In the fall of 2016, Russula successfully completed the control system upgrade of the Nucor Steel Kankakee mill in Bourbonnais, Illinois, USA. The mill produces 700,000 tpy of rebar and merchant bar products, including rounds, flats and angles.
The Bourbonnais bar mill was originally constructed and began operations in the 1960s. Nucor Steel purchased the plant from Birmingham Steel when it went bankrupt in 2002. Since that time Nucor has spent several million dollars annually in capital maintenance and expansion to bring the plant up to modern day standards and improve its competitiveness. In 2016 Nucor Steel Kakakee’s focus was to improve the mill automation. The main objective of the upgrade was to replace the obsolete control system with a top of the line modern control system. Legacy systems are expensive to maintain as spare parts and knowledge of the system become scarce.
The rebar and merchant mill revamp included all the equipment from the mill entry pinch roll to the braking slide. Russula did an extensive assessment of the legacy system automation configuration to ensure that the new control system replicates all of the current mill functionality. Once the assessment was completed the Russula technical experts found many areas of improvement. The current Allen Bradley PLC5 series was replaced with the Allen Bradley ControlLogix series, which improved system performance and troubleshooting unexpected events in the mill. The current number of PLC processors was reduced and the existing remote IO chassis and boards were migrated to FlexIO remote IO.
Russula preassembled and pretested all the control equipment in its workshop. After the final factory accepted test in July, 2016, the equipment was shipped to Bourbonnais, Illinois to begin installation in September of the same year. All the equipment was provided preinstalled and prewired in new mounting plates to speed up the installation process on-site. On September 19th, 2016 the mill was shutdown to complete the installation, switchover to the new control system and improve the cooling bed, followed by cold and hot commissioning. Eleven days later the mill entered into production.
The new system is more user-friendly and intuitive, resulting in an easy-to-train platform and accelerated operator learning curve. In addition the new system improves spare parts’ management by saving costs previously incurred from obsolete spare parts.
Russula was honored to be selected by Nucor Steel Kankakee to collaborate in this important project and would like to thank all the employees at the plant for their trust and confidence to achieve a successful mill automation upgrade.
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