Introduced at the beginning of our century, Industry 4.0 concepts are now identified as the fourth industrial revolution: the revolution of mass-customization after mechanisation, mass production and automation.
Those concepts had so far little impact on the most recently started aluminium smelters, or alumina refineries, contrary to manufacturing plants, designed and built around the “Smart Factory” model.
Starting from this observation, the authors identify which drivers and characteristics of mass-customization manufacturing apply to aluminium smelters and those which clearly distinguish process industry from manufacturing industry.
Once established, the authors review lessons from manufacturing which could help and speed-up aluminium smelting transformation towards digitalization.
With a specific focus on the “Smelter of the Future” characterized by its high capital intensity and working capital, relatively low labour intensity and process driven continuous operation, but also by its ever-increasing integration with utility network and its environment, authors identify systems and tools, but more importantly organisational evolution, which are absolutely paramount to such transformation success.
Finally, they cast a look on element already available which allow existing smelters to improve their competitive position in the short term.
This article is a collaborative work by the AVTAL association members. It is published in the May/June 2018 release of Aluminium International Today.
A presentation was made on May 8th, 2018 at the Future Aluminium Forum in Milan by Claude H. Vanvoren, AVTAL President.
AVTAL stands for: association for promoting French aluminium technological heritage.
AVTAL brings together people who are willing to showcase internationally renowned French team's knowledge and know-how developed over more than half a century in primary aluminium smelting.
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