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SMS group, founded almost 150 years ago in Germany, is a family business that became a world market leader in the metals industry. 13,500 employees worldwide generate an annual turnover of around 2,8 billion euros.

Taking responsibility and contributing to the production and reliable supply of eco-compliant steel is seen as social-political responsibility. Therefor the company has been channeling their development activities increasingly into the design of eco-friendly and resource-saving plant technologies all over the world.

SMS group has also been opening up growth opportunities outside its traditional industry focus by transferring proven SMS group technology to other sectors which are faced with similar technological challenges. The company has become an increasingly important player in many different sectors – including energy and even port logistics.



SMS group choose Jacobs University to kick off a joint research and development project as part of its digitalization offensive. For an innovative project of Big River Steel., a “self-learning factory” had to be implemented. In Arkansas, Big River Steel operates North America’s newest and greenest steelmaking plant.

The plant has an annual capacity of 1,5 million tons which currently has been increased to 3 million t/year in a second constructions phase. SMS group started the research and development project on intelligent production planning to cover aspects such as dynamic reacting to specific production situations, use of autonomous learning, artificial intelligence of automation systems using big data analytics.



The goal was to equip the plants at Big River Steel with SMS group’s X-Pact® electrics and automation, including a flexible production planning system and further technological process models of digitalization. The joint project was officially kicked-off in 2017 while representatives of Jacobs University Bremen explained relevant steps how to implement a “self-learning Factory” during a presentation at US company Big River Steel.

The responsible research group is internationally renowned for the high quality of its network-based analyses of complex systems. The combination with a strong international outreach, a highly professional project management and the excellent know-how in modern data analysis methods definitely made a difference.

Previous reference projects illustrated Jacobs University’s capabilities and suitability as ideal project partner to solve this particular challenge.


Interdisciplinary collaboration and international outreach have been an important success factor so that insights of the research and development project have been integrated into Big River Steel’s automation environment on going.

Specifically, the project is to provide solutions and optimization models for production planning with real product cycle times, yield optimization through smart campaign planning and re-scheduling of sequences especially in Compact Strip Production plants after interruption of casting.

A further objective was the development of planning modules based on artificial intelligence. The X-Pact® MES 4.0 Performance Enrichment Analysis detects relationships between production parameters and performance indicators on the basis of historic production data.

Once the Performance Enrichment Analysis module is activated, a whole range of possible errors can be simultaneously monitored in order to detect any abnormalities during production.



Improved adherence to production schedules and increased yield by reducing downgrading and scrap will have positive effects on the economic efficiency of the customer’s production facilities. The dynamic planning and further optimization processes was integrated into Big River Steel’s automation environment – the world’s first self-learning steel plant on the banks of the Mississippi in Arkansas, USA.

SMS group supplied all the plants for the new steel complex, including the mechanical and electrical equipment as well as automation systems, supported by Jacobs University, to build America’s most modern steel mill.

The Performance Enrichment Analysis allows permanent monitoring of product quality and plant condition in many different areas. Due to the early detection, action can be taken in good time – thanks to AI. A major innovation already introduced to production companies of various sectors.

This highly innovative and effective artificial intelligence method was developed by SMS group in cooperation with Jacobs University.

Innovation is a place.

    with Jacobs University Business Solutions




Stephan Kuhlmann
Project Manager
Jacobs University Business Solutions
Tel: +49 421 200 4145
Email: s.kuhlmann [at]


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