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JFE Steel Corporation

JFE Commences New Phase of Testing of Steel Material Transport
Using Automated Heavy-Duty Vehicles at Kurashiki Site

JFE Steel announced today that, working together with JFE Logistics Corporation and Nichijo Corporation, it has finished developing the basic functionality for an automated steel transport system. The new system, which will be deployed at the company’s West Japan Works (Kurashiki District), uses special heavy-duty vehicles fitted with positioning sensors (Figure 1). Testing commenced earlier this year.

JFE Steel has been researching and developing steel transport automation technology since 2018 to address an anticipated shortage of drivers and to improve working environments. Within its steelworks, the company uses pallets to transport steel materials around sites; these can hold bulk quantities of materials such as rolled steel coil, with the pallets moved around on special heavy-duty vehicles called carrier pallet trucks. While trailers can only transport around 20 tons of cargo at a time, carrier pallet trucks can move up to 160 tons, making them very efficient. They play a key role in moving materials from process to process until they are eventually shipped out.

The automated transport system under development uses data from a Global Navigation Satellite System1 and sensors such as Light Detection & Ranging (LiDAR) sensors2 to track vehicle positions and guide them autonomously along preset routes, without the need for human intervention. The carrier pallet trucks are loaded by driving them in underneath the pallets; they thus need to maneuver their 330cm-wide frames—wider than an ordinary trailer—safely between the pallet legs, with a tolerance of only around 10cm. Changes in tire circumference caused by cargo weights exceeding 100 tons also affect travel distance calculations. In view of these unique issues, JFE Steel has worked to refine vehicle positioning accuracy to ensure that the automated transport system is able to smoothly load and transport cargo around the site.

Development of the basic functionality for continuous automatic operation (Figure 2) has now been completed. This functionality enables the carrier pallet trucks to load and transport pallets along preset routes, which involves them advancing straight ahead, turning left or right, and stopping autonomously. High-volume testing on a section of the production route at the site has been underway since January 2023. This new phase of testing is aimed at automating production shipment and enhancing productivity. Progressive performance enhancements, including increases in truck speeds, will be implemented from September, with plans to complete testing by the end of March 2024.

Looking ahead, this testing will also facilitate operational design efforts aimed at implementing safety systems along and around automated vehicle routes, thus creating a suitable environment for the operation of the automated vehicles. JFE Steel plans to expand the use of this technology to other automated transport routes in the future.

In the future, JFE Steel plans to deploy the technology company-wide to automate logistics and facilitate remote operations, at the same time continuing to leverage digital transformation to create innovative processes that will resolve a whole range of challenges on the manufacturing floor, with its ultimate goal being to help create a more sustainable world.


1 A system that determines current geographical position by using signals received from positioning satellites.

2 A system that uses laser pulses to measure the distance to and position of objects.


Figure 1: Carrier pallet trucks and pallets

Figure 1: Carrier pallet trucks and pallets

Figure 2: Operation of the carrier pallet trucks

Figure 2: Operation of the carrier pallet trucks

About JFE Steel Corporation

JFE Steel Corporation, one of the world’s leading integrated steel producers, was established through the consolidation of NKK Corporation and Kawasaki Steel Corporation in 2003. The company operates several steelworks in Japan and numerous branch offices and affiliates throughout the world. JFE Steel leverages world-class technologies and know-how to produce a wide range of products based on its “Only One, Number One” strategy of focusing on unique and best-in-class products. The company reported consolidated sales of 2,255 billion yen and consolidated crude steel output of 23.96 million tons in the fiscal year ended March 2021.

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