Steel, the near-magic combination of iron and just-enough oxygen, is one of the oldest materials created and used by humans. The first examples of steel tools date back 4,000 years.
But, while steel may be an old product (and industry), the technology used to process, move, track, and ship steel products is as new as it gets. At Pacesetter, we are committed to innovation and that applies ten-fold (or maybe even 4,000 fold!) to the technologies that allow our company, and our customers, to flourish.
These are a few of the best advances in the industry.
Automated Visual Inspection Systems for Defects
Surface defects in steel, no matter what the finish, are unacceptable. Visual Inspection, the inspection of an object’s surface to detect random defects such as scratches, tooling marks and dents among other issues, can now be handled with automated robotic systems. A robotic solution, with lights and sensors, sometimes cameras, and complex algorithms has multiple advantages.
Human subjectivity that can occur during a visual inspection is eliminated. Inspections cover 100 percent of the object- robots can go where the human eye can’t. Many systems offer information that is valuable feedback on the quality of the processing which helps correct any errors that occur. Finally, and most importantly, automated visual inspections reduce the possibility (no matter how slight!) that a non-conforming part will be shipped to a customer.
Automated Crane Systems
In steel manufacturing and distribution there is, obviously, a lot of steel moved around. Placing steel, and keeping track of where it is, is much easier with automated (computer controlled) crane systems.
When used appropriately, overhead crane systems that are automated can both streamline processes and make a steel production facility safer. Other advantages include reductions in labor costs, great inventory tracking capabilities, less damage and overall increases in productivity.
Farewell old-school forklifts!
RFID, or radio frequency identification systems, transmit the unique, identifying, serial number of a product wirelessly.
While RFID systems are also touted for reducing time and labor inefficiencies, the real benefit is the improvements to real-time data accuracy. The technology allows information to be shared with businesses across the supply chain, so the left hand knows exactly what the right hand is doing.
There are both passive RFID systems, which reflect radio waves that originate at the reader antenna back, and active RFID transponders, a microchip and antenna that’s placed on product and “read.”
Both active, which are often used on shipping container and similar large objects, and passive RFID systems, are used in order to provide tracking information in real time. Another benefit is that GPS technology can be incorporated in order to track goods and materials in transit.
Finally, the New and More Sophisticated ERP
ERP, system enterprise resource planning, provides an integrated and continuously updated view of core business processes. Using common databases, which are maintained by a database management system, a good ERP system will track business resources from cash to raw material, as well as the status of business-in-process including orders, payroll and purchase orders. The right applications means that each department (manufacturing, shipping, sales, accounting) can share data company-wide.
A few key areas that new ERP systems enhance, for most industries, is the ability to easily connect with outside applications and to generate and process transactions automatically– allowing staff to deal with just the exceptions. In our wonderful world of IT, countless numbers of new profit/efficiency enhancing products are available to enhance corporate needs, such as better shop floor capabilities, and tracking, as well as the analytic tools to help improve processes. Today’s ERP systems allow current staffing levels to handle more business, making companies more profitable.
As technology progresses we see more steel related businesses, from manufacturers to steel processors and service centers, adopting the new technologies that allow us to service our customers ever increasing demands.