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China says integration of 5G services has energized its iron and steel industry

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By Shen Zhilin, Jiang Xiaodan, People’s Daily

The integration of 5G technology into the industrial Internet has helped improve the quality and efficiency of China’s traditional iron and steel industry by accelerating the application of products with big data-based functions such as remote control, collaborative operation and troubleshooting in recent years.

At the steelmaking zone of a wide and heavy plate plant run by Hunan Valin Xiangtan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. (Xiangtan Steel) in Xiangtan, central China’s Hunan province, four large electromagnetic bridge cranes were busy attracting scrap steel with a weight of several tons and then moving it accurately onto a truck.

The bridge cranes were remotely controlled by Tan Bin, who sat in a spacious central control room and accomplished loading and unloading tasks by simply pulling or pushing levers and pressing buttons in front of a screen.

“Work was so much tougher when I had to stay in the operator’s cab of bridge crane before remote control was possible,” Tan recalled.

“The operator’s cab was noisy, and would sometimes be infiltrated by dust. So we needed to wear masks all the time in work,” the operator added.

Taking advantage of the ultra-high reliability and ultra-low latency of new technologies, the plant realizes the ultra-high-speed uploading and downloading of data, thus allowing workers to control the equipment accurately and remotely, according to He Wei, deputy director of the production equipment department of Xiangtan Steel, who said that the integration of 5G into bridge cranes has greatly improved operators’ work efficiency.

Shougang Jingtang United Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. in Tangshan city, north China’s Hebei province, has set up a management system that can monitor in real time the operation of the four main devices of coke ovens, an essential facility for iron and steel companies, namely coke pusher, coke barrier vehicle, coke quenching vehicle and coal charging car. These machines playing different roles are closely connected with each other and form an organic and unified whole through the transmission of signals.

Besides real-time monitoring of the four main devices of coke ovens, the management system enables man-machine dialogues, allowing workers to give orders to machines.

The four devices can send their operating data to the central control room, explained Ding Hongqi, a staff member at the coking department of the iron and steel company in Tangshan.

However, due to low bandwidth, image transmission was often troubled by network latency in the past, Ding said, adding that the problem has been solved after the company employed 5G technology.

As a typical process manufacturing industry, the steel industry is characterized by continuous production process and requires timely transmission of large amounts of information in a complex environment, something that the company’s former information system can no longer sustain. Therefore, the industry is in urgent need of intelligent transformation.

In 2019, the coking department of the company applied 5G in the remote operation of the four devices to realize their intelligent and synchronous connection, making the remote operation of the equipment more reliable, efficient and safer.

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