In the future, when mills and plants become more autonomous, it is likely that the role of a mill operator will extend towards the role of a mill orchestrator. This means that they will be responsible for ensuring that different process areas perform well together rather than the details of how those processes are operated – the mill will manage and operate itself autonomously without the need for human intervention.
Let’s take a look at how a day in the life of a mill orchestrator might look in the autonomous mill of the future.
Thanks to the connectivity of the Industrial Internet, from the moment the mill orchestrator wakes up they’ll be able check the status of the mill remotely, either from their laptop or from their mobile device. If needed, they will be able to work remotely for the whole day, with access to data from all the systems in the mill. As they continue their work, the mill will keep them up-to-date with the status of different processes, sending alerts if any issues need to be taken care of. However, in general, the mill will handle all regular maintenance itself.
The mill orchestrator will be able to rely on analyses and insights provided by data driven tools. These will help them to interpret data from the mill and make better decisions based on it. In addition, because advanced applications can predict future events, they will give the orchestrator time react and take care of situations in advance. Since they will need a wider understanding of mill operations and how different processes are interconnected, tomorrow’s mill orchestrators will also need a broader range of skills and competences than today’s operators.
However, the AI systems in the autonomous mill will provide support to help them do their job. For example, the mill will notify the orchestrator well before setting changes need to be made for production reasons, like grade changes. The mill orchestrator’s task will be to verify and accept the proposed changes rather than input the settings themselves – again the mill will take care of the settings autonomously. And, the mill systems will also help the orchestrator to check that the changes result in the right quality of product.
When the orchestrator’s day comes to an end, there will be no variation in quality or productivity when next shift arrives, because all the settings will be controlled autonomously rather than by hand. This means that they can go home, safe in the knowledge that the mill is under good – autonomous – control.