By Marion Lair
In the race against climate change, ArcelorMittal wants to make a difference in Corporate Social Responsability (CSR) by reducing drastically its carbon emissions. France has taken the lead of R&D projects on this subject and is pushing the pace for innovation. A ground-breaking invention for energy recovery, developed using PICC and winner of a Village Award in 2020 , is to be implemented for validation early next year. It could avoid the emission of 400 000 tons of carbon equivalent per year, which represents the annual consumption of Lyon, the third largest city in France !
Arcelor Mittal réduit ses émissions de CO2 et gagne un prix avec PICC
Using augmented collective intelligence to lift a major roadblock
Although steel is highly recyclable and recycled, the worldwide demand should keep growing and reach 2,9 billions of tons by 2050. Since the production of steel is currently responsible for 7 to 9% of carbon emissions worldwide, the steel industry is facing an incredible challenge : meeting the demand for steel while fulfilling the ambition of the Paris Agreement.
ArcelorMittal is thus committed to creating and implementing ground-breaking technologies in order to produce low-emission steel. The group wants to reduce carbon emissions in Europe by 30% within ten years and reach carbon neutrality for its activities worldwide by 2050.
One of the most promising path to significantly and quickly reduce the energy intensity (carbon emissions per ton of steel) is to recover the heat from steel slabs coming out from casting. Each slab represents 30 tons of metal heated up to nearly 1000°C ; 70 GWh per year are at stake for a single production site. The idea of a recovery tank naturally came out, but the team led by Gérard Griffay, Research and Innovation Leader, hit a snag called calamine.
Solutions seemed to be far from reach until Gérard Griffay crossed paths with Constant Ondo and PICC Solution. Within 5 work sessions of 3 hours only, spread over 3 months and gathering 12 experts, ArcelorMittal invented 30 concepts for its recovery tank. 5 of them were integrated to research projects and successfully led to a technical solution that should be implemented on a first production site at the beginning of 2022.
« PICC is a very powerful tool. The artificial intelligence behind the platform boosted the intelligence and the creativity of our researchers », says Gérard Griffay, « it helped us lift a major roadblock in record time. »
Invention as a structured process
ArcelorMittal used 2 main functionalities of PICC, the KMAP and the Build&Solve module, to channel the invention process on this particularly complex issue. The AI Gérard Griffay is referring to guided the creativity efforts of contributors towards the right solutions by providing automated, in-depth analysis of existing knowledge as well as of technical contradictions, and by suggesting the best innovation principles to solve those contradictions.
The invention process consisted of 3 steps :
- Sharing all the knowledge (documented or not) on problems associated with the energy recovery tank, partial solutions already considered and the problems these solutions, in turn, created,
- Identifying which contradictions to work on first, in order to solve the problems efficiently,
- Exploring different innovation principles to fuel invention ideas.
« Our experts identified 52 problems to solve, 28 levers for action and 56 evaluation parameters. PICC identified 60 technical contradictions. Without the automated analysis and ranking provided by PICC we would probably have lost weeks only to get a clear global view of where we were and what problems we should tackle first. With the structured process offered by PICC, we truly experienced an acceleration in innovation » explains Gérard Griffay. « The 30 concepts that came out of our collaboration on PICC proved to be highly relevant », he adds.
Gathering talents worldwide to solve the unsolvable
Changing things deeply for a better world implies to invent new paths, to solve problems long considered as unsolvable. It calls for all the talents that can be used. At ArcelorMittal, 50% of R&D talents are located in France. Which means that 50% are living abroad, on all continents.
Thanks to PICC, they can all contribute to the evolution of the manufacturing processes for carbon-neutral steelmaking and sustainable products.
For Gérard Griffay, « one of the great benefits of PICC is that it allows us to connect experts from different research centers and have them work simultaneously on a project. The platform is really collaborative because contributors can post whenever they want. The knowledge map is updated in real time. Plus, PICC offers automatic translation in more than 26 languages. These functionalities are very useful and highly appreciated. They will for sure be a key for success in our future collaborative projects. »
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