Drives and Controls Magazine
‘First smart steel facility’ learns like a driverless car
Published:  30 March, 2017

Two new US companies, aiming to disrupt established industries, are using artificial intelligence to optimise operations at a recently completed $1.3bn scrap-metal recycling and steel production facility in Arkansas. In the mill’s first full month of production, in January, it produced more than 63,000 tons (57,152 tonnes) of hot-rolled steel. This is said to be a record for a plant of this type.

The two companies – Big River Steel and a Californian AI (artificial intelligence) specialist called – describe the plant as “the world’s first smart steel production facility”. It is designed to be both environmentally resourceful and technologically advanced.

“Our mill is analogous to a driverless car,” says Big River Steel’s CEO, Dave Stickler. “The first day, the car doesn't know how to drive itself, but the more it drives the more it learns. The AI algorithms will allow the mill to react to production challenges automatically.

“We are a technology company that just happens to make steel,” he adds. The company hopes to meet the growing demand for high-quality steel while making the American steel-manufacturing industry more robust through technological innovation.

Big River Steel’s Arkansas plant is billed as “the world’s first smart steel production facility”’s predictive AI engines – configured on its industrial operations platform called the Beast – are helping to optimise an array of functions across the mill. “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,” explains’s CEO, Stephen Pratt.