The aluminum industry may not be the primary industry that comes to mind when you think of Business 4.0. However, as posted on wonderfulengineering.com, advanced technology is quickly proving its value in helping companies remain resilient in a tough industry. Here’s a look at how the Internet of Things (IoT) and related technologies can drive progress.
Data to Drive Sustainability Improvements
That wasn’t necessarily true, but sustainability is now a way for aluminum manufacturers to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Energy consumption is an important element in the overall sustainability of manufacturing processes. IoT (Internet of Things) sensors could give aluminum manufacturers a concept of how much energy they are using in a given period. It is then easier to start making improvements or to recognize that the problem exists. A data analytics system can reveal a baseline state of energy consumption and suggest whether particular manufacturing processes have had the desired impact.
Having robust information allows aluminum plant managers to provide stakeholders with details on how much progress has been made in terms of sustainability. Research also shows that a wireless monitoring system can reduce the prevalence of anode effects. These effects occur when the voltage in a crucible is too high, releasing gases. The device could detect these problems up to many minutes in advance.
Industry Advancements to Boost Competitiveness
Focusing on sustainability is just one crucial factor in helping aluminum manufacturers succeed in today’s market, but it’s not the only concern. A market analysis showed that COVID-19 poses challenges for the industry. U.S. and European producers have seen a temporary reduction in production coupled with a decrease in demand. However, other sources predict a gain of more than 4% in the global industry by 2025. For example, robots could reduce the number of people needed to work in a plant and also keep people taking on various dangerous tasks in a manufacturing facility. Also, networked sensors allow machines to communicate with each other, optimizing workflow. Thus, companies can get recommendations from Enterprise 4.0 devices and use them to challenge their processes.
Digital Technology to Make Mining Safer and More Productive
IoT (Internet of Things) technology can come into play for companies even before the aluminum smelting process. Specifically, a rock called bauxite is the main source of aluminum. Rio Tinto is a mining company that recently created a digital communications system for its operations center that can be fed directly from the company’s disaster recovery facility in the event of a crisis. This facility allows the company to maintain control of creation and security if something goes wrong. Some companies are also using IoT technology to automate mine workstations.
Improved connectivity has quadrupled plant production by tracking miners and vehicles and automating some areas of safety and operations. This example occurred at a gold mine but illustrates the opportunity in the aluminum market. Networked detectors could monitor the mining environment and alert when conditions start to become dangerous. The technology could also help site managers ensure that workers are following proper procedures to avoid accidents and working within regulations.
Smart Tools to Increase Visibility During Smelting
Companies use aluminum smelting to extract aluminum from its oxide through electrolysis. Because the process involves extreme temperatures, even small errors can cause big problems. Some companies are exploring digital solutions to improve the effects. Statistics show that a 1% increase in yield could result in a total annual savings of $970 million in total manufacturing spend. Technology sourcing can reduce problems by providing more information. Having reliable advice also reduces the likelihood of unforeseen events that can cause avoidable costs.