Only finishing touches are still needed

16th July 2004 By: zeena isaacs

Electrical engineering and electronics leader Siemens is on the verge of completing a steel-coiling project for a large stainless-steel producer in Middelburg.

The project, to the value of R11,5-million, involves the installation of a new suite of Simovert Siemens ac variable-speed drives (VSDs) and motors on an annealing and pickling line at the plant, as well as replacing the programmable logic controller (PLC) and VSDs and upgrading the coiler.

“We started the project in June last year, and completed most of the work last month.

“We are currently completing all the finishing touches,” Siemens metals marketing manager Colin Morris tells Engineering News.

He adds that the plant housed older dc VSD technology, which was upgraded to state-of-the-art ac motors and drives.

The new motors, drives and PLC have several advantages, including controlling the looping, and improving the speed and quality of the pickling line, which, in turn, will increase production capacity, and product quality.

Morris notes that 15 Siemens personnel, consisting of engineers and installation employees, were on site for the duration of the project.

The company was also active in a multimillion-rand equipment upgrade project at the plant during the annealing and pickling line project, which involved upgrading existing equipment with modern Siemens equipment supplied from the company’s UK branch.

The equipment supplied here included the patented Siemens active front-end VSDs.

These projects follow the completion of a R3,5-million coil build-up line project at the plant earlier this year.

In other parts of the cold-rolling finishing areas in the plant other Siemens equipment, such as the accurate Simovert MC, a motion-control VSD, used for accurate positioning and placement of steel slabs, has also been installed and commissioned.

“We have been executing small upgrades and projects continuously at the plant, and are hopeful that many more projects will be awarded in the future,” says Morris. He adds that the company was awarded the project for several reasons, including the fact that it completed a similar annealing and pickling project for a large steel producer last year.

Besides the experience gained on the project, the same project team was responsible for completing the job. Members of this team have had opportunities to work with Siemens internationally in many steel plants worldwide as Siemens holds about 35% of the electrical market in this field.

Another reason for being awarded the contract is its improved customer relations strategy, in which key account managers are designated to deal with a specific client.

These key account managers are responsible for communicating with the client, while simultaneously facilitating communication with the relevant project departments within Siemens Southern Africa. The key account manager is then responsible for the entire Siemens suite of products. This approach is beneficial to the client as it reduces the number of communication channels.

In addition, it enables the account manager to provide technical advice and monitor the processes at the plant closely to determine when maintenance and services are required.

Siemens’ installation of an electrode controller on the furnace at Saldanha Steel is running well and, because of the service provided by Siemens, the company remains the electrical partner of choice for small upgrades at the plant with original-equipment manufacturers.

“A project completed last month, undertaken to increase the feed rate to the furnace, involved upgrading the existing software and installing new cables and motors,” Morris explains.

He adds that the company plans to launch manufacturing execution systems (MES) into the metals industry later this year, which will be complemented by a road show, in which it travels to clients to promote and demonstrate the system.

“We are excited about launching the MES, due to our design, modelling and program strength, and we believe that we could achieve market leader status in MES in the future,” says Morris.

The company also supplies process-related products, which are developed specifically for the metals industry, such as the furnace controller, roll gauge measurement and caster models.

The furnace controller controls the operation, current and depth of the electrodes into a furnace; the roll gauge controls the pressure of the rolls in hot-rolling applications, which results in better quality of rolls; and the caster models mix the melt and measure the quality of the cast. These products are unique to Siemens and have international patents.

The company also has a cooling model, which is supplied to the cooling bed for the hot strip at a hot-strip mill, which assists in the production of austenitic or ferritic metals.

Siemens Southern Africa is currently in the process of quoting on this model for a large metal producer.

“The metals industry is a growing market for us, and we are pursuing it aggressively due to the expertise available in-house and internationally,” Morris notes.