The Future Aluminium Forum opened its online event today with more than 200 attendees. The first of two days provided delegates with a detailed platform, which contained a full conference program, exhibition centre, networking centre, resources and more.

Opened by Nadine Bloxsome, Programme Director and Editor of Aluminium International Today magazine, she noted that the digital event hopefully marks the end of the hardships presented by COVID-19 as there is hope of holding the event live and in-person in 2022.

The first presentation of the conference was given by the keynote speaker, André Barten, President and CEO of Achenbach Buschhütten GmbH &Co. KG. Representing the company, which was founded in 1452, Mr Barten discussed the steps the company take towards a more productive, efficient production. Introducing the ‘Green, Lean, Digital’ concept, he stated that by ‘saving emissions [you in turn] save resources and save money.’ This concept was followed by data analysis proving, as an example, that a faster rolling speed is more productive as it uses less energy, less time, whilst producing more material with lower Carbon footprint. Mr Barten also introduced listeners to the companies Optilink Systems which is designed to optimise production as previously discussed.

Following Mr Barten were two Hatch speakers, Thessy Moodley, Regional Director – Digital AEM and Daniel Richard, Subject Matter Expert – Aluminium processing. Discussing the role of Artificial intelligence in the new Hatch Blast Furnace Digital Twin and its potential in other areas. The two focused on the integration of intelligent technology from a cellular level through to the end product, analysing data collected to better understand the changes and its effects.

After a Networking break, where delegates were able to interact from across the globe – from Turkey to Norway, Singapore and Austria, Johann Reps, Global Technology Manger for Digital Innovation, Connected Worker and Automation, spoke on behalf of Alcoa. Starting off with an introduction to the company, which has 25 manufacturing facilities globally and employs around 14,000 people, Mr Reps introduced listeners to the importance digitalisation when connecting the global company. Noting that each country will have various cultural differences when it comes to work, Alcoa aims to ‘create a uniform integrated working method, whilst respecting cultural differences.’ Introducing a digitalised recording and monitoring system, whereby workers can log and keep up to date with the workplaces developments and needs, Alcoa provided a platform which improved communication between departments, increased the completion of planned work and saved 40 minutes- 1 hour in time with assignment prioritisation. Mr Reps presented his audience with an example of how Industry 4.0 is also essential to optimising humans in the production line, and how it is designed to improve human performance rather than replace it.

Next was Fives representative Sébastian Gauguier, CEO of Fives Aluminium sector. Mr Gauguier discussed the digital tools designed by Fives. With these digital tools and implementations, Mr Gauguier stated that the ‘digital solutions allow for factual data-based designs.’ Fives’ digital tools aim to provide a tailored design for each customer, where their products are ‘personalised in response to our deep understanding of our costumers’ needs’. He continued, ‘we have access to billions of data sets which can be used to update and customise our product to draw the efficiency from their smelters…[we aim to] create additional value with digital solutions.’

Hans Erik Vatne, Chief Technology Officer and Interim head of Battery Technology at Norsk Hydro, presented next on the’ Digital experiences in Hydro.’ Discussing three key categories of Industry 4.0: Automation, Digital Twins and Creating Value from Data. One example presented by Hydro was their ‘digital maintenance toolbox, which improved the lifespan and reduced the risk for workers’. Moving onto the Digital twins, Mr Vatne emphasised the importance of hybrid intelligence: Using both automated and human knowledge as previously noted by Johann Reps. Mr Vatne stated, ‘data science is not the solution to everything, we need a combination of artificial intelligence with our own human competence’.

To conclude day one of the Future Aluminium Forum, Jonathan Silvestre, Systems Engineer at AVEVA spoke on ‘How a Data Platform Powers Digital Transformation in the Aluminium Industry’. Mr Silvestre stated that, from research on aluminium producers, ‘looking forward, 74% of respondents believe that a Data Platform, AI and Machine Learning will have the biggest impact in the next 12 months… but this will come with challenges.’ Using digital transformation, AVEVA presents a method of digital transformation where it requires the ‘consolidation and organisation of data to allow advanced analytics and visualisation’. With this, a data platform can become available where it can be analysed and integrated. Mr Silvestre emphasises that the digital transformation of the industry is a journey.

With Mr Silvestre concluding the first day of the event, we look forward to welcoming you to a second day of presentations and networking. Registration to the event platform is still available; sign up as a delegate for just £65 where you will have access to the platform until 30th December 2021.

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