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POSCO, one of the world’s largest steel makers, and IBM on September 24 announced that they have deployed a workplace safety system that uses sensor technology to make POSCO’s FINEX production plant in Pohang, South Korea, safer for employees and visitors. With more than 500 employees, the FINEX plant has an annual production capacity of 1.5 million metric tons.
Steel is a critical building block for the world. It is found in items people use every day – in cars, bridges, buildings, appliances and food cans. Even during the current economic downturn, production of crude steel for the countries reporting to the World Steel Association was estimated to be 103.9 million metric tons in July 2009.
Many people think of steel making as a difficult, hot and dangerous line of work. In fact, technological advances have made the work safer and easier. The FINEX process used at the Pohang Ironworks plant allows POSCO to use bituminous coal and iron ore in the form of powder in the natural state instead of the existing furnace process, improving the steel maker’s economic efficiency and reducing pollution. Even with these modern methods though, molten steel and heavy mechanical equipment can be hazardous.
The safety of the FINEX plant is a business priority for POSCO. To keep its workforce and visitors to the plant safe, the company is using a system it calls the “u-safety management system”, which employs ultra-wideband radio frequency identification technology to monitor all the areas in the facility. Everyone working in or visiting the plant is given a tag that is remotely connected to the system, allowing managers to respond quickly and take necessary actions – including disaster recovery and evacuation – in the event of an accident or calamity such as a fire or a gas leak. In the past, POSCO had no way of tracking the location of employees to protect their safety. Now, the company has a system in place to create a safer working environment for everyone in the plant.
“IBM is pleased to be able to team with POSCO to implement South Korea’s first sensor-powered workplace safety system,” said Kang-yoon Lee, executive, IBM Ubiquitous Computing Laboratory, South Korea. “Based on the success of the POSCO project, IBM is in a strong position to help other clients make their workplaces safer.”
With the new safety system successfully deployed at its FINEX plant, POSCO expects to expand its use of the new system to its other plants. In addition, the company is testing the system at its Safety Culture & Experience in Gwangyang, South Korea, which helps the public learn more about the importance of safety in their personal lives and in the workplace.
IBM Global Technology Services installed POSCO’s new safety system, which relies on IBM WebSphere Sensor Events software for location data and safety management. The system uses high-precision, three-dimensional Ultra-Wideband radio frequency technology, provided by IBM business partner Ubisense and runs on IBM System x3650 servers.
POSCO is the world’s largest integrated steel producer based in South Korea. The company’s business covers steel, engineering and construction, trading, power generation, liquefied natural gas production, network and system integration, logistics and magnesium coil and sheet production. On March 2, 2009, the company established a new subsidiary, EUROTALY S.A., engaging in carbon credits and multipurpose overseas businesses.