They check for maintenance needs, minimising hazards to our employees who would have to work at heights to examine facility structures. Drones are also used to fly infrared cameras at height to track energy usage.
  • Automation is leading to increased productivity and quality. Automated stockyards, linked to line scheduling and transport devices such as autonomous cranes, are being implemented and result in less stock and lower lead times, two major supply chain benefits. ArcelorMittal Dofasco in Canada uses a completely autonomous crane to identify and select coils for delivery to customers. Meanwhile, operations like ArcelorMittal Tailored Blanks facilities in the United States, Canada and Mexico are fully robotic, not only improving production and quality but enabling the ‘scaling up’ required by our most demanding and important automotive customers.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) projects are underway, saving time and leading to increased productivity. An image recognition project and AI model at a Canadian hot mill is used to decide a weld release instantaneously and automatically. AI image recognition projects were also launched in Brazil, one for cold coil width measurement and another for automatically grading environmental emissions.
  • Digital twinning is the creation of virtual models to optimise physical assets and manufacturing processes using data collected from sensors. For example, sensors are creating a digital fingerprint of a coil that's scheduled for delivery. Quality defects are marked with a barcode on the coil and linked to a digital twin of the coil in the cloud. Customers scan the bar code when the coil arrives, access the quality data from the cloud, and optimisetheir operations with the knowledge gained.
  • Virtual reality (VR) – use of this technology has enabled enhanced safety training which would otherwise be too dangerous. In ArcelorMittal locations in Brazil and the United States, VR is used to develop confined space safety training.

“Digital technologies will not only drive radical changes in the steel plant, but will also empower us to be the steel company of the future, an industry leader in every aspect, and a company with whom customers and talent from all over the world want to work,” said Chaubal.