“Effective maintenance is as important as the quality of bearings.” 

Valery Rozhkov, Senior Specialist at the Quality Control Department, Severstal’s Cherepovets plant

For Severstal, one of Russia’s leading steel producers, a full Integrated Maintenance Solution (IMS) from SKF has proven to be an innovative, cost-effective way to modernize continuous casting machines at its main plant in Cherepovets.
Founded more than 100 years ago, Severstal exports ferrous and non-ferrous metals, hot-rolled plates, cold roll-formed shapes and other products around the world. Its main plant in Cherepovets, in northwest Russia, employs some 45,000 workers.

The challenge

The company’s aging production facilities required widespread innovation to meet modern standards and become more competitive. Rather than starting from scratch and “buying in” entirely new equipment, technology and facilities, the company’s approach to modernization is to find innovative, cost-effective ways to modernize the vast production facilities that are already operating at its plant.
 According to Valery Rozhkov, senior specialist at the Quality Control Department, the recent modernization at the plant in Cherepovets has brought impressive results, but much work remains. The modernization program for the continuous casters is especially challenging. “These machines were designed and built back in the days of the Soviet Union,” explains Rozhkov. “Many of the solutions they came up with were fragmentary and didn’t really resolve the problem of casting high-quality steel as a whole. Our job now is to compensate for those shortcomings and eradicate them.”
Continuous Casting Machine No. 5, for example, has already been modernized in collaboration with outside partners, including SKF, and there are plans to introduce similar innovative solutions in the remaining four machines. Investments in converter production of more than 30 million US dollars over the next two years were announced in July 2010.

The solution

SKF has already introduced a major bearing replacement and servicing program for Steel Continuous Casting Machine No. 5, and plans to implement the same solution for the remaining four machines are currently being discussed. Rozhkov cites the importance of modernizing the caster roller units through, for example, the fitting of more reliable high-tech CARB toroidal roller bearings to a caster originally designed and built back in the Soviet era. Yet high-quality components are just the beginning. 
“You need comprehensive, integrated solutions,” he says. “You have to create the right operating conditions for the bearings, the right cooling and reliable lubrication, without over-complicating the assembly and dismantling processes. A key part of our modernization work revolves around the culture of production. Effective maintenance is as important as the quality of bearings.” 
For this reason, the monitoring, replacement and refurbishment of bearings in Steel Continuous Casting Machine No. 5 at the Cherepovets complex has been outsourced to SKF. This Integrated Maintenance Solution (IMS) program involves training for workshop personnel, on-going evaluation of the continuous casting machine’s bearings, and the creation of a database for future work. 

Customer value

At the end of the day, the SKF solution is all about improved efficiency and reliability of the continuous casters. With IMS, for example, Severstal can see in real figures the savings that it is making, both in terms of materials expended and human resources applied. Rozhkov says that in the modernization of the complex’s continuous casting machines in general, and not only where bearings are concerned, Severstal is seeking comprehensive solutions. “In the past,” he explains, “we’ve had bad experiences with what we at Severstal call ‘magicians’ – people offering everlasting lubricants or promising to pull rabbits out of top hats, as it were. This has taught us how to select partners. We only work with people who have a comprehensive, all-encompassing approach.” 
“SKF provides good, self-supported services to our engineers on shore and also to our on-board crews,” concludes Hansen.
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