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Outokumpu becomes ‘first’ in steel industry to use robotics in safety management

Outokumpu, a giant specialist producer of stainless steel, will start to utilize artificial intelligence and safety inspection robots to improve and digitize the company’s facilities’ health and safety monitoring.

Outokumpu recently signed a deal with a Swiss robotics company ANYbotics on autonomous robotics solutions and, in June 2023, the first ANYmal robot arrived to Outokumpu’s site in Krefeld, Germany.

Outokumpu claims this makes the company the “first in the steel industry to use robotics in safety management – supporting the vision of achieving the lowest accident frequency rate in the industry by 2025”.

ANYmal robotics support Outokumpu’s ambitious safety strategy and vision of building the safest working environment within the steel industry. In 2023, this translates into a target of less than 1.8 recordable injuries per 1 million working hours.

Thorsten Piniek, vice president, health and safety at Outokumpu, says: “Use of AI and robotics for safety management is one of the cornerstones of our safety strategy.

“ANYbotics’ robotics technology will help us to increase safety by reducing employee exposure to hazardous substances and environments, optimize production through preventive maintenance, and decrease environmental impacts.

“In 2022, we started to research the possibilities to utilize AI in safety management. Safety robotics emerged as the best alternative and ANYbotics as the best supplier for the robotics. We are pleased to collaborate with ANYbotics to support our safety journey onwards.”

Since 2016, ANYbotics has developed innovative, intelligent, and integrated robotic solutions that improve employees’ lives, increase productivity, and support more sustainable industrial facilities.

Luca Niccolini, lead metals at ANYbotics, says: “Outokumpu is an excellent partner to pioneer the deployment of ANYmal in the metals sector.

“Outokumpu’s site in Krefeld poses particular challenges in dealing with its tough environmental conditions and hazardous substances where the robot can prove its industrial ruggedness, autonomy, and end-to-end integration.”

Outokumpu has currently one robot already deployed at its site in Krefeld, Germany. The pilot will be expanded to its sites in Finland and Sweden during the second half of 2023 with in total three ANYmal robots to be deployed.

Outokumpu estimates that by transferring inspection tasks to the robot, employees’ exposure time to hazardous substances can be reduced by more than 80 per cent and possibly hazardous repairs in maintenance could be reduced by 20 per cent.

Thorsten Piniek says: “The robots will have many tasks, for example reducing the time employees spend inspecting acid areas and reducing the risk of fires due to overheating of bearings and motors.

“In addition, the robots can shorten malfunction times since defects can be detected at an early stage through temperature and sound profile measurements before a failure occurs.

“However, they will not replace human workforce but instead automate some parts of the inspection work. The introduction of the new robots is a further step towards even more safe environment and increase the efficiency of routine processes.”

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