Arcelor Mittal - mill construction documentation support
With the help of Silverlight, a truckload of drawings can fit into a laptop. ArcelorMittal Hunedoara gains substantially due to the latest Microsoft technology, integrated in the Star Storage solution.
About the company
Few Romanians can say that they have never heard of ArcelorMittal Hunedoara, the former Siderurgic Plant. It was decided more than 125 years ago to build the "Hunedoara Iron Works". In 1884, the first furnace became operational and the first cast iron burden was made. The gradual development of the Hunedoara Siderurgic Plant was accelerated after 1948, when new capacities were built and the existing ones were developed.
The plant became a trading company in 1991, and in 2004 it became privately owned, joining the group that is now the largest steel producer in the world. With 320,000 employees in more than 60 countries, ArcelorMittal is the industry leader on four continents, with more than 116 million tons of steel produced worldwide and a turnover of more than USD 105 billion.
The investments in modernization and re-launch of the activity initiated in Hunedoara in 2004 would become the basis of a continuously growing production, whose final objective is the fabrication of more than 800 kilotons of steel products per year.
The initial situation
One of the most important investments carried out in the last ten years at the Hunedoara plant, amounting to tens of millions of euros, is programmed for 2009. This consists of a new rolling mill, a production line that gives the steel product its final form, by compressing the primary forms initially cast. The design and construction of such a production line - which in this case is longer than 1 kilometer! - can generate obstacles that are several difficult to overcome. One of these challenges is now overcome, also with the help of the latest Microsoft technologies.
For a production line the size of the new rolling mill, a huge volume of documents is necessary: blueprints, drawings, catalogues of the components etc. For this rolling mill, which will be transported, in several stages, from France, the first elements to be transported, by truck, were the drawings.
The problem is not the quantity of documents, but the fact that a significant part of the documents are technical drawings, whose content occupies a lot of memory space.
It is clear that we are living in the era of technology, when working on site with drawings is no longer effective or safe due to the significant risk that they may become damaged.
Lucian Simulei, IT Deputy Manager with ArcelorMittal Hunedoara, explains in a simple and direct manner: "It is clear that in building this rolling mill it paid off to have the documentation in a format that was easier to manage than drawings... This building process required projects to be accessible to the collectives that coordinated and implemented the project. It was necessary to have these drawings in an electronic format, so that they may be available to every person involved in the project.
Rareș Vasilescu, Software Development Director with Star Storage, the Microsoft partner, the company that offered the solution to this problem, explains: "We are talking about a huge archive of table-sized drawings. These had to be made available for the designers' offices as well, but also for the people in the plant, who are some hundreds of meters away, on site, which required making an electronic archive. A classic solution would have been to just use an existing electronic archiving system, but it would not have allowed the real-time viewing of the drawings, it would only have stored them in a data base".
Thus, we cannot limit ourselves to transforming print into electronic documents and rely on this to solve all our problems. The large quantity of documents - digitally converted and then stored - transformed into a data base with a huge memory would have made its use very difficult.
It would have been almost impossible to load all these documents onto a laptop. Accessing it through a server would only have been possible for smaller documents. Furthermore, not all users could have been connected to the same network, so that the information could be transferred through a LAN protocol, at maximum speed.
Gabriel Munteanu, Enterprise Accounts Manager with Star Storage, specifies: "It would have been hard to transfer information of this size on site, online and especially through a wireless connection, that the user can easily identify on the server, transfer it safely and use it quickly and effectively in the production process... it would have been almost impossible were it not for our solution!"
The documentation had to be converted in electronic format, easily accessible for the users. This transition was not only necessary for the new rolling mill, but also for all the plant's documentation.
For the maintenance, service and repair operations, it is extremely useful to be able to view the different technical drawings directly on a laptop, wherever the user may be. So far, there were several attempts to collect the archive for digital conversion, but all that remained were some files that were difficult to access.
Lucian Simulei states: "Without an effective IT solution, it would have taken much longer to address these problems... When lacking such a solution, the control over the process and the power to preview and optimize the processes is lost... And without a modern IT system it is almost impossible to attain maximum efficiency in building the rolling mill, and also in subsequent repairs. We could not afford to work with companies that were using the Silverlight application for the first time in order to optimize a Document Management solution in four field of activity. We chose to deploy this project together with the team of experts from Star Storage, a company that has 10 years of experience in the field of data and document storage, archiving and management. We wanted to work with a top supplier on the Romanian market. "
The solution was deployed by the Star Storage experts in the following stages:
1. Digital conversion of the drawings, using the professional scanners of the Star Storage Document Conversion Center
2. Storage of the electronic documents resulted from the first stage, together with various associated information on an SQL Server
3. Loading on a SharePoint Server.
4. Creating a technical document management application, with the help of the Silverlight technology and by using a .NET framework, and - very important - a special viewing instrument.
Thus, Microsoft SharePoint now acts like a Document Management System though which the technical documentation is fragmented. The developed application becomes an operational instrument that is easy to use and ensures optimum viewing.
Silverlight is a relatively new technology from Microsoft, designed to provide a visual interaction different from that of Internet browsers. By using one of its facilities, theDeep Zoom, Star Storage created an instrument that allows the viewing of raster documents or very high resolution photos on different zoom levels, from an overview down to the smallest stored details. The Deep Zoom functionality eliminates the necessity to transfer the entire document at once, requiring only the transfer of the data necessary to view an area, depending on the zoom level.
