Steel Producer Upgrades Legacy Energy Management System

Aug. 3, 2015
Usiminas, the largest steel supplier in South America, was struggling to manage its energy system application with older HMI software that was no longer supported. Tatsoft helped make the upgrade and improve operations.

The steel industry is one of the largest energy consumers in manufacturing, making it extremely important for steel manufacturers to actively manage their use of energy. That’s not so easy to do, however, when using a legacy energy management system that has not only become cumbersome, but is not even supported by the developer anymore.

Such was the case with Usiminas, South America’s largest supplier of steel products. At 13 plants spread throughout eastern Brazil, Usiminas produces heavy plate, galvanized steel, cold-rolled strips and other steel products for a variety of industries in Brazil and other parts of Latin America. Its plant in Ipatinga, Brazil, relied on an out-of-date energy system to collect real-time data from its steel mill, plate mill, coking, lamination, continuous casting and other process units, using advanced optimization algorithms created by Usiminas for performance and demand prediction requirements.

Guilherme Públio Teixeira, manager of the energy and utilities systems support group at the Ipatinga plant, was managing an energy system application developed with older HMI software that was no longer supported by the developer. This caused concerns related to future reliability of the system as it was upgraded.

All in all, Usiminas wanted to replace the legacy system, which required 100,000 tags; update the user interface and system architecture; add operator stations to the network; and add hot standby redundancy, which would protect against downtime or missing data caused by a server failure.

The steel manufacturer got help from Tatsoft, a member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) that helped to design, build and implement the new system with Usiminas. Tatsoft provided consulting, project management, application development, testing and installation services.

A particularly difficult aspect of dealing with the legacy system was the need to communicate with serial and Ethernet devices from a wide range of automation suppliers, including Siemens, GE, Rockwell Automation, Reliance and Altus. Usiminas used a third-party serial-to-Ethernet interface to enable the devices to be directly accessible from the network without having to upgrade the controllers and devices on the system. Legacy devices were thereby transformed into Ethernet devices, which could be monitored and controlled from any network location, including remote web access.

Tatsoft’s FactoryStudio HMI-SCADA replaced the old HMI. Because of its built-in properties and application objects, FactoryStudio requires less than half the tags of the legacy system. The new system also now has 35 nodes distributed across the entire plant, enabling operators to monitor unit operations with remote clients. Tools within FactoryStudio also made it easier to interface with Oracle and Microsoft SQL databases, where historical alarms, trends and process data are stored and managed.

“The Tatsoft FactoryStudio software, used in the migration of the integrated recirculation monitoring system at the Ipatinga facility, proved to be stable and reliable, increasing the process efficiency and cost optimization,” Públio said.

Aspects of FactoryStudio also help Usiminas avoid failures caused by human error. For example, it notifies an operator after a specified amount of time if he has not resolved an active alarm requiring action. If an operator forgets to take a needed measure, FactoryStudio sends another warning to help avoid disaster.

To help ensure the correct operator is logged in, FactoryStudio also provides an automatic logout feature. After an eight-hour shift, the operator is automatically logged out, requiring the operator for the next shift to log in before taking over.

With Usiminas’s old system, if the primary station had an unexpected shutdown, the third-party software would stop working. FactoryStudio, however, controls external components like third-party Windows services to provide greater stability.

A symbol library helped to speed along the project development process. This project has several libraries of motors, pumps and pipes used in more than 200 displays. With the symbol library, when a library object is changed, all instances of that object are changed automatically.

Several areas of the project were also developed using templates. Once an area was finalized, it would get imported into the master project. Like the symbol library, this expedites the engineering process, but it also helps to establish and implement corporate standards.

About the Author

Aaron Hand | Editor-in-Chief, ProFood World

Aaron Hand has three decades of experience in B-to-B publishing with a particular focus on technology. He has been with PMMI Media Group since 2013, much of that time as Executive Editor for Automation World, where he focused on continuous process industries. Prior to joining ProFood World full time in late 2020, Aaron worked as Editor at Large for PMMI Media Group, reporting for all publications on a wide variety of industry developments, including advancements in packaging for consumer products and pharmaceuticals, food and beverage processing, and industrial automation. He took over as Editor-in-Chief of ProFood World in 2021. Aaron holds a B.A. in Journalism from Indiana University and an M.S. in Journalism from the University of Illinois.

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