Manufacturing continuous-cast copper alloys is a precisely timed process. A casting crucible is furnace-fed by an under-pouring method from a continuous melting source. The molten metal is then maintained at the exact, correct holding temperature.
Once cooled, a traveling saw synchronized with the ongoing continuous casting automatically cuts the bar to a uniform length for delivery to the cooling rack and then to inventory.
“We’re really excited because it’ll flatten out the information flow and provide it to everyone in the plant, and they’re going to be able to make really good decisions about their work,” said Al Barbour, President of Concast.
The leading domestic producer of continuous-cast copper alloys — who also has the largest inventory of standard stock, continuous-cast alloys in North America — is Concast Metal Products.
Based just outside of Pittsburgh in Mars, PA, Concast produces more than 1,000 standard product sizes, hosting them in their 50,000 square-foot warehouse in the Cleveland area.
“When you get to the airport you can see all the planes and you wonder whether you’re going to be late, is this one arriving? We’re going to have that same kind of thing.”
Al Barbour - President of Concast
Like many steel operations, a manual work order is produced as a record of production that travels throughout the facility until the end of the process. Oftentimes, it’s then filed away to sit in a box.
Concast produces revenue based on how many pounds per hour their machines can crank out. The more pounds produced per hour with less scrap generated maximizes their revenue potential.
The company knew they had to innovate to keep up with the market. Concast had a goal to digitize their work process, eliminating that paper trail. This would allow them to better track machine downtime, maximize uptime, optimize setup time and lower maintenance costs.
The first step for GrayMatter was to perform a walkthrough assessment, creating a digital roadmap for Concast. As we built the foundation, the ideas rapidly evolved.
The plant operates 24 hours a day, with three shifts. When a shift comes in, the team is always wondering, “what’s going on? What’s the next eight hours look like?”
So the idea expanded into something much bigger — what if we could enable employees to have access to their data in real-time throughout the plant?
Made possible through advanced analytics, the plan was to display monitors throughout the plant, showing the current status of each production line and what’s expected to be produced over the next 8 to 12 hours. It’s an entirely new plant-wide system for daily scheduling.
Al Barbour, President of Concast, likes to call it the “airport display.”
“So it’s kind of like the airport,” he said. “When you get to the airport you can see all the planes and you wonder whether you’re going to be late, is this one arriving? We’re going to have that same kind of thing.”
To make this possible, GrayMatter first layed the groundwork to establish downtime monitoring and utilization. Over the past year, our team has set up the SCADA architecture to enable real-time insights into their machines, giving their operators visibility into their own system.
The plant went from being completely manual to having a paperless work order, downtime tracking, historical data for customers, real-time data visualization, forensic capabilities and repeatability. This allows them to now look at a product that a machine is creating and figure out what the parameters should be to make it repeatable and have less downtime.
Processing advanced analytics and reporting will continue throughout the remainder of the year, which allows the idea of the “airport display” to come to life.
Operations will be transformed through installing display dashboards at stations throughout the plant, empowering operators with the information they need to make decisions.
“We’re really excited because it’ll flatten out the information flow and provide it to everyone in the plant, and they’re going to be able to make really good decisions about their work,” Barbour said.