Shanghai steelmaker adopts robots to free workers from risky drudgery

Employees only need to play an auxiliary role in performing assignments that not just put them out of harm's way but also significantly lower the workload.

Imagine working along the production line in a steel mill, covered from head to toe in protective gear.

Heat from smelting iron ores in the furnaces elevates the room temperature to around 50 degrees Celsius.

Plus, an operational error or glitch could lead to a fatal accident.

Such working condition is a terror for frontline steel mill workers. But now with the application of robots, some of them finally have found a respite from the tiring and dangerous daily drudgery.

Baoluo, a steel mill robot developed by Baosteel Group (宝钢集团), has been deployed in large numbers to four factories belonging to the steel maker.

Currently, some 1,250 units of the Baoluo robot have been put to work, responsible for tasks including material handling, moving, lifting and offloading.

Their presence has relieved more than 400 employees from a demanding and hazardous working environment.

“The robots perform with very high accuracy and stability as well, which is distinct from human labor,” said Du Jiangjian, an engineer with the steelmaker’s digital and smart manufacturing division.

The Baoluo robots derive their accuracy from advanced visual positioning technologies, with an error of less than 5 mm.

Du added that these devices have replaced 90% of the human workers that used to man the continuous casting platform.

Employees only need to play an auxiliary role in performing assignments that not just put them out of harm’s way but also significantly lower the workload.

To date, robots have taken over almost 65% of the on-site work at Baosteel Group’s four production facilities, with more room for further automation by robots.

For instance, an internal robotics team within Baosteel has begun working on a quadruped and a mobile robot, to take care of inspection work and pick up pieces of scrap metal that fall from the conveyor belt.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at

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