How one of Brazil’s largest aluminum makers is going digital

Issued at 2022-05-11

Digital twins, AI, cloud and process automation are the four pillars sustaining the central digital transformation strategy that Votorantim's CBA, one of Latin America’s top aluminum producers, intends to accelerate.

With installed capacity to produce 100% of energy from its own hydro plants, CBA mines bauxite, transforms it into alumina and primary aluminum (ingots, billets, rebars and slabs) and finished products (plates, coils, sheets and profiles). 

The company intends to invest 4bn reais (US$779mn) by 2025 in increasing production capacity and in bauxite exploration, part of which is expected to go to technology.

“We look at the issue of digital transformation in a very broad way. This movement kicked off in 2018, with the creation of our CBA 4.0 unit. This year, however, we created an innovation and digital transformation office to spread a new mindset in the company and accelerate this process,” CBA’s IT manager Luis Carlos Maldaner told BNamericas.

The business consultancy hired to support CBA in this new digital push was Accenture. 

Reduction of failures, an increase in the production capacity of aluminum and its sub-products and lower operating costs are the main drivers of the company’s digital investments. 

In terms of application, one of the main bets is on digital twins.

Following a first implementation of a digital twin for its plant in the city of Alumínio, in São Paulo state, CBA is now working on a digital twin specifically for its rolling mills.

CBA's goal with the rolling mill project is to avoid stoppages, mitigate the risk of downtime and extend the lifecycle of the equipment. The digital twin is expected to be finalized by the end of this year.

The entire digital twin project, both for the plant and for the rolling mills, was developed in-house by CBA's innovation team, Bruno Maciel, one of the leaders of CBA’s digital transformation area, told BNamericas.

For the Alumínio city plant, CBA assembled a team of three professionals, who developed in three months the digital replica of the plant in python language – an open-source coding platform. The deployment of this twin led to 1.5mn reais in savings in one year.

In addition to the twins, the company plans to accelerate initiatives to modernize production lines, focusing on AI, advanced analytics, robotization and process automation, as well as mobility, digital integration in the customer relationship chains, and pilot production and prototyping lines. 

In AI, the company has been applying elements of machine learning in its smelter operations and in its refineries, according to Malander.

In cloud, the company tapped Microsoft’s Azure platform. 

According to Maldaner, the goal is to gradually migrate CBA’s workloads to the cloud environment, although for strategic reasons not everything will be moved to this external environment. 

To date, the cloud migration process has been completed with CBA’s enterprise data management (EDM) platform.

“The truth is that we are still very green in this process. But our expectation is to advance this process in the coming years,” Maldaner said.

CBA is also looking at deploying private mobile networks to support autonomous operations at its plants. 

According to Maldaner, the group is in talks with a "leading telecom operator" in Brazil for a potential 4G or even 5G network deployment at its upcoming mining operation in Rondon do Pará. 


Overall, CBA invested 97mn reais in asset modernization and asset expansion last year, out of 470mn reais of total capex.

According to Maldaner, the company invests annually around 25mn reais specifically in digital transformation, which corresponds to roughly 6% of CBA’s total capex.

In Q1, 45% of the 146mn-real reported capex went to modernization and growth projects.

CBA posted net revenues of 2.3bn reais in the quarter, up 28% year-over-year, driven by a 32% revenue gain in the aluminum business. The average LME price in the quarter was US$3,280/t, an increase of 56% year-over-year. Earnings were 426mn reais compared to a loss of 133mn.

Aluminum sales fell 9% to 109,000t.