Building a 5G Smart Steel Plant to Lead the Digital Transformation of the Industry

In September 2016, Baosteel Group Co., Ltd and Wuhan Iron and Steel (Group) Co., Ltd were reorganized jointly. The combined Baowu Group Co., Ltd. is the most modern and competitive iron and steel joint enterprise in China, and a super large modern iron and steel joint enterprise in the world. Baowu Group continues to promote intelligent manufacturing and digitalization transformation, and proposes four evaluation criteria for intelligent manufacturing of iron and steel processes: Centralization of on-site operation rooms, use robots for all operation positions, remote O&M monitoring, and on-line service procedures. Under a unified industrial Internet architecture, Baowu Group is committed to promoting integration of cross-industry, cross-space, and cross-man-machine interfaces. 

The existing information system of Wuhan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. (Hereinafter referred to as "Wuhan Steel Co., Ltd") is built in a chimney, and the communication between systems is poor. The existing communication networks do not have sufficient coverage, and the capacity is not flexible enough to meet the requirements of smart manufacturing. To meet the requirements of  four evaluation criteria and "three-cross integration," Wuhan Steel Co., Ltd introduces the 5G private network technology to take advantages of the 5G network, such as low latency, large bandwidth, and wide connections to achieve digital transformation. In the first half year of 2021, Hubei Unicom jointly built the 5G private network project of Wuhan Steel Co., Ltd with ZTE and CISDI. According to the requirements for the intelligent manufacturing business and the characteristics of the iron and steel industry, Hubei Unicom selected the construction mode of the independent private network to build the largest private 5G network in China (see Figure 1). 

Figure 1 Private 5G Industry Network Architecture Of Wugang

The private 5G network of Wuhan Steel Co., Ltd is exclusively provided by ZTE. The whole core network is offloaded and the complete set of 5GC NEs are deployed in the communication equipment room of the factory , and provide 5G data service for private network users (using private network cards), and support value-added private network voice/SMS services as needed. Based on the NFV virtualization architecture, the 5G private network adopts the general X86 server and networking according to CT resource pool standard, with separation of control/computing/storage, so as to meet the service development requirements through hardware expansion and software upgrade. The 5G private network of Wuhan Steel Co., Ltd adopts the mature 3GPP R15 specifications of the industry, provides good terminal and network compatibility, and supports the continuous evolution to the latest R16/R17 protocol version. Through software upgrade, the 5G private network supports such innovative features as 5G LAN, QoS Monitoring and TSN, and continuously empowers smart manufacturing. A total of 51 5G macro stations have been set up and commissioned in the 5G private network. The coverage rate of outdoor test of 5G network reaches 99.02%, the average downlink throughput reaches 800.59Mpbs, and the average uplink throughput reaches 150.78Mbps. 

The entire network is independently operated by Wuhan Steel Co., Ltd, and all security policy rights are fully controlled, achieving the highest security level and control management. The 5G private network keeps very high independence from the public network on the physical transmission layer. There is no need to backhaul the data and signaling flows in the campus to the public network. The campus network is totally isolated from the public network, guaranteeing data security in the campus. Wuhan Steel Co., Ltd is the first to implement the smart manufacturing concept of"ALL IN ONE" . It has built the management and control center and four major operation centers for iron making, steel making, CSP and hot rolling, and centralizes the operation room far away from the site and implement functions such as data integration, real-time collection, "one-click steel making" and "smart transportation." With the gradual maturity of the terminal products of the R16 standard and the development of various innovative technologies such as 5G LAN, TSN, digital twin and XR, various applications will also be put into use in a large scale. 

The "Baosteel 5G+ full-connection factory's innovative application and practice" project jointly created by Hubei Unicom, Wuhan Steel Co., Ltd, ZTE and CISDI won the First Prize of the 4th “Bloom Cup”5G Application Competition. ZTE shall work with Wuhan Steel Co., Ltd and Hubei Unicom to keep exploring 5G+ industrial Internet technologies and  5G practices+ innovative applications, comprehensively assisting the digitalization and intelligent transformation of the iron and steel industry.