Stainless steel producer Outokumpu has expanded its use of robotics to Finland, with the first robot starting its operations at the company’s ferrochrome plant in Tornio.

The company started to utilize artificial intelligence and safety inspection robots a year ago to improve and digitize the company’s facilities’ health and safety monitoring. The deal was signed with a Swiss robotics company ANYbotics in early 2023, followed by the first ANYmal robots arriving at Outokumpu’s sites in Krefeld, Germany, and Avesta, Sweden. After a year of piloting, the use of robotics is now expanding to its Tornio site.

''ANYbotics’ robot technology is helping us to increase safety by reducing employee exposure to hazardous substances and environments, optimize production through preventive maintenance, decrease environmental impacts and to collect data.''

Thorsten Piniek, vice president, health and safety at Outokumpu

“Use of AI and robotics for safety management is one of the cornerstones of our safety strategy. ANYbotics’ robot technology is helping us to increase safety by reducing employee exposure to hazardous substances and environments, optimize production through preventive maintenance, decrease environmental impacts and to collect data. Our estimation in 2023 was that by transferring inspection tasks to the robot, employees’ exposure time to hazardous substances could have reduced by more than 80% and possibly hazardous repairs in maintenance by 20%. We have taken good steps forward and we are excited to implement robotics into our ferrochrome business as well”, said Thorsten Piniek, vice president, health and safety at Outokumpu.

Outokumpu now has three robots operating at its sites – Rosie in Germany, Angie in Sweden, and Jokkeri in Finland – with multiple daily tasks. In Avesta, the robot is working to reduce the time employees must spend in acid areas during inspections, with a total of 90 inspection points per shift, 270 per day, and 1,890 per week. In Krefeld, the robot currently has comparable tasks with the one in Sweden, with an aim to inspect both the furnace and the insulation areas in the near future. The ANYmal robots use a simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) method with Lidar sensors to detect obstacles and follow predefined routes and inspection points.