Every day, mining and metals operations face numerous operational challenges, and aluminium smelters are no exception. To overcome ever-changing challenges while prioritising climate change and safety, many smelters are turning to digital transformation strategies, such as advanced analytics, machine learning, and digital twins.

Plants contain hundreds or thousands of assets, all varying in age, function, and location. Processes are often antiquated and manual, making it difficult for plant personnel to ensure all pieces of equipment are functioning at optimal levels

While operational efficiency is certainly a top priority, a 2020 survey of 192 mining and metals executives from 56 different countries revealed other pressures: Ninety-two percent of metals and mining executives consider the health and safety of the work environment one of the most important challenges they face.

Digital transformation initiatives have the potential to increase visibility, efficiency, environmental compliance, and safety, enabling teams to tackle numerous hurdles using data-driven information. However, although digital transformation is a priority, only 16% of digital transformation projects succeeded in improving performance and equipping companies to sustain changes in the long term.

Smelters must turn data into operational intelligence, and failing to lay this foundation can prevent any organisation—not just smelters—from realising value from digital investments. By evolving data management strategies, smelters can turn current challenges into digital transformation opportunities.

Moving beyond data collection

Operational data is nothing new for many smelters. Every day, smelters collect massive amounts of data, but that data is often sitting in disparate systems. Typically, every asset comes with its own control system, and each plant may contain hundreds of assets, creating hundreds, if not thousands, of data silos. The sheer number of disparate control systems makes it difficult to combine all collected data into one platform and to give teams a complete view of the smelter supply chain.

Learn more about how aluminium smelters are using digital transformation efforts to turn challenges into opportunities and view real examples of smelter success by taking a look at the continued article, which will be featured in the Jan/Feb Issue of Aluminium International Today.

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