Artificial intelligence (AI) is an important breakthrough that enables machines to independently perform functions such as study, analysis and decision making that generally require cognitive abilities. The technology has advanced significantly in recent years due to its ability to access large amounts of data and its strong processing capabilities, and innovative programs. AI plays a vital role in a number of sectors, including banking and finance, media and construction, helping them increase productivity, quality and the number of satisfied clients.
One sector that can use AI the most is the steel sector, one of the world’s largest sectors. Steel is used in a number of sectors, including production, logistics, power and infrastructure. AI is revolutionizing the steel sector by opening up diverse opportunities for business optimisation and improved efficiency. Steel firms could boost productivity, cut expenses, reduce power usage, promote consumer satisfaction and increase the quality of goods by using AI. However, to make full use of the technology, they need to overcome obstacles such as excessive power usage, environmental impact, fluctuating markets and product standards, social opposition, funding shortages and lack of human resources. These issues have made the sector more sluggish than other manufacturing sectors in terms of AI adoption. ABI Research expects steel producers’ investments in technology to reach USD1bn in the next decade as they work to transform their manufacturing plants into “innovative facilities”, indicating an increase in demand for AI in the sector.
Figure 1: AI investment in the steel sector – forecast
To overcome such obstacles, the steel sector needs to adopt novel technology and techniques by applying AI to augment its efficiency, financial gains, and environmental responsibility. The sector already uses AI for the following processes:
- Identifying and sorting defective products: Through automated analysis and advanced machine-learning methods, AI helps steelmakers identify faulty products (those that are broken or have marks, holes, or other such defects). In addition to reducing the need to scrap or repair products, AI enhances standard manufacturing procedures. For example, FarEye (an automated delivery platform) and a reputed Indian steel manufacturer have partnered to deploy AI to identify and sort faulty products.
- Forecasting servicing requirements: Using sensors and statistical analysis, AI can help maintain the function and state of steel instruments, including blast furnaces, mills, and crushers. It helps anticipate problems and optimize maintenance plans, reducing expenses and the number of unexpected disruptions. For example, steel producers in two large economies have partnered with a leading AI consulting organization to leverage AI in predicting equipment-servicing requirements.
- Enhancing operational efficiency: By employing data-driven theories and techniques, AI can help streamline the steelmaking process, including melting, grinding, heating, and polishing. To obtain the specified quality and quantity, AI can enable changes in manufacturing settings, such as flow pace, source time in the furnace, temperature, and the raw material ratio. Steelmakers can save at least 4% of the initial cost of raw materials, over 5% on productivity barriers and more than 14% on the complete yield of goods by incorporating AI into their manufacturing processes. For example, steel businesses have used AI to modify their equipment and procedures through industrial AI systems.
AI is an effective tool that steel businesses could deploy to overcome current and future challenges and maintain their competitiveness. However, it is not a foolproof fix requiring minimal effort or investment; it calls for constant development and experimentation. Effective use would ensure a competitive advantage and add value to the sector.