Outokumpu digital innovation hub drives AI solutions in sustainable stainless steel

Case Outokumpu

Seeing the great potential of AI technologies, Outokumpu, together with Solita, built a machine learning development platform, processes, and governance. In the next phase, the work resulted in designing a new digital innovation hub, paving the way for future digital breakthroughs that will help Outokumpu optimise its operations and strengthen its position in sustainable stainless steel innovation.

This is, however, only the beginning. We believe our AI-based innovations will propel for example our R&D in new directions in the future.

Kristiina Tiilas Head of Digital Platform, Outokumpu

Outokumpu is the world’s leading producer of sustainable stainless steel, operating in almost 30 countries. Outokumpu is actively leveraging AI and machine learning technologies to enhance operational excellence and further strengthen its market position. Solita helped Outokumpu establish the digital innovation hub, a systematic approach to fostering and accelerating AI-based innovation and aligning initiatives with their overall strategy.


  • Companywide digital innovation hub to systematically identify, prove, build, and scale up digital innovation

  • Playbook and platform for AI/ML development to streamline development projects, shortening time-to-market and improving overall efficiency

  • Business-case-driven approach – evaluating AI cases with business and showing the value fast

  • Even the first initiative this year has the potential for savings of tens of millions of euros

A systematic way to foster innovation

Creating digital innovations and getting new ideas throughout the organisation is crucial, as is the ability to quickly validate and test them to prove value. Earlier, development projects were started with inconsistent designs and execution. Projects were hard to test and manage systematically. The lack of a systematic review process made it difficult to find the most promising ideas.

Outokumpu approached Solita to create a more systematic way to develop AI innovations and solutions. Moreover, Solita built a technical ML platform for Outokumpu. Solita’s track record of completing projects of similar nature, scope, and complexity made it the obvious choice as a partner. 

Outokumpu process

MLOps significantly streamlines development

“We had to get organised around enhancing our capabilities in AI and machine learning”, explained Kristiina Tiilas, Head of Digital Platform at Outokumpu. “To begin with, we needed to set up our machine learning operations (MLOps) tools, practices, and principles.”

Solita also created an MLOps framework, which is a playbook with best practices for using the MLOps platform. The new common platform and standardised methods will make it easier to start and run projects throughout their lifecycle.

MLOps processes improve overall productivity and shorten time-to-market. They also improve the lifecycle management of machine learning models and will enable better collaboration between data scientists and operations engineers. As a result, Outokumpu’s customers can expect better customer experience, product quality, more competitive pricing, and timeliness.

Outokumpu steel

A digital innovation hub to drive digital transformation

The development of the MLOps platform and framework cleared the way for the project’s next and most important phase: establishing the digital innovation hub, a formalised, scalable, and systematic bottom-up business process.

The digital innovation hub will allow Outokumpu to tap into the collective intelligence of the organisation and turn its ideas into prototypes and digital products. It promises to streamline and speed up future advances in digital innovation. The long-term goal of setting up the digital innovation hub is to create and apply AI and machine learning to improve processes, save costs, and generate new revenue.

While we built the digital innovation hub, Tiilas assembled an idea-hunting team to discover the most promising ideas within the organisation.

“We designed the new innovation process to deliver evidence about AI adoption and business value already from very early phases. This required Outokumpu to establish new practices both at the innovation team level and in steering the innovation work. Involved personnel from different levels at Outokumpu were really open to learning new things. To me, this highlighted what a forward-leaning company Outokumpu is”, says Mikko Väätäinen, Business Design Lead at Solita. 

Outokumpu Helsinki office

Proof-of-concepts validating the value

We began with small proof-of-concept projects to validate the commercial viability of the digital innovation process. Besides involving end users and gathering valuable information from the business from the start, we would test, experiment, and reiterate based on what we learned along the way. That way, we would quickly figure out what works and what doesn’t.

The first batch of projects included solutions for optimising the maintenance tasks, pricing, sales, and supply chain. It also included generative AI applications for R&D documentation and plant maintenance. Outokumpu prioritised proof-of-concepts for improving raw material usage, which is the most expensive part of steel production. Estimated savings of AI-powered optimisations are millions of euros.

Outokumpu digital innovation hub drives AI solutions in sustainable stainless steel

Strategic North Star vision for using AI

In addition to developing the digital innovation hub, we helped Outokumpu formulate its AI North Star vision statement. The statement outlines how AI and machine learning solutions will be developed and used.

Outokumpu aspires to become the AI-enabled innovator and customer’s first choice in sustainable stainless steel. The North Star vision incorporates the plans for integrating AI and ML into operations and shows the integral role of AI and ML in Outokumpu’s overall strategy.

With the new digital innovation hub, Outokumpu is now well-equipped to harness the power of AI and ML in a structured way. They can effectively transform ideas into potentially disruptive digital innovations, being able to scale up and boost the use of AI in a strategic and business-driven way.

Huge potential for the future 

We’re very pleased with the results because we accomplished our goals. Every aspect of this project went very smoothly: recruiting, assigning ownership, establishing in-house processes and capabilities, selecting business cases, and showing the values.

Kristiina Tiilas Head of Digital Platform, Outokumpu

“The collaboration with Solita was a smooth, easy, and enjoyable experience”, Tiilas says. 

The outcome of the collaboration is about more than just the next quarter’s results. It is also about laying the foundation for future innovations, which may have many promising and far-reaching implications.

“I believe that AI/ML will not only help us to optimise our operations but also to uncover new ways to produce sustainable stainless steel and reduce our CO2 footprint, both at Outokumpu and through collaborations with universities”, concludes Tiilas. 

“Outokumpu’s AI journey is a great example of how a systematic approach, top leadership commitment, and the right team can contribute huge benefits with a reasonable investment. In addition to the direct financial impact, (Gen)AI can improve employee experience in daily work and strengthen customer engagement”, says Auli Peltola, Head of Strategic Growth at Solita.

To make the most of AI in the long run will require a shift in mindset: “AI is about managing change, not technology. It is all about people: good collaboration and diverse team. To realise the value, the people’s thinking, and behaviour must be developed”, states Kristiina Tiilas as a final takeaway. 

All photos by ©Outokumpu

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