Gabriel Munteanu offers more information regarding this technology, such as how it can be used and how it was used in the ArcelorMittal project: "Silverlight enabled us to optimize the bandwidth usage when such images are viewed. Unlike other "flash" technologies, Silverlight also offered us the Deep Zoom technology: you can zoom in or zoom out at very high levels and very quickly on certain images or collections of images, so that you may view the details or the whole document in a user-friendly manner. We successfully implemented this feature as well, in an application that we developed for viewing drawings in the most user-friendly way possible, so that we could offer a modern solution at a low price. And what is even more important, Star Storage used a web-based technology, designed especially for the online environment, in order to maximize the employment of a user-oriented Document Management solution in the processing industry. According to the information we have so far, we are the first, if not the only ones, that used the Silverlight technology for such a solution".
Now, any authorized user at ArcelorMittal can access the drawings and blueprints from the SharePoint portal, by using the applications developed on the basis of Silverlight, from a server located at the company's head office. It only requires the installation of an own operating system, a browser and a standard Silverlight plug-in.
Together with the drawings, the application also allows the quick and easy viewing of an entire data base associated with each drawing: parts, subassemblies, assemblies etc. Another option made available by this application is the possibility of finding and viewing different details, by rapidly and clearly zooming in or zooming out the image on the display. When ArcelorMittal installs the new rolling mill, which will cover an area of several hectares, they will probably use only laptops with wireless connections to view the drawings.
The entire solution will be used not only for the installation of the rolling mill, but also for the processing of all of ArcelorMitall Hunedoara's technical documentation.
Lucian Simulei states: "What the people from Star Storage started will not stop once this project is over. In the end, many more documents will need to be scanned, as all drawings associated with the production equipment that undergoes periodical repairs will have to be included, which means adding all the production departments of the company, not only the rolling mill. The purpose of such an archive is usually handing it over to the maintenance personnel, so that they have a full inventory of the equipment in the departments and also of the repair plans, to indicate which item from the list is used for those repairs, which component was repaired due to accidental stoppages etc.".
Reduced investments, an accessing period reduced by up to 10 times
"With Silverlight, drawings are no longer handled manually and exposed to the risk of damage. And this benefit, as well as the others, translates into lower costs. If you use just a classic electronic archiving system, without a powerful viewing instrument, you need a connection with large bandwidth to ensure the best operation of the application. Also, both the laptop and the server must be very efficient in order to allow the processing of images with a size of several hundreds of megabytes... However, in the case of Silverlight, the traffic is several times lower, similar to the processing of a simple photo. By using Silverlight, the information is now transferred in smaller packets, and then the image is easily recomposed. The Silverlight technology allows you to view not only part of the image, in detail, but also to apply the desired zoom level. This facilitates access to the information" - Rareș Vasilescu, Software Development Director with Star Storage.
Lucian Simulei also talks about the effective benefits of using a Silverlight-based solution: "In the past, these processes would have been carried out on dedicated graphic stations, with dedicated storage; now, all we need is a SharePoint integrated solution made up of a data base server with SQL Server, for the basic components, and a second front-end application server... The benefits gained in terms of the different required technology are obvious. We did not have to buy oversized servers. By using a relatively small server, several users can access these documents and data bases simultaneously, while the traffic is optimized against blockages... Practically, the solution developed and deployed by Star Storage using Silverlight optimizes the information access method, reducing the waiting time and the costly hardware configurations to the maximum".
Streamlining the operating process
Being an easy to use application, whose interface is not exactly new, the user only needs a short accommodation time, which translates into financial and operational advantages.
This statement is confirmed and demonstrated by Rareș Vasilescu: "This is a browser plug-in, something familiar, similar to a webpage, which makes the user feel more comfortable and safe, eliminating any possible resistance to change. Furthermore, it also has the "wow" factor: the application is adopted much quicker when people see something that is spectacular and pleasant, not only operational".
Improvement of the information flow
Lucian Simulei wants to underline the fact that, by sharing the same documents, communication and collaboration become more effective. Also, redundancies are avoided and the workflow is streamlined when processing the changes to a drawing, as all the other authorized users gain immediate access and can view the change instantaneously, without prior notification. Furthermore, the solution also offers a connection to organized data bases, which can be easily integrated in the project management applications.
ArcelorMittal Hunedoara, the former Siderurgic Plant, is now part of the group owned by the largest steel producer in the world. ArcelorMittal is the industry leader, with more than 116 million tons of steel produced worldwide and a turnover of over USD 105 billion.
In 2009, an investment worth tens of millions of euros was scheduled in Hunedoara, to build a rolling mill longer than one kilometer. The technical documentation was brought over from France in a truck. The huge drawings had to be available simultaneously in the designers' offices and to the builders inside the plant.
The Star Storage specialists from the Document Conversion Center digitally converted the drawings and stored them in an electronic archive. The Silverlight technology is the basis of the technical document management and viewing .NET solution. By using a laptop, a wireless connection and a Silverlight plug-in in the browser, any authorized user can now view the drawings quickly and easily, view the different details by zooming in and out on the image and simultaneously access an information data base associated to each drawing: subassemblies, assemblies etc.
- Quick and user-friendly access to the project drawings;
- Rapid access to the document library, which was previously virtually inaccessible, from remote locations;
- The management and fragmentation of the information associated to the drawings;
- Zoom function for general or detailed viewing;
- It ensures the integrity of the drawings;
- Cost reduction (regarding the replication and storage of drawings, the infrastructure - communications and work stations);
- High speed for searching and identifying details;
- Any change can be immediately accessed by all teams;
- Accessible. Easy to use solution.