Innovators of digital evolution

Jul 12, 2018

Valmet has been at the forefront of developing digital solutions for its customers ever since 1960s. The launch of Damatic distributed control system (DCS) in 1979 laid a solid foundation for the company’s digital development that is continuing now in the era of the Industrial Internet.

Innovators of digital evolution

Valmet has a long history in the digitalization of process industries. The background lies in 1960s, when Valmet’s first automation solutions came to the market. In 1990s, with the DCS in place, it was possible to embed intelligence and advanced information into the production processes.

“We like to think that we have been working towards Industrial Internet for a very long time, as we truly have been pioneers in supplying digital services and equipment to our customers,” confirms Sakari Ruotsalainen, President of the Automation business line at Valmet.

“In 1979, we took a giant leap forward by becoming the second company in the world to launch distributed control system. Already then, we were able to integrate various machinery control systems into our DCS. This technology has been continuously renewed and further developed. These days, it is called Valmet DNA,” says Ruotsalainen.

Integrated automation system as foundation for digital development

The advanced DCS built a solid foundation for Valmet’s digital development. The advantage of an integrated automation system is that it enables the mill personnel to operate the machinery and the plant seamlessly. The system is used to monitor and control the production process at a mill or plant.

“For example, there can be over 30,000 measuring and control points in the customer’s pulp production processes connected to the control systems.  And the Valmet-delivered paper machines are equipped with quality control systems measuring and controlling properties like the paper thickness, basis weight, gloss and moisture to constantly optimize paper quality, machine stability and process efficiency,” says Ruotsalainen.

“In addition, we have highly professional experts who are also able to support customers in controlling their production processes. We have over 500 online remote connections to our customers’ processes, so we can monitor and advise them how to optimize and run their machines more efficiently.”

Long-term R&D and cooperation with customers

Long-term R&D work and co-operation with customers have brought Valmet to where it is with digitalization today.

“Thanks to the early digital approach, we have been able to continuously develop and integrate new functionalities and subsystems, like condition monitoring, into our DCS. That helps our customers to take full advantage of the integrated process automation system. Our comprehensive understanding of our customers’ production processes is also one of our definitive strengths,” he points out.

Industrial Internet – a dialogue with data

The next step in digitalization has been to improve the visibility and profitability of a plant’s or mill’s operations by analyzing and utilizing data to an even wider extent for the customer’s benefit. Based on its knowhow on process technology, automation and services, Valmet has developed a comprehensive offering of Industrial Internet applications and services. Valmet has also recently established five remote service centers - called Valmet Performance Centers - for energy, pulp, paper and board and tissue customers, as well as for automation.

“We are developing advanced analytics tools to improve the utilization of data and increase our understanding of how to run machines and plants even more intelligently and efficiently