Swiss Steel: Building a networked platform for steel manufacturing

About Swiss Steel

With customers in Switzerland, Germany, France, and Italy, 175-year-old Swiss Steel is among the leading European suppliers of engineering and free-cutting steel.

Industries: Manufacturing
Location: Switzerland

About Wabion

At home in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, Wabion is a leading Google Premier Partner, enabling digital transformation for clients around the globe.

With Google Cloud Platform and Wabion, Swiss Steel built an infrastructure that could take in, transform, store, and analyze data from multiple sources to provide unique insight.

Google Cloud Results

  • Improves safety procedures by automatically collecting and disseminating data from workers using smart devices
  • Provides insight by bringing all the data from sensors and machines together for the first time
  • Reduces costs with flexible pricing and indirect savings from efficiencies gained from improved data

Direct and indirect savings of €500K+ expected over the next year

Swiss Steel, a company of the SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH Group, has been providing high-quality steel to the the automotive, engineering, and construction industries for over 175 years. With limited local mineral resources, Swiss Steel has had to constantly invest in innovation and new technology to remain one of Europe’s leading steel manufacturers for so long. In 2015, the company wanted to connect the various systems in its production chain onto a single, networked platform for the first time. To do that, it needed Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

“We are in a very competitive market, and Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world to operate in, so we needed a disruptive solution. We were looking for a cloud platform that could store a huge amount of data safely and scale up with our ambitions.”

Daniel Jung, Head of Strategic Procurements, Swiss Steel

“We are in a very competitive market, and Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world to operate in, so we needed a disruptive solution,” says Daniel Jung, Head of Strategic Procurements at Swiss Steel. “We were looking for a cloud platform that could store a huge amount of data safely and scale up with our ambitions.”

Flexibility, stability and security

Steel manufacturing is a complex process made up of several different systems. Without local resources and high operational costs, Swiss Steel knew that it had to find a radically disruptive solution to stay competitive. The company decided to build a networked platform that would monitor its mechanical and logistical processes and store the data in one place for the first time. In order to build such a platform, it searched for a cloud-based infrastructure.

Swiss Steel chose GCP for its track record with cloud technology, security, and innovation. Teaming up with Google Partner Wabion, Swiss Steel began by using Google Maps to visualize geographical data about its logistics network, while Firebase helped store the data in the best way for quick, efficient loading.

“We use Firebase as an application backend and it’s key for us. It provides all the flexibility we need at a really low cost.”

Michael Gomez, Managing Director, Wabion Switzerland

After success with the Google Maps project, Wabion helped Swiss Steel build a much larger platform using a number of GCP products, adding new processes in stages. Swiss Steel coordinated the various systems on its platform with Google Cloud Functions, while Google Cloud Pub/Sub helped the systems communicate with each other. The company used Google Cloud Dataflow to pipeline multiple data streams into Google BigQuery, where it could analyze trends and look for insight. Meanwhile, Wabion and Swiss Steel also used Firebase for the mobile application.

“We use Firebase as an application backend and it’s key for us,” says Michael Gomez, Managing Director at Wabion Switzerland. “It provides all the flexibility we need at a really low cost.”

Turning insight into action

With GCP and Wabion’s guidance, Swiss Steel was able to build a secure, stable platform that linked all its processes together to provide powerful insight and optimize its processes. By equipping its plant workers with smart watches, for instance, Swiss Steel has made it easier and faster to raise alarms, which automatically and instantly provide vital information to repair teams, dramatically improving safety throughout the company.

With real-time data from Google Maps and other parts of the supply chain, Swiss Steel could make more efficient use of its transport network and not leave trucks idling. Along with these indirect savings, Swiss Steel and Wabion were able to iteratively build the Swiss Steel platform without heavy upfront investment because of the low GCP costs. “Google Cloud Platform allowed us to start small and test our projects, so we only paid for what we used,” says Daniel. Along with flexible pricing, GCP has easy-to-manage services, which dramatically reduced the company’s IT maintenance and support costs.

“It’s hard to put a figure on how much we’ve saved because of all the indirect costs we’ve saved with the new platform,” says Daniel, “but we predict that we will save more than half a million euros in the next year.”

An architecture diagram showing how GCP products fit into their stack

“We worked very closely with Wabion at each phase of development. After each success, we gained insight as to how we could best approach the next steps and, ultimately, build out our platform as well as a machine-learning-driven price prediction resource.”

Daniel Jung, Head of Strategic Procurements, Swiss Steel

The Swiss Steel journey with Wabion and Google is far from over. The company is currently bringing as much data as possible into GCP to feed algorithms built with Google AI machine learning tools, which will help provide resource price prediction analytics and a predictive maintenance solution. In addition, Swiss Steel is experimenting with Google Glass and augmented reality to help its workers identify the problems with faulty machinery and reach solutions much faster. As Swiss Steel continues to innovate, it can look to Wabion and Google to keep providing the tools to build the best possible platform it can.

“We worked very closely with Wabion at each phase of development,” says Daniel. “After each success, we gained insight as to how we could best approach the next steps and, ultimately, build out our platform as well as a machine-learning-driven price prediction resource. I told them what we needed and they helped make it a reality.”

About Swiss Steel

With customers in Switzerland, Germany, France, and Italy, 175-year-old Swiss Steel is among the leading European suppliers of engineering and free-cutting steel.

Industries: Manufacturing
Location: Switzerland

About Wabion

At home in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, Wabion is a leading Google Premier Partner, enabling digital transformation for clients around the globe.

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