General Manager, ArcelorMittal Global R&D
CEO, Lantek Sheet Metal Solutions
What is the origin and evolution of the company?
NICOLÁS DE ABAJO In terms of global R&D centers for ArcelorMittal, there are 16 labs globally, with four in the Americas and the rest in Europe. There are around 1,500 researchers in the company who all work in different areas of product development, process technologies, and breakthroughs. The production of steel requires all kinds of knowledge and technologies. Our researchers come from diverse backgrounds, both intellectually and geographically. My own background is in electronics and AI. The steel sector globally is going through turbulent times. I am hoping measures currently being taken will allow for a better situation in 2020, from imports to electricity costs. In terms of innovation, we are planning massive breakthroughs in process technology. Digitalization and big data will also be rolled out. We will start to see all the benefits of digitalization. We will have enough deployment in 2020 to start seeing results. We have projects for designing electric vehicles. Our center in Paris is already working with electric vehicle producers to help catch up with new requirements for electric vehicles.
ALBERTO LÓPEZ DE BIí‘ASPRE Lantek started as a software solutions provider for the sheet metal and fabrication industry. We started with the CAD/CAM software 30 years ago and are able to control and manage over 1,200 machine tools today. We are now at a point between being a digital company and an industrial one. We recently gained 22,000 customers in over 100 countries. We have 20 offices in 14 countries and an extensive dealer network. We anticipated the changes coming with Industry 4.0 and are at the forefront of the drive toward digitalization. In terms of business volume, the company has recently had solid growth, and we are steadily re-investing 15% of our revenue in R&D, one of our core activities. Our growth in 2018 was 10%, and we reached EUR19.25 million, all while creating 30 new jobs in the company. Spain accounts for about 10% of our total turnover, the rest being the countries we deliver to. 90% of our revenue comes from international markets, like Germany, the US, South Korea, and China.
How will digitalization affect the metal and steel industries?
NA It will be a massive factor of differentiation. The companies that can handle AI tools and implement them will have an enormous advantage. Previously, having raw materials and access to a well-prepared labor force were more capital-intensive. AI will encompass not just the industrial or commercial part. If we digitalize the commercial area, we need to digitalize the industrial aspects or be left behind. Companies with well-integrated technologies will go far. In the beginning, people thought Industry 4.0 was solely an IT issue. Now we are seeing it as a matter of R&D. Only by combining process technologies with manufacturing ideas and product development can we differentiate ourselves in the market. There is a massive footprint in terms of production. We can scale up our developments quickly with new processes for manufacturing and supply our customers. In a global market, we have to be capable of supplying all our customers. If you combine the creation capacity and innovation with scaling up, then we can be leaders.
ALB Challenges for the sheet metal market add pressure in terms of competitive pricing and increased efficiency, which can be solved by increased digitalization in the sector. We have to achieve complete machine interconnectivity based on standardization and standard communication protocols. We have introduced new concepts of system interoperability, which allow factories and smaller workshops to analyze, extract, and interpret data and help customers make decisions in real time. Competitiveness is a requirement for the sector, and manufacturing companies need to take advantage of the technology we can provide. One of the specific challenges for the sheet metal sector is the need for automatic real time quoting systems, as this is a sector dependent on the speed of quotations. Manufacturing companies need customers to be able to specify their requirements so that customers can get quotations automatically. We are addressing this with the iQuoting solution, which gets the data from the machines themselves and systems like MEA that are in production plants. We automatically check the capacity, availability, and resources to ensure efficient, timely, and profitable manufacturing.
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