Arkansas Company Drives Advancements in Manufacturing Technology

 September 18, 2018

Manufacturing has come a long way in recent years with remarkable developments in the equipment used in factories, advancements in the maintenance of that equipment, and the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) becoming a vital part of the industry. These innovations have increased the ability to provide preventative and predictive maintenance to both greatly reduce downtime and increase productivity.

Arkansas is home to one of the nation’s first “smart” factories, where AI and IoT connectivity play an integral role in the vast majority of the company’s operations. Big River Steel, located in Osceola, Arkansas, in collaboration with San Francisco-based enterprise AI company Noodle.ai., recently developed the first smart steel production facility. Big River Steel opened its $1.3 billion, 1300-acre steel mill last year, transforming the industry using advanced manufacturing practices. The mill’s primary operations involve scrap metal recycling and steel production designed to emphasize environmental resourcefulness and technological advancement.

The smart facility’s industrial operations run on a platform developed by Noodle.ai called the BEAST (Beast Enterprise AI Super Computing Technology). This interface optimizes a variety of functions throughout the mill, using its predictive AI engines. “This mill possesses a rich trove of sensor data for our platform to leverage, allowing us to help unlock breakthrough improvements in areas such as maintenance planning, production line scheduling, logistics operations and environmental protection,” says Stephen Pratt, CEO of Noodle.ai.

Using these sensors, control systems and machine learning-based optimization, Big River Steel has improved the practice and profit of steelmaking. There are six ways in which Big River uses machine learning: demand prediction, sourcing and inventory management, scheduling optimization, production optimization, predictive maintenance and outbound transportation optimization. By integrating these applications, the company has improved operations, yielding increased performance and profitability.

Arkansas’ economy relies heavily on manufacturing because of the number of jobs and economic opportunities the sector creates. Although manufacturing jobs have decreased because of automation, the jobs are now both safer and higher paying. And for every manufacturing job created, another three to four jobs develop in supporting fields.

With the new types of equipment, technologies and concepts within the industrial manufacturing environment, there has been a shift in the skills required by workers to make it all happen. It is clear the optimal mix of skills and workers on today’s factory floor is a joint effort: experienced workers with functional knowledge of machine tools must collaborate with younger workers who are tech-savvy and are able to effectively use and maximize today’s advanced equipment and techniques.

Today’s manufacturing jobs aren’t what they used to be. Factories are cleaner, more efficient, technology-driven operations built for high performance, productivity and worker satisfaction. With the developments in technology, careers in the field have become extremely high-tech. Partnering with technical education entities allows decision-makers to enlighten young people about the new factory environment, including all of the excitement and potential for development available. Once the right young workers are recruited and hired, ongoing development of these individuals through continuous training is key.

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