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Düsseldorf, December 15, 2021

Consulting services for process optimization

Dr. Boris Feige and Thomas Hüper discuss consulting activities at SMS

All over the world, SMS group is known as a machine builder and plant engineering specialist that supports its customers with a comprehensive range of maintenance services and automation solutions. As a full-service provider, SMS also offers a wide range of consulting services for the holistic optimization of production processes. We spoke with Dr. Boris Feige, Chief Operating Officer at SMS digital, and Thomas Hüper, Technological Consulting Lead at SMS group, on SMS's approach to consulting.

What consulting services do you offer and with what specific issues do customers come to you?

Boris Feige:
Customers contact us with a wide range of problems. These range from quality issues during production to the introduction of new steel grades and decarbonization, through to the development of digitalization strategies and their implementation in concrete applications. Access to SMS group's wide-ranging know-how means we can offer support in almost all areas of steel production. However, our focus here is clearly on customers' questions and issues that are closely related to production.

Thomas Hüper:
This is where one of SMS group's great strengths lies. Our expertise covers the entire production process – from the manufacture of crude iron through cold and hot forming right up to surface finishing. If required, we bring experts with a range of different skillsets on board. For example, some projects may require metallurgists to work together with operation and maintenance experts on the optimization of the "tap-to-tap time", i.e. the time between two taps in an electric arc furnace. We customize and utilize the teams to suit the individual requirements of the customer.

Boris Feige Boris Feige Boris Feige
Boris Feige is Chief Operating Officer at SMS digital and is leading its consulting activities. He has more than 7 years of consulting experience.
Thomas Hüper Thomas Hüper Thomas Hüper
Thomas Hüper is leading the technological consulting at SMS group and has more than 20 years of experience in quality management and technological consulting in the metals industry.
Why is SMS group as a machine and plant builder focusing on the consulting business?

Boris Feige:
SMS group has been much more than just a machine and plant builder for a long time. Our growing service business and activities in the field of digitalization underline this and are gaining ever-greater relevance. SMS group sees itself as a provider of solutions that relate directly to the specific challenges of our customers.

Thomas Hüper:
And, besides selling plant and equipment, the supply of spare parts and maintenance services is very much a part of this, as is working together to resolve completely different, customer-specific issues. After all, our interaction with customers does not end after we put the equipment into service. In many cases, this is when it starts for the consulting team. We want to be a reliable partner for our customers throughout the entire lifecycle of our equipment and work together with them on optimizing their key production performance indicators.

Can you give some specific examples of this?

Thomas Hüper:
We were approached by a customer who is struggling with reduced quality issues with his continuous galvanizing line. He is increasingly experiencing surface defects comprising so-called "dross pimples" and "black spots", and neither he nor his team were able to identify the cause. We immediately put together a team consisting of a quality expert for galvanizing lines and an automation specialist. Within two weeks, they were on site to conduct an investigation, monitor production processes, conduct microscopic sample analyses, and inspect the line during a scheduled shutdown. The analysis showed up a number of effects that were increasing in severity, such as damage to the cold-rolled ingoing material due to relative movements of the strip and the rolls. In addition to the root cause analysis, concrete measures were subsequently drawn up and implemented, and these brought about a reduction in the number of errors.

Boris Feige:
Another interesting example is the analysis of intralogistics in the hot rolling mill, downstream pickling lines, and associated coil stores. We investigated the logistics nodes in the value chain and related weak points, which have a direct influence on the logistical parameters, deadline compliance, lead times, stocks, and capacity utilization. The greatest influencing factor was the wide range of lead times, which tie up considerable stock levels. We also identified capacity bottlenecks for the crane facilities and warehouse fill levels, with a view to increasing the production volume in future. Working in conjunction with the customer, we developed measures that increase adherence to deadlines in the production areas under review, and we tied these in with concrete savings potential to quantify the benefits and cost effects and make them tangible for the customer.

Those are interesting examples of customer projects that also demonstrate the range of what you offer. Do you have a specific approach to consulting in projects that you follow?

Thomas Hüper:
We always design our consulting approach based on the customer's requirements. Due to the individual wants and needs of our customers and the range of topics and issues, there is no "one size fits all" solution. Nevertheless, four principles, which all projects have in common and which form the basis of our philosophy, can be singled out here. 
The first principle ist "Best in class": We only staff our projects with established experts. With more than 450 specialists within SMS group, we cover the entire steel production process and can specifically rely on dedicated expertise in individual disciplines, for example operations, metallurgical process control, quality management, digitalization, intralogistics, or energy consumption optimization.
The second principle can be described as "Local": Our principle of being local whenever possible implies that we always work on the customer's issues together with him on his premises. Whether it's in Inner Mongolia, Egypt, or Brazil. We do not waste time in getting to the customer's plant and being there where he needs us. This is certainly a challenge in times of Covid-19.

Boris Feige:
Also very important is "Quantify": In providing consulting services, we see ourselves as being more than mere analysts, but rather our objective is to define concrete measures for implementation. Quantifying our activities and measures is of particular relevance for our customers. Consequently, the goal is always to bring about a concrete effect of the defined measures on the profit and loss account and to demonstrate it in this manner. This is the only way for us to achieve the necessary commitment and the customer to obtain a valid basis for corresponding implementation and investment decisions. 
The last principle is "Execute": Our consulting services do not end with the analysis and definition of measures. We also support our customers with their implementation. This is where we clearly differentiate ourselves from established strategy consultation services. We at SMS group can adapt the equipment, corresponding automation systems, and the operating parameters as and when required. In addition, we also develop and implement digital solutions to ensure the ideal operating points of our customers' facilities. We have a whole toolbox filled with options for implementation. This is how we translate consulting service theory into concrete implementation.

What plans do you have for the future?

Boris Feige:
In the last three years, we have been able to expand our range of consulting services further and implement a host of projects for customers. We intend to maintain this growth path. To meet rising demand, we are extending capacities in markets such as the USA, China, India, Europe, and South America. Going forward, we also plan to bring our consulting services even more closely together in integrated teams. These include our digitalization, maintenance, and electrical and automation experts as well as the entire spectrum of metallurgists.

And finally: Can interested parties contact you directly?

Thomas Hüper:
Of course, please feel free to contact us any time. We look forward to exchanging information and ideas with you and working together on projects in future.

Boris Feige:
We would like to recommend that you watch a video by Professor Katja Windt, Chief Digitalization Officer at SMS group. This illustrates new ways in which digitalization can optimize OPEX and profitability.

Contact
SMSgroup Feige, Boris Alexander

Boris Alexander Feige

SMS digital GmbH
COO
Eduard-Schloemann-Str. 4
40237 Düsseldorf
Germany

SMSgroup Hüper, Thomas

Thomas Hüper

SMS group GmbH
General Manager Quality
Ivo-Beucker-Straße 43
40237 Düsseldorf
Germany

Phone : +492118815280