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Posco Steel Mill Improves Safety, Energy Conservation

The South Korean company has deployed an RFID-based system from Ubisense and IBM that tracks the locations of personnel, thus enabling managers to reduce the potential for accidents, as well as automatically control lighting.
By Dave Friedlos
Oct 02, 2009Through the introduction of a real-time location system (RTLS), South Korean steel manufacturer Posco is reducing accidents, improving employee and visitor safety, and lowering energy consumption.

Posco, the world's fourth largest steel producer, employs more than 500 workers at its Finex production plant, located in Pohang, South Korea. The presence of heavy mechanical equipment and molten steel makes the factory a hazardous working environment.

Posco's Finex steel mill in Pohang, South Korea

To ensure the safety of employees and visitors at the plant, Posco has introduced its "u-safety management system," which utilizes ultra-wideband (UWB) radio frequency identification tags and interrogators to monitor all areas of the facility. Each person working in or visiting the plant is provided with a helmet fitted with a battery-powered RFID tag, allowing managers to quickly locate that individual in the event of a serious accident, such as a fire or gas leak.

Hanku Park, a senior master PCP (Posco certified professional), says his company previously had no means of tracking employees' locations throughout the factory. "Ensuring worker safety at the plant is vital," he says, "and we wanted a system that could track workers, visitors and even vehicles to monitor or limit their access to hazardous areas of the plant. We consulted with IBM Korea to find a solution that would best meet our needs. We conducted technical tests on the RTLS system and software that allowed us to determine the distance required between the tag and reader, given the iron and steel present as part of the production process, as well as determine tag and reader accuracy."

Because of the large presence of metal at the plant, read distances were low, and additional readers were thus required. The tags and readers also had to be able to withstand the high temperatures found near the plant's blast furnace. Readers were ultimately placed at the facility's entrance gate, at staircases and on 12 manufacturing floors throughout the mill.

Bill Moton, a senior architecture manager for IBM Sensor Solutions, says the solution comprises two key components: RFID-based RTLS technology and location awareness services (LAS) middleware.

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