Steel Products

SMU Steel Summit: Pratt to Noodle on Supercomputing

Written by Tim Triplett

Not long ago, supercomputers were few in number and basically only accessible to the likes of university research labs and government agencies. Today, ready access to supercomputing technology is poised to change the business world, says Stephen Pratt, co-founder of, a San Francisco-based enterprise artificial intelligence company.

Pratt has a long and impressive resume as a pioneer in creating world-class technology, but he is also known as an instigator and an agitator. He will explain how the coming “digital disruption” of business stands to transform even a mature industry like steelmaking, in his remarks during Steel Market Update’s Steel Summit Conference Aug. 27-29 at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta.’s supercomputing platform, known as “The Beast,” incorporates predictive AI, with its machine-learning algorithms, to leverage a host of information to help a company, such as a steel mill, optimize production, maintenance and logistics. “The processing power and data you can take into account today to make decisions is amazing. People still making decisions using spreadsheets will be out of a job in 3-5 years. If you are not using supercomputers to crunch data to make critical business decisions, you will be left behind,” Pratt predicts.

One of’s customers is Big River Steel, which opened the industry’s first “Smart Mill” in Osceola, Ark., last year. Comments CEO David Stickler: “We are looking forward to challenging industry norms by mining the treasure trove of data that Big River Steel is uniquely positioned to collect and analyze. The use of artificial intelligence tools will allow us to identify mathematical correlations that we believe will allow us to drive costs out of the production process while at the same time enhancing the quality of the steel that we produce.”

“Humans are really good at strategy, being creative, leading people, but they are naturally very poor statisticians,” Pratt adds. “It is really important that executive teams develop the discipline of understanding what humans are good at doing and when they should use supercomputers. It’s the teams that get that blend right that will really excel.”

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