Technology firms say German mills embracing digitalisation

Several German IT start-ups do not agree with an-all-too critical view of the steel industry as taking a conservative attitude towards progress in digitalisation and related aspects.

At the annual “Zukunft Stahl” conference organised this year by business daily Handelsblatt and Euroforum, representatives of IT companies talked about the predominantly positive experience they have had so far.

An apparent reservation to implement new technology would be understandable given the complexity of a steel mill, said Falk Florian Henrich of Smart Steel Technologies (SST). “Mills need to make sure that they will not run into sudden outages. Once this has been cleared, they are very open to innovation,” he observed.

SST provides artificial intelligence-based solutions for the production process, in use already at the mills of ArcelorMittal and others. Henrich noted that the first lockdown due to Covid-19 one year ago did not at all harm the implementation of AI solutions at customer mills. Instead, customers “kept pushing the progress of the implementation full-power”, Kallanish heard him say at the conference.

Covid-19 has actually helped promote the acceptance of digital channels, other speakers concurred. Metalshub, a sales platform for ferroalloys, saw sales treble in 2020 compared with 2019, “and we expect the same degree this year”, said its founder, Sebastian Kreft. “Covid-19 brought considerable momentum; it opens companies up to take digital paths,” he commented.

Christian Koehl Germany