The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

thyssenkrupp Steel
Experience – Information technology

Make IT secure

Lubricant. Fuel. Nourishment. Free-flowing production data has become the lifeblood of any modern production system. thyssenkrupp Steel Europe uses Rittal Data Cubes to safeguard the integrity of this crucial resource.

Text Ulrich Kläsener and Hans-Robert Koch ––– Photography

It was 2016 when thyssenkrupp Steel ushered in change. The Executive Board decided to modernise and standardise its production-relevant IT infrastructure across the entire Group. Instead of handing over work to external service providers, thyssenkrupp Steel would from that point on regain its own data sovereignty. After all, the resource at stake is the very backbone of operations – big data from and for production.

The company and its implementation partner Rittal made a start at Europe’s biggest steel plant in Duisburg. There, on a more or less greenfield site right next to hot strip mill 1, a veritable digital Fort Knox began to take shape. Two Rittal Data Cubes were established and production IT systems were gradually moved into them until they were fully integrated.

The entire physical IT infrastructure from rack and server to climate control, power supply and effective fire extinguishing system is housed in the Rittal Data Cubes. Thanks to the digital twin of the Rittal Data Cubes, thyssenkrupp Steel can operate virtual resource management via remote access. This twin – a kind of digital blueprint of the standard that was developed especially for the company – also ensures the physical solution can be rapidly replicated at any of the sites operated by thyssenkrupp Steel. Eight identical containers are now in use at the steel giant’s
two Duisburg sites, two more at the Dortmund plant, with Bochum and Siegerland to follow.

To build redundancy into the system, Rittal set up two IT containers for each production plant unit. Production data from the plant is collated in the IT infrastructure housed in container 1 and backed up in the identical twin container, which has an independent power supply and is located at least 200 metres away. Measuring 12 metres wide, 3 metres deep and a good 2.5 metres tall, the Rittal Data Cubes boast all the physical safety and security measures needed to guard against external influences. The metal fence enclosure, robust steel container shell and integration into the company-wide safety and security system – from fire prevention to access control – provide excellent protection.

Digital Fort Knox: The entire physical IT infrastructure from rack and server to climate control, power supply and fire extinguishing system is housed in Rittal Data Cubes.


with Maximilian Tix, Head of Smart Factory & Digital Connectivity at thyssenkrupp Steel Europe

thyssenkrupp Steel has built a vault for its “treasure” – high-quality production data that is crucial for competitiveness and is processed and protected in Rittal Data Cubes. What do you aim to achieve with that? Several things. First of all, there is the matter of availability, which is based on state-of-the-art hardware, independence from providers and our concept of using containers in geo-redundant pairs. Next is data sovereignty and real-time data usage based on AI at the edge and secure, channelled communication both vertically and horizontally. We also think it’s essential that plant units are self-sufficient. Building on all that, we are looking at more efficient processes founded on predictive maintenance. Moreover, we are keen to explore opportunities to generate new business models based on capturing data close to actual production operations. This is where targeted quality management with regard to the downstream processing industry comes into play.

You have had exactly the same container pairs set up at every production location. Why? Redundancy. It is absolutely essential for a 24-hour production operation. And standardisation. If everyone has the same set-up, it’s easier for in-house and external staff to operate the containers. When it comes to life cycle management, standardisation brings benefits across the board.

back Factor 5: Ensure data sovereignty  

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