Industry: Metals & Mining
ArcelorMittal’s Vereeniging Tubular Products plant remains a global player with help from Wonderware
The reliable delivery of energy to the world’s industries is no trivial matter and leaves no room for error. Part of ArcelorMittal’s Tubular Products division is responsible for the manufacture and supply of seamless Line and OCTG (Oil Country Tubular Goods) pipes to oil, gas and engineering companies worldwide. To remain a player in this global marketplace, ArcelorMittal’s Vereeniging Tubular Products plant had 12 weeks to upgrade its production facilities to qualify for new quality criteria from the American Petroleum Institute (API).
With the dire consequences of oil or gas pipeline failures, there’s little wonder that a great deal of attention is being paid to their manufacturing standards. API standards address several key aspects of the oil and gas industry, including exploration and production, refining, fire protection and safety, petroleum measurement and marine transportation. These standards also reference offshore production, drilling, structural pipe, pipeline, health and environmental issues, valves, storage tanks, etc.
And the API means it: Comply or close down. “At least, this clarified our business objective and left little doubt as to what to do next,” says Joao Bordalo, Senior Architect, MES Demand.
To meet the API criteria, it was decided to implement an End of Line Inspection (ELI) facility that would have the following operational objectives:
- Shorten project delivery – to meet the short implementation deadline of 12 weeks
- Define object and graphical standards – this would allow easy system expansion and modification with the minimum engineering effort and in the shortest time
- Define a standard PLC tag naming convention – again, this would allow for improved future engineering
- Provide reliable data tracking – it was imperative to have bidirectional production tracking information between the shop floor and the plant MES and even into the ERP system.
- Include operator accountability – as an extension to the product tracking facility, this would allow tracing individual pipes to the operators responsible for their manufacture.
The Tubular Products plant already had Wonderware’s Historian, ActiveFactory real-time production performance analysis and reporting software, InTouch SCADA/HMI and ArchestrA technology in the System Platform environment. “It made sense to continue with this product range,” says Bordalo. “We also used our own visualisation portal (ProcessNet) and Microsoft Reporting Services. In addition, we consulted Wonderware for the adoption of best practices and also invested in ArchestrA and InTouch training.”
“Under greenfield conditions, 12 weeks for this project would be an impossible time frame but we were fortunate in a number of ways,” says Bordalo. “The network and software tools were already in place and it was the adaptability of these same software tools that allowed us to use them to address the new challenges. This, together with the use of best practices and professional operator training made this project possible in the given time frame. In fact, we finished a week ahead of schedule.”
The adoption of best practices included incorporating such concepts as the ArchestrA BMA (Base Master Application) which, at first glance and from a process control viewpoint, seems somewhat irrelevant. But from Bordalo’s point of view, who’s been in the business for decades, shortsightedness never pays off. “For example, at the moment, we’re only looking at one database and we could easily have bypassed this aspect of best practice,” says Bordalo. “However, as we expand the system, we may well have to interface to other databases and not adhering to best practice principles at the start is a recipe for future expensive headaches.”
Pipe genealogy including their attributes (length, weight, ID, OD, operator responsible, etc.) is gathered and stored in real-time as pipes move from one section of the plant to another. In addition, pipes have to conform to alignment, rotation and ultrasonic requirements as well as tolerances downloaded from the ERP system. The result will determine if they are accepted or rejected. All this effort meant that ArcelorMittal’s Vereeniging Tubular Products division met all the API requirements. The end results speak for themselves.
- The API-accredited Tubular Products plant at ArcelorMittal’s Vereeniging works contributed R130 million to the company’s turnover in 2008. A figure that could have been significantly less had this project not been the success it is.
- The ability to define, deploy and maintain standards means significantly reduced engineering costs on system expansion or duplication
- This project has shown that ArchestrA technology can be a vertical as well as a horizontal tool for integration
- The standardised environment created by this project is a great stepping stone for future automation
This is a good example of the speedy results that can be achieved through the use of standard toolsets and an infrastructure that facilitates extensibility. Standards cut engineering costs and help define the road map for future projects. This is particularly meaningful when several engineering teams are involved. Standards also decrease system maintenance and Object Oriented Technology allows for the easy redefinition of objects (i.e. plant items) and their rapid redeployment – a key attribute of any development environment.
Lastly, the adoption of best practices means that costly trial-and-error approaches are eliminated and that the system is better prepared to cope with future challenges.
ArcelorMittal is the world’s number one steel company, with 315 000 employees in more than 60 countries. It has led the consolidation of the world steel industry and today ranks as the only truly global steelmaker with an industrial presence as number one in 27 countries across four continents.
ArcelorMittal is the leader in all major global markets, including automotive, construction, household appliances and packaging. The Group leads in R&D and technology, holds sizeable captive supplies of raw materials and operates extensive distribution networks.
Its industrial presence in Europe, Asia, Africa and America gives the Group exposure to all the key steel markets, from emerging to mature. ArcelorMittal will be looking to develop positions in the high-growth Chinese and Indian markets.
The company’s Tubular Products division has an annual capacity of over 3 million tons and can be found in 21 operating locations across 11 countries worldwide. The Vereeniging Tubular Products plant supplies pipes of all types for use in the energy sector (i.e. to oil, gas and engineering companies).