“Implementation of the latest technologies brings quality, safety and cost effective advantages”

Tenova develops solutions that help mining and metal companies reduce costs, save energy, limit environmental impact and improve working conditions for their employees. In 2005 Andrea Lovato joined Tenova’s parent company, Techint Group, as Head of Business Development and Mergers & Acquisitions. He moved to Tenova in 2012, expanding his role to oversee Human Resources and Information and Communications Technology, and was appointed CEO in 2015. In an exclusive interview with Steel360 Andrea Lovato talks about the developed technologies use in the metal & mining sector and how far technology can help in the growth of steel industry; also other new business opportunities for technology to bring the much needed digitilized platform for the industry. Below are the excerpts of the interview.

Why are mining and metal manufacturing automation technology important and how can it improve production, quality, and profits?

Automation technology plays a pivotal role in the mining and metals sectors, as it provides an invaluable opportunity for performance and productivity improvements. The implementation of process automation solutions allow manufacturers to reduce or avoid equipment downtime and to ensure optimized – and therefore safer and more reliable – operations. However, automation is nothing new. What truly makes the difference now is the application of the enabling technologies of Industry 4.0 such as the Internet of Things. Through digital sensors, for example, it is possible to collect a huge amount of data, which, when properly analyzed, provide key information on the performance of equipment which are then able to give important additional services such as predictive maintenance and real-time remote assistance. The ultimate goal is to optimize the production process, reduce costs, improve quality and increase production volumes.

What are the latest advancements in mining and metal production technology?

Before presenting tangible examples of projects that differentiate our market offerings, I would like to point out that, to be innovative, it takes more than having a few new solutions in the range of products you provide. Innovation means to create a balance between two attitudes: on the one hand, improving what you are currently doing by increasing efficiency, productivity and incremental improvement – what I call “exploitation”; and on the other hand, going beyond the current portfolio by developing new projects and expanding in new regions – what I call “exploration”.

In terms of exploitation, several Tenova products represent examples of innovative technologies that optimize the production process of our clients, improving quality and resulting in tangible savings in production costs and energy consumption.

In particular, I would like to mention that our Flexible Modular Furnace, Tenova FMF®, is an innovative technology designed for steelmakers that currently use a significant amount of hot metal in their charge mix, yet ready to move or return to scrap-based steel making. Tenova FMF® is a modular concept of a smelting furnace that can be developed from core equipment called base module with specific add-ons, and has the flexibility of converting various charge mixes of raw material (scrap, DRI, liquid hot metal, pig iron, etc.). A full range of metallic charges can thus be smelted with capital costs reduced to a minimum level.

Pomini Digital Texturing™ (PDT™) is a technology developed for the surface texturing of rolling mill work rolls that has been proven over a number of years with several customers and across numerous applications. The capability of the system to accurately control the dimensions, characteristics and placement of craters allows the production of an endless range of surface finishes. The process relies extensively on software technology to generate the texture matrix and control the high frequency lasers that apply the texture to the roll surface. The variety of surface finishes produced and results obtained have demonstrated the high performance of the PDTTM process and the potential for further development, virtually without limitation.

Another example of Tenova’s sustainable solutions for metal making is the Energy iron Direct Reduction Technology – developed in partnership with Danieli. This process technology with integrated CO2 absorption system and possibility of direct use of H2 represents with more than forty references and lowest plant emissions (NOx, SCR, dust) the benchmark in the field of iron reduction technologies.

Tenova has also been investing in innovation in the mining sector. The company’s mining and minerals focused division, which operates under the global TAKRAF name, is currently executing an open-pit coal mining project in India, which provides a good example of highly innovative features in the mining environment. Within the pit, semi-mobile crushing plants are fitted with high performance TAKRAF sizers, overland conveyors with horizontal curves and state-of-the-art control, and instrumentation systems. TAKRAF’s sizers consume less power, boast lower wear parts consumption and generate less dust when compared to alternate crushing and sizing systems.

Another important feature characterizing TAKRAF’s solutions is man-less operation. As a way of example, we are currently busy with a venture for a coal and limestone handling system for a 2×660 MW super thermal power project, in which man-less operation plays a key role. Thanks to features such as coal yard management system, anti-collision system, and monitoring of machine movement from control room through CCTV, our client will be able to reap considerable benefits enhancing efficiency and safety. Specifically, the technology includes 3D stockyard profile monitoring, machine monitoring and trend analysis – from machine PLC to control room master PLC through fiber optic cables – and various machine safety features (such as collision protection).

Regarding our effort to explore new business opportunities, recently we have established partnership with Microsoft which represents an important step to move forward in the path towards industry 4.0. Tenova and Microsoft launched a partnership in May 2017 to develop a new platform, which will support new business models based on collaboration and services. The goal of this cooperation with the IT world leader is to develop an integrated industrial system where the analysis of data gathered in the field – through multiple sensors and actuators – allows us to monitor plant equipment, detect anomalies autonomously, and optimize overall plant performance. The centralized digital platform developed with Microsoft will provide us with a broad service portfolio including predictive maintenance, spare parts management, personalized equipment settings, and real-time remote assistance. The added value for the customer is not only in the final product, but also in the optimization of the entire process, gaining advantages in terms of productivity and, consequently, competitiveness.

Is the exercise of digitization and automation too capital extensive and thus unviable for Indian industries?

We all know that, over the last decade, the global market has changed dramatically, becoming more challenging. However, we believe that this new economic environment opens up significant opportunities for the metals and mining industry also in India on one condition, however: manufacturers need to identify the drivers of new strategic capital investments. Investments are no longer focused towards adding new capacity, but are instead pointed at existing plants, where the implementation of the latest technologies brings immediate returns in terms of quality, safety and cost effective advantages– with the important added benefit of an improved environmental footprint.
In this scenario, innovation is a crucial driver, which will drive the business in the coming decades, and only companies that ride the wave of digital transformation and technological progress stand a chance of remaining competitive and attractive. It is true that digitization and automation solutions can become capital extensive, depending on the selected schemes and components; however, these solutions can be tailored to meet the technical requirements of the client and hence can also be made more affordable. On top of this, it is important to remember that the advantages of automation by far outweigh the additional investment(s) made, if any.

What regions in India is Tenova focusing on and are seeing rapid development of steel industry?

India is one of the twenty-two countries where Tenova is present, and the country represents a very important market for our company. Tenova’s operations in India cater to both the steel and the mining industries out of the offices in Mumbai (metals), Bangalore and Kolkata (minerals processing), and Chennai (mining and materials handling).

The Indian Government plans to increase the internal production for high-grade automotive steel, electrical steel and special steels for domestic production by using scrap, and this is an important opportunity for Tenova. Thanks also to our offices in Mumbai we are able to timely satisfy our customers’ requirements.

Recently, Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) in its Raigarh Steel Plant installed a new Flexible Modular Furnace (FMF). I think this is a perfect example of innovative green technologies: this solution allows steelmakers to reduce production costs while maintaining high performance.

In the JSPL steel plant, the steelmaker converted the existing Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) into a Tenova FMF. Adopting the new Tenova technology, JSPL gained a saving on the production costs of around 15-18 USD per tons of steel, resulting in a yearly saving of approximately 15-20 million USD – achieving a ROI in less than 4 months.

Another example of recent collaboration in India has to do with two automatic roll shops in two different production sites that Tenova is providing for a leading worldwide steelmaker. Both projects are characterized by a high level of automation, which will enhance plant efficiency and performance, ensuring the perfect integration and easy operation of roll shop machines.