2016-09 MSc assignment: Implementing control strategy for automation of aluminium-smelters at Hencon bv


September, 2016


Hencon is a world-wide supplier of Special Mobile Equipment for the heavy industries. Where conventional vehicles like forklift trucks and tractors cannot operate to full satisfaction, Hencon equipment brings the solution. The special designed, custom-made vehicles are in operation all over the world at several kind of industries such as:

  • Primary aluminium industry
  • Secondary aluminium industry
  • Light metal industry
  • Concrete industry
  • Steel industry
  • Mining

Since 2006 Hencon investigated the Hall-Herault production process of Aluminium in order to come to an integrated automatic logistic approach for feeding the Hall cell as efficient as possible with highly automated transport methods. Within this project Hencon reached an important milestone which requires the further development of the Transport Control System openTCS® (Fraunhofer Institute for Material flow and Logistics) for Aluminium Industry.

With over 60 Primary Aluminium clients worldwide, the Hencon organization is extensive, but yet it is characterized by close cooperation both internally and with customers and suppliers worldwide. In this project you will work together with one of our leading clients with facilities in Norway and elsewhere all over the world, specialists of Hencon and the Fraunhofer Institute.


This graduation project is the first work package of a larger product research project that focus on Just-in-Time material handling for primary Aluminum Industry. This work package deals with the operational control of Automatic Guided Vehicles in a 24/7 production environment for primary Aluminium. Based on the actual requirements of a real time operational planning system, the optimal routing and handling of anodes (and metal) needs to be handled in order to have the anodes (and metal) arrive in time and safe at the required destination.

In this first step we need to transform the shift based planning strategy into a routing and planning strategy that allows 24/7 operation with a limited number of AGV’s which do need regular charging time due to the limited Li-ion battery capacity. During this process an AGV can be delayed or stopped due to other activities that take place in the plant as well. Other fields are:

  1. identification of delays in the physical distribution process having serious consequences, such that corrective actions can be invoked,
  2. reverse logistics, how to route them with which priority level. This is part of the HTC (Hencon Traffic Control), aiming to coordinate operational traffic control actions in an Aluminium Smelter with a dynamic working routine. With regards to the overall logistics of a smelter this is a round the clock operation with a main cycle that 24 to.32 hrs to start over again.

Hencon builds its own HTC as tool for data visualization, routing, battery management and data analytics that is connected to the control software of a client, being ORACLE/SAP orientated, with custom made modules and control algorithms that initiate the events of anode setting or metal tapping.


Although Hencon already did do ground work research in Simio and the use of TCS for setting up an AGV network grid and traffic management ruling system, still a lot of work needs to be done in order to come to an optimized shortest path system that is capable to support the Aluminium production process and deliver or pick up materials in time. In order to do so the following assignment is defined that is divided into 3 stages:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the existing logistic processes and the existing Oracle based planning strategy in order to come up with a new logistic process that facilitates the transport of anodes and collection of metal. Keep in mind that the selected tools need to evolve in time in order to cover all logistic processing events required for producing Aluminium.
  2. Evaluate the simulation tools: Plant Simulation (siemens) , Simio and Arena (Rockwell) in order to determine what is the best option to use in order to simulate the logistics together with the real time client data coming from the Oracle system. Later on implement it as an operating tool together with the TCS software of Fraunhofer.
  3. Define the additional software and program work required in order to link the systems together.

Your task is to set the scope of the research project and to define the steps to be taken. This includes a.o.:

  1. a thorough analysis of the current human based control system,
  2. to identify the needs and wishes of Hencon,
  3. to check the corresponding data availability,
  4. to develop a logic simulation of the logistics,
  5. to check the connections between the different sources.
  6. to define and set priorities to the extensions to be made,
  7. to construct a time-phased plan to develop these extensions.

Designing and implementing these extensions is further research and not part of this project.


You are an enthusiastic MSc student Industrial Engineering and Management, specialization Production and logistic management. You are able to work independently and to organize and run your own project smoothly. You have good communication skills and as English is the communication language within this research project because of several non-Dutch speaking members, we expect you to write your report in English.


As soon as a qualified candidate is available.


If you are interested, please send a CV and motivation letter to:
University of Twente: Martijn Mes m.r.k.mes@utwente.nl
Hencon, email: wbuys@hencon.com