World’s most modern plant for refractory manufacture

RHI Magnesita is investing in the future with the “Digital Flagship Plant Radenthein in Austria”, the most modern plant of the refractories industry worldwide being built.

A total of around 50 million euros will be invested in state-of-the-art infrastructure as well as digitalization. The entire modernization will be carried out during upright operations. The new construction sections will be put into operation as of fall 2021.

In order to optimally use the new technologies and systems, completely new job profiles are needed. The plant in Radenthein will therefore simultaneously become the central training hub for the skilled workers of the future. Starting in the fall of 2020, apprentices from all German-speaking countries will be trained in the new apprenticeship “process technology”. RHI Magnesita is also participating in the Carinthian pilot project “Apprenticeship and Studies”.

Margarete Schramböck, Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs, Dr. Herbert Cordt, Chairman RHI Magnesita, and Michael Maier, Mayor of Radenthein, presented the project together with Stefan Borgas, CEO RHI Magnesita.

Expansion of technology leadership through investment of millions in digitization

22 million euros of the investment volume will be used for automation and process optimization. All the heavy work that previously had to be done manually will in the future be performed by intelligent machines and robots.

The physical strain on production employees will thus be reduced significantly, and the focus of their activities will shift to controlling and optimizing those processes.

The employees will be supported by a Manufacturing Execution System (MES). Up to now, individual separate systems were in use which controlled different processes in the plant independently of each other.

The MES is an intelligent and self-learning control system that is connected to all areas of the plant, communicates with them and is controlled via a central control room.

For example, MES is able to independently identify necessary maintenance and repair work and initiates the necessary processes. The MES is the first of its kind in the industry, and the pilot project will be rolled out to other plants worldwide in the coming years.

“This digitalization push will double the production capacity. In the final stage, we will produce significantly more than 100,000 tonnes of refractories in Radenthein,” explains Stefan Borgas, CEO RHI Magnesita.

“In addition, we will massively increase the safety of our employees at their workplace and the quality of our products. We are creating and securing high-quality jobs in the Austrian industry that will continue to exist in the future,” Borgas continues.

An additional 24.7 million euros are being invested in the establishment of new infrastructure. Besides a wireless LAN system according to modern industrial requirements, which connects all machines, new robot units and stone presses will be installed.

At the heart of the new infrastructure are a high-performance tunnel kiln and a highly specialized shuttle kiln for customized products. RHI Magnesita’s high-tech refractory products are fired in the kilns at more than 1,800 degrees Celsius.

Dr. Herbert Cordt, Chairman RHI Magnesita, particularly emphasizes the exemplary effect of the Digital Flagship Plant Radenthein: “This investment demonstrates our position as technology leader and the know-how of our employees.

They have applied their knowledge of state-of-the-art technology from other industries, such as the chemical industry or the automotive sector, when planning this project.

The result is remarkable, and the entire refractory industry will take Radenthein as a role model for future modernizations”.

Training hub for digital professions

At the same time, RHI Magnesita is investing more than one million euros in the expansion of the training facility in Radenthein. The location will become the central digital training hub for the entire German-speaking region. In addition to the existing apprenticeships, the apprenticeship “process technology” will also be offered at the plant starting in autumn 2020.

RHI Magnesita is also participating in the Carinthian pilot project “Apprenticeship and Studies”. After a period of study of four years, students receive three degrees: a Bachelor of Science degree in “System Engineering”, an apprenticeship degree in “Electrical Engineering: Plant and Industrial Engineering” and one for the newly introduced apprenticeship “Process Engineering”.

“Digitalization has completely revolutionized our working environments. We see ourselves as a driver of innovation, with the ambition of constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible through know-how and technological innovation. To do this, we need motivated, very well-educated young people who want to take this new path together with us,” explains Borgas.

Federal Minister Schramböck is also particularly fond of the new training program for digital occupations: “In 2018, I presented the new digital apprenticeships such as process technology.

RHI Magnesita immediately spotted the potential of these modern apprenticeships. The digital training hub in Radenthein is a prime example of how young people can be optimally prepared for a digital working world in a practical way.

RHI Magnesita will continue to be the economic driving force of the region

The digitization of the Radenthein plant is a clear strategic decision for Austria as a business location. From here, the steel, energy, chemical and glass industries in Europe will continue to be reliably supplied with RHI Magnesita’s products.

“Through this investment, we are ensuring smooth processes in industries that have proven to be essential not only during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Borgas.

Margarete Schramböck, Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs, emphasized the importance of such an investment in economically challenging times: “The federal government has taken clear measures to support the economy in Austria and to help it survive this crisis. I am pleased that we have been able to maintain the appeal of Austria as a business location and that a globally operating company such as RHI Magnesita is making one of the largest investments in its history here, even in times of crisis. This is a sustainable lighthouse project in the field of digitalization, which has an important function as a role model for the entire Austrian industry.”

Dr. Herbert Cordt, Chairman RHI Magnesita, states: “The investment in a comprehensive digitization of a main plant in Europe is not a matter of course nowadays, but a deliberate decision. Our goal is to produce high-quality products where we need them and not to relocate production to low-wage countries. As a company, we believe it is important to assume responsibility – as an employer, as a training facility and as an important member of the communities in which we are anchored; in some communities we have been operating for many decades.”

Michael Maier, mayor of Radenthein, underlines the importance of RHI Magnesita for the region: “I am pleased that RHI Magnesita has decided to make such a large investment in Radenthein. This is an important economic driver for us and the surrounding communities, from which the employees at the plant, but also numerous other companies located in the region, will benefit.”

Mayor Michael Maier also refers to the already close cooperation in the training of apprentices: “The training hub for digital professions is also an important gesture. Especially since RHI Magnesita not only trains apprentices for itself, but also for other companies beyond its own needs. We are proud that we will soon be able to welcome young people from all over the German-speaking world to our beautiful region, which is worth living in”.

RHI Magnesita is the leading global supplier of high-grade refractory products, systems and solutions which are indispensable for industrial high-temperature processes exceeding 1,200°C in a wide range of industries, including steel, cement, non-ferrous metals and glass. With a vertically integrated value chain, from raw materials to refractory products and full performance-based solutions, RHI Magnesita serves customers in nearly all countries around the world.

The Company has a high level of geographic diversification with more than 13,650 employees in 32 main production sites and more than 70 sales offices around the world.

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