Reducing casting defects digitally: Al slashes iron foundry’s scrap by 50%
One of the largest in the southern hemisphere, this South African-based foundry has an annual melting capacity of 110,000 tonnes and produces over 75,000 tonnes of high-quality cast iron automotive components every year.
Back in 2017, scrap, rework and shipping castings with subsurface defects were costing the foundry dearly. Although it invested in Industry 4.0 systems, the operations team found that optimising its entire casting process was too complex for manual analytics.
Instead, it turned to artificial intelligence (AI) and deployed the Monitizer | PRESCRIBE application. Monitizer | PRESCRIBE is the product of Norican Group’s partnership with DataProphet. Combining Norican’s deep foundry experience with DataProphet’s award-winning expertise in manufacturing artificial intelligence and data science, this packaged service quickly delivers insight that significantly improves foundry performance over both the short and – as the system keeps learning and improving the process – the long term.
Deploying Monitizer | PRESCRIBE gave the foundry full control over process optimisation, with real-time machine settings that helped cut defects by 50% in the first month of deployment, pushing defect rates in shipped castings close to zero after just three months and saving the foundry over $100k every month.
The foundry understood that Industry 4.0 systems and techniques were the route to achieving its quality goals. It had already upgraded digitisation and data acquisition across all stages of production, using production and quality data to help plant engineers and managers to make better, more informed decisions.
However, trying to optimise an entire foundry line can involve hundreds or even thousands of variables across all the different process stages, with large numbers of non-linear causal relationships between them. Making sense of this extreme complexity appeared impossible, with process engineers faced with an avalanche of information describing millions of possible combinations of plant states. As data-driven improvements plateaued and innovation stagnated, foundry management decided to explore artificial intelligence.
Creating an accurate and reliable data set that described how the line performed at different times was just as important as the subsequent analysis, so the project began with extracting, transforming and loading (“ETL”) historical production data into a data warehouse. That data was sourced right across the entire plant: multiple departments, the foundry’s central SCADA systems and other industrial control systems.
The data arrived in various formats, from handwritten records and Excel files to Access database data and CSV sources. This was digitally transformed to create a historical view of 15 months of production that contained all the important process features for the castings produced.
Once digitised, the process and casting quality data was ingested into Monitizer | PRESCRIBE solution.. Through advanced supervised and unsupervised machine learning, the AI automatically discovered the optimal operating regime for the foundry’s entire production process. The machine learning neural network model calculated and established the correlation and interaction between approximately 1000 plant-wide parameters.
DataProphet is a leader in AI that enables manufacturers to step towards autonomous manufacturing. Their AI-as-a-service proactively prescribes changes to plant control plans to continuously optimize production without the expert human analysis that is typically required.
As recognized by the World Economic Forum, DataProphet applications have helped customers around the world experience a significant and practical impact on the factory floor, reducing the cost of nonquality by an average of 40 percent.
In the past we have been able to achieve similar results, but we had absolutely no clue what we did to achieve the good result. This time round we have a fairly good idea of what we did to achieve the result. Thanks for your tremendous efforts and help to take us to the next level.