MRO Magazine

New technology predicts manufacturing breakdowns, cuts downtime and repairs at Dofasco and saves millions

Hamilton, ON -- July 20, 2001 -- McMaster University and Dofasco Inc., both of Hamilton, have made a breakthrough i...


Industry

July 20, 2001
By MRO Magazine
MRO Magazine

Hamilton, ON — July 20, 2001 — McMaster University and Dofasco Inc., both of Hamilton, have made a breakthrough in a statistical-based technology that will have far-reaching advantages not only for the steel industry, but also for many process-manufacturing industries around the world.

Essentially, McMaster and Dofasco have succeeded in bringing multivariate statistics (MVS), a complex academic technology, online to predict manufacturing breakdowns and lower the cost of disruptions.

MVS adds value to the enormous pool of data collected by expensive information technology (IT) systems. MVS technology extracts information from these data pools and creates analytical and predictive models.

“Companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on IT, but less than one per cent of the data pool can be used because they don’t have the technology to properly analyze it. MVS unlocks the door on the remaining 99 per cent,” says John MacGregor, a professor at McMaster’s Department of Chemical Engineering.

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MVS’ monitoring capabilities have been used to a limited extent within the chemical industry. The McMaster/Dofasco breakthrough represents a giant leap forward because MVS’ predictive capabilities can now be used to respond to problems before they result in production breakdowns and disruptions.

“It’s like an early warning system. MVS’ predictive capability will allow us to respond to potential problems far sooner, and to take corrective steps before production breakdowns and disruptions occur,” explains Michael Dudzic, Dofasco’s manager of process automation technology.

The technology is now being used at Dofasco’s #1 Caster to monitor and help prevent breakouts (molten steel breaking out of the mould). The application of MVS and other preventive measures have dramatically reduced the number of breakouts, and resulted in millions of dollars of savings a year in avoided downtime and equipment repairs, as well as increased efficiency and improved manufacturing times.

“We get a 10- to 15-second jump on something about to go wrong, which gives us enough time to slow down or take corrective action to avoid the problem,” Dudzic says.

McMaster and Dofasco have been working together over the past seven years to move MVS technology forward from academic research to plant floor applications. In addition to Dr. MacGregor, who holds the Dofasco Chair in Process Automation and Information Technology at McMaster, other key members of the team include Dr. Theodora Kourti at McMaster, and Vit Vaculik along with a group of MVS experts at Dofasco.

Dofasco has two patents pending and is continuing to work on new applications for MVS. The company is also exploring commercializing opportunities. “There appears to be great potential for most manufacturing sectors around the world, including automotive, pharmaceutical and petrochemical,” Dudzic says.

Dofasco’s product lines include hot rolled, cold rolled, galvanized, Extragal, Galvalume and tinplate flat rolled steels, as well as tubular products and laser welded blanks for the automotive, construction, energy, manufacturing, pipe and tube, appliance, packaging and steel distribution industries.