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Can integrated information systems make the grade?

The following is a Solutions! roundtable article. The participants are:

* Mike Aurzada, pulp and paper business director for the Americas, Emerson Process Management.

* Roger Evans, pulp and paper industry marketing manager, Invensys.

* Kathy Hutson, director of pulp & paper marketing, Honeywell.

* Anders Kornblad, director of marketing, ABB Pulp & Paper.

* Jeff Long, director of marketing, Metso Automation (USA).

* Ted McDermott, Solutions! Editorial Board.

* Pekka Vanni, director, pulp & paper information applications, Metso Automation, Finland.

SOLUTIONS! Common platforms and web tools have enabled a new generation of integrated information systems throughout mills and entire companies. These tools typically combine DCS capabilities with business management, control and optimization, operations management, process management, and field management under a unified architecture. How are these systems an improvement over traditional process control?

AURZADA: Traditional process control solutions were installed for safety and increased span of operational control. They automatically controlled difficult processes that were too complex and interactive for many operators to run manually. They also decreased loop variability. Today's integrated digital systems have enabled more advanced objectives. For example, sometimes a process needs to be run in different operational directives or states, such as lowest energy cost, or maximizing quality or maximizing production. The complexity is that those states and operating conditions may be production level specific. The constraints of the processes and tuning are very different for each state. These states need to be defined by production management and communicated to all the operators. Using flexible embedded advanced control technologies and improved cost-aware strategies, we can automatically drive to the needed operations constraints.

Traditional process control was not a part of maintenance management. Embedded Advanced Controls coupled with Asset Management Systems (AMS) are now allowing operators and engineers to anticipate failures and quickly diagnose loops that are not at highest performance and to more quickly determine if it is a field device issue or a process issue. Customers are reducing maintenance call-outs through online AMS systems and moving much more quickly to correctly diagnose problems.

The key is to make information available to operations, maintenance and engineering through the engineering and design of the system, and to make all tasks simpler and easier to troubleshoot. By contrast, some of the traditional process control systems are what we call "expert friendly," meaning that upkeep takes a process control expert and operations and maintenance may be locked out of the troubleshooting process.

EVANS: Implementing process control in the context of millwide integration can increase product quality and customer responsiveness while reducing costs and improving return on assets. Millwide integration provides timely customer, cost and operating data, on which managers and operators can then act to improve customer responsiveness and operations. By installing an Enterprise Asset Management system, for example, Green Bay Packaging expects to improve equipment performance and inventory control and reduce overall operating expenses. The company is expecting payback within six months. Common automation platforms can also improve plant floor and business systems integration by enabling replication of automation applications. Software applications can be rapidly assembled instead of programmed. New applications can be created simply through the re-assembly of existing applications.

HUTSON: In the past, plants and mills have often needed many different automation systems to provide them with enough knowledge to make informed business decisions. This approach had drawbacks such as multiple-system costs, compatibility problems, and accessibility issues. Today, a better approach is to integrate all sources of plant or mill information into a single process knowledge system (PKS), using a combination of advanced technologies, industrial domain expertise and Six Sigma methodologies to realize tangible results.

A process knowledge system includes the control of distributive and quality control systems (DCS and QCS), condition monitoring and computer maintenance management systems, safety management systems, enterprise resource planning, manufacturing execution systems, asset and abnormal situation management, supply chain management and other sources of information. Results include faster, better decision-making; increased operation uptime; reduced mill lifecycle costs; asset degradation avoidance; improved alarm system management; increased operational effectiveness; and safe production.

KORNBLAD: Over the past 20 to 30 years, the paper industry has aggressively sought to automate all aspects of production, manufacturing (OCS/Drives/Advance Control), quality (QCS), maintenance (CMMS), and related planning, execution, and product tracking (CPM/MES). These systems were usually designed to support specific operating groups within the mill, such as production and maintenance. As the systems grew and evolved, it became apparent that the information in these systems could lead to better-informed decision making. Initially, integration focused on connecting these islands of automation to provide coordinated process control and to provide needed information across the enterprise. Today, totally integrated systems provide operators, managers, engineers and maintenance personnel with information from multiple process sections and across the enterprise in real time to aid in the decision making process. An operator can now make fast, accurate decisions. Initial maintenance tasks can be carried out by operators and maintenance experts can quickly resolve more complex problems.

LONG: Traditional process control did a great job of maintaining process variable targets, typically by segmenting the continuous, coupled process into a series of virtual batch operations. Because of limitations in communications technology and traditional system roles, the wealth of information generated by the DCS was treated as a byproduct whose value was limited to the process control area. Today's seamless structures enable the process to be actively managed in real time to achieve business targets, not just controlled to a process variable setpoint.

MCDERMOTT: The greatest advantage of these new systems is the ability to be more easily integrated into higher level enterprise systems. They also have the stated advantage of allowing access to information to external partners via the web; however, many manufacturers have yet to capitalize on this advantage. The resistance to allowing access is well founded because of information security concerns.

VANNI: User interfaces of DCS and Information Management must be integrated and users able to open direct links to Information Management applications from their DCS screens--the native workdesk for operators. If they need to open additional applications to access the information, it takes extra effort and can be easily forgotten. We can also run information applications in the background, such as statistical process control (SPC), and generate alerts on the DCS screens. We can now collect and store practically all relevant data; trends can be opened directly from the screen with the assurance that the data will be found in the database.

SOLUTIONS! How can integrated information systems work in "real life?" How can they change work patterns and processes to improve productivity and quality?

AURZADA: Training and cooperation of all the different organizations in the mill--not just good engineering and technology--is vital for the changeover to digital integrated information and control systems. Training and cooperation is driven by good management. Operations, maintenance and engineering must see that the goal is to keep the process running in the highest mode. Operations can now inform maintenance when a device has failed, why it failed, and what most likely needs to be repaired. Operations can determine the economic impact of not having a specific loop in automatic. If the loop has a high priority, a technician can be moved from a lower priority activity.

Sharing group resources across a large organization is always a management issue. Technology can help, but management needs to reinforce changes in work practices. Typically, work patterns change when people see that the technology has credibility, helps get the process up and running better, and gets their job done faster. Change is reinforced when people receive recognition for doing the right things overall for the mill.

EVANS: A delightful side benefit of integrated information and control systems is that they are also increasingly flexible and easy to use. Cascades Tissue's Eau Claire, Wisconsin facility, for example, has implemented an automation system on a Windows XP platform. This provides a familiar environment through which engineers and technicians can manage automation of functions such as grade change and moisture control.

The Internet extends ease of use to customers and executives. The Web browser is becoming the single point of access to both unstructured and structured information. This includes published documents in their original format as well as integration of exiting data from standard office applications such as Microsoft Word[tm], Microsoft Excel[tm] and dedicated report generators.

HUTSON: A process knowledge system allows the user to capture, gather, view, analyze, and act on information that improves quality, safety and profitability. Providing employees with the information they need where and when they need it is the foundation for an effective process knowledge system (PKS). The "knowledge" in PKS describes any piece of data or information that has been placed in the context of operational goals, safety and quality standards, and accepted performance parameters.

This requires a mill-wide knowledge infrastructure tightly entwined with the control system, supporting everything from real-time business metrics in the boardroom to wireless process data in the field. The key success factor is not just to provide more data, but to gather and report information that is timely, accurate, concise, and manageable, making the most of graphics and analysis tools to improve decision-making. Empowering mill personnel with the tools to evaluate current and historical data to improve operational performance and identify opportunities will greatly improve operations and increase employees' sense of ownership.

KORNBLAD: Today we are seeing success stories in a number of mills with integrated automation solutions, but for the most part the new greenfield mills are setting the bar for automation and integration excellence. Visy Paper in Australia was among the first of this new breed of mills to benefit from an integrated automation solution. Visy is an integrated pulp and paper mill producing 240,000 metric tons/yr of kraftliner and packaging grades. This site uses an integrated automation solution that overcomes many of the early attempts and difficulties of integrating multiple competing control systems. The Visy Paper system provides a single architecture, uniform operator stations, and standard engineering tools and controllers to provide single control window and a common "look and feel" throughout the process.

Existing mills like Korsnas in Sweden are also taking advantage of integration capabilities to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Korsnas produces liquid packaging board on two paper machines and has two recovery boilers, a chlorine/oxidation process, recausticizing lines, three fiber lines and a wood yard, all of which were run from 13 control rooms. The mill recently updated their automation system to consolidate their control rooms from 13 to 2. This consolidation has produced a 6% improvement in production and a 20% reduction in personnel, with improved productivity with consistent quality. In summary, integrated automation and information system solutions, combined with an integrated production organization, seem to lead to the most sustainable results.

LONG: The major benefit of today's systems is that they provide users with a broader and deeper field of view. Seeing outside the box is a prerequisite to thinking outside of it. Basic human curiosity is a major factor. By channeling this energy into better understanding of mill operations, it is easier to create change because more people can see the need for it. The tangible effects on costs, quality and results are straightforward to document but the cultural effect of an educated team striving towards common goals may be even greater.

MCDERMOTT: In real life, the functionality exists within these systems but the organizational aversion to adoption prevents some of the potential productivity or quality gains. The best "real life" scenarios that have improved quality and productivity are those that provide the greatest access to plant level information across the enterprise. Because of improved integration in higher level systems (see above question #1), more of the enterprise is working off the same information and therefore making better business decisions. More of the company is working off the same "sheet of music."

VANNI: I see several points here:

* Operators have already been pushed to manage wider and wider process areas and they need information from other areas with longer time perspectives.

* The need to improve production efficiency every year by 1-2% has been consistent (to compensate for price erosion) Through information integration, operators can be involved in this process. In addition, most of the easy improvements at mills have already implemented, so more and better tools are needed to find additional improvement targets.

* Value chain collaboration can be implemented on the shop floor level. A typical example could be dynamically aligning mechanical pulp production with the paper mill's production plan.

* Mills must ensure customer service capabilities (delivery times and quality specs) and thus keep the process as disturbance-free as possible by being proactive, efficient in troubleshooting, and fast and confident in recovery actions.

* Many companies market themselves as "knowledge-based" companies. The strategy is to capitalize on knowledge as an asset by collecting and storing the observations that cannot be seen from measurement data and registering reasons for exceptional situations and experiences for corrective actions.


* Why integrated information systems are an improvement over traditional process control.

* How they work in the "real world" of the mill.


* The following articles are available for download at Access is free for TAPPI and PIMA members. To access an article, enter the product code in the search engine.

* "Integration of process control and IT: Closer than you think," by Steve Sena, Solutions!, September 2003. Product Code: 03SEPSO42.

* "Powering up older systems," by Alan Rooks, Solutions!, October 2003, Product Code: 030CTSO47.

* "Information technology provides business and customer value," by Ted McDermott, Solutions!, April 2003. Product Code: 03APRSO25.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Paper Industry Management Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Process Automation
Author:Rooks, Alan
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:May 1, 2004
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