Located in Michuhol-gu, Incheon, Seoul Engineering offers products to 30 of the world’s major steelwork using its independently developed technology. In particular, it has maintained a cooperative relationship with POSCO for a long time. It has been selected as an excellent supplier of POSCO for 12 consecutive years, reflecting their solid relationship. The anchor product of Seoul Engineering is components for blast furnaces to melt iron and has ranked 1st in the industry by manufacturing “tuyere” that blows hot air into a blast furnace. It is also recognized for the quality of its cooling plates, lances and staves and exports them worldwide.
Establishment of cooperative relationship with POSCO - Improvement in both productivity and quality
Construction of the smart factory system of Seoul Engineering started in 2014. At the time, CEO Lee Hae-yang and all employees picked the digitalization of the production as the most urgent need. Tuyere, their anchor product, is made of copper, so production costs were high and defects could only be checked in the final processing stage. That’s why any defect resulted in a serious loss.
To reduce defects, Seoul Engineering received government support and introduced the
Manufacturing Execution System(MES)
MES(Manufacturing Exwcution System)
A production management system that supports all the activities across
the production such as work schedule, work instruction,
quality management, and boosting performance
in its basic stage in 2014 and advanced quality management function of the system in 2016.
In 2018, it received support for constructing the smart factory system from POSCO since Seoul Engineering was selected as one of its excellent suppliers. Seoul Engineering signed up for the “Techno Partnership” with POSCO and began solving the most urgent and important challenges. As a representative case, it constructed and managed a helium gas monitoring system.
CEO Lee Hae-yang of Seoul Engineering was greatly satisfied with the smart factory system because he could now better manage expensive helium gas that was difficult to move.
After the construction of the system, despite the same amount of helium gas,
its use time was increased by 32%.
foundation for running the factory stably.
CEO Lee Hae-yang, Seoul Engineering
Before and after the implementation of the smart factory system at a glance
Seoul Engineering faced changes in many areas after the implementation of the smart factory system. Among others, CEO Lee Hae-yang pointed to the reduced defect rate and helium supply method through cooperation with POSCO as the biggest changes.
Smart, real-time management through the implementation of MES
When a defect occurred in products, we could not grasp exactly in what process the defect had occurred. For this reason, when a defect occurred, we could not avoid suffering enormous damage and improvements were difficult. However, we could check in what process a defect occurred through the bar code after the implementation of the smart factory system. Since the production site can be seen from the office, we could better schedule operations by knowing the production status data, operation time, and when production is finished. Planned production and management became possible and defects could be prevented as well.
Consistently melting copper at the optimum temperature became possible, so the defect rate was reduced.
Copper melting process was important, but defects occurred because it was difficult to manage temperature and humidity consistently with 24/7 operations. Also, when the temperature of the melting furnace changed slightly, electricity consumption increased. However, the smart factory system enabled us to manage electricity usage for the copper melting furnace, which improved our energy efficiency. Along with a 13% reduction in electricity consumption, the total process defect rate was reduced by 10% or more. As we continued to use the system, which is not operated randomly by workers, management became very easy.
The supply of helium used to be irregular but it is now stable thanks to the helium reduction device
Helium is a very expensive gas. If waste occurs in the process, production falls due to the lack of helium. In the past, there was a slight difference in the amount of helium used among workers, so there was a lot of waste. However, we constructed a helium reduction device with the support of POSCO and now can supply helium gas consistently. Through this, use time increased by more than 30% for the same helium gas, which eased management concerns and provided a true cost saving effect.
Seoul Engineering will continue reducing defects and maintain efficiency based on the smart factory system we implemented.
CEO Lee Hae-yang of Seoul Engineering reports,
“We saw huge increases in efficiency thanks to the smart factory system!”
QWhat made you introduce the smart factory system?
AWe introduced the smart factory system in 2014. Actually, POSCO first contacted us about that. They explained the aim of the smart factory system and suggested that we introduce it. At first, I doubted that the introduction would be effective because our industry was unique. However, I thought it was necessary to reduce the defect rate that caused enormous problems in our production process. Also, it was difficult to maintain the copper melting furnace at a constant temperature and humidity. Even though a standard was set and workers were instructed to maintain it, there were a lot of variables depending on the season and time of day. To address such difficult problems, we decided to introduce the smart factory system. And the result of the introduction is very satisfactory. (Smiling) We could even catch fine problems after the smartization of our standard management system and defects were greatly reduced. So we are now more open to trying new things.
QWhat are the characteristics of the smart factory system of Seoul Engineering?
AIt is to do the most urgent and important work. Not smartizing all processes, we just solve the necessary areas as they appear one by one. Another advantage is our benefit sharing with POSCO. Benefit sharing is a system created by POSCO for sharing mutual interest with SMEs. If profits occur based on our technology development, the outcome is divided equally between POSCO and us. Tuyere’s operational life is actually around 5- 6 months. However, this has been tripled to one and a half years through our technology development. That means we contribute to POSCO profits. We proposed this method to a German company we supply products to, and we had good results since they eagerly accepted. It is different depending on countries and companies, but many companies accept such benefit sharing concept positively. Thus, we have been able to increase our overseas market share.
Effect of the introduction of the smart factory system at a glance
Seoul Engineering achieved noticeable results in four major areas. Helium use cost was reduced by 32% and electricity use by 10% after the implementation of the smart factory system. Total process defects were reduced by 10% and productivity per person was increased by 5% after implementation of the smart factory system.
Field personnel at Seoul Engineering reports, “Defects in the production process have been minimized and efficiency has improved.”
What difficulties did you have when you introduced the smart factory system
and how did you overcome them?
Actually, implementation was very smooth because we trained for it repeatedly!
Kim Jin-hong, Foreman of Machine 1 Team
What is the biggest merit of the smart factory system?
We can manage various risks in advance.
Jeon Cheon-il, Leader of the Casting Team
What is different compared to before the smart factory system was introduced?
We don’t need to go to the field to check things out. These trips are now unnecessary!
Kim Hee-jun, Leader of the Production Team