Russian steelmaker MMK is using quadrocopters to receive incoming scrap metal at the external acceptance section of its Koprov shop.
The plant's Koprov shop is the centre for receiving scrap metal from MMK’s industrial site, as well as from other Russian and CIS cities. Quadrocopters (drones) allow specialists at the workshop and external acceptance site to obtain documentary proof of the presence of waste in scrap metal when unloading the latter from the vehicle.
Before the use of quadrocopters, unloading control was performed manually. To find out exactly what the suppliers sent, in what quantity and how many non-metallic items were present in the scrap, specialists of the external acceptance section, together with employees of the Koprov shop, were present during the unloading process and recorded the unloading with cameras.
To simplify this process, last year MMK purchased quadrocopters as part of its digitalisation programme (there are currently eight units in use). These devices are claimed to be easy to operate, but they are also equipped with various intelligent systems and can detect and circumnavigate obstacles while they film video footage and take still images.
The task of the drone is to hover over the unloading vehicle and record its contents. All information is uploaded to the operator-controller's automatic workplace to determine whether the scrap corresponds to the supplier's promised delivery. If there is waste or any non-receivable material present in the delivery, information about this material, verified by photo or video recording, will be sent to the counterparty's personal account area. MMK does not pay the supplier for this waste material.
Sub-standard scrap metal is returned to the supplier. Otherwise, the company reaches an agreement with the supplier to reduce the price of the batch of scrap metal to bring it in line with a lower price group. This leads to significant cost savings, says MMK. Since May 2020, when the project was fully rolled out, MMK says it has saved more than RUB 100 million (US$1.3 million) by means of scrap rejection, return of non-receivable scrap or transfer of orders into another price group. In May, savings amounted to RUB 34.56 million (US$455,000), in June, they totalled RUB 22.3 million (US$293,000) and in July they stood at RUB 47.7 million (US$628,000). Aspects related to industrial safety are also of great importance to MMK. Since the drone's controller is located outside of the dangerous unloading zone, the use of drones ensures employee safety at the site.
The plant is due to receive two more quadrocopters, after which the project can be finally considered complete. These drones are not only used for scrap acceptance, but also for other purposes, such as monitoring facilities which are currently under construction at MMK.
According to MMK, digital transformation projects, including the use of quadrocopters, consistently stand out for their high efficiency. Digital projects implemented within the framework of MMK's Industry 4.0 strategic initiative are claimed to significantly increase the operational and functional efficiency of the enterprise, provide increased labour productivity, as well as contribute to greater employee safety and increased efficiency of employee activities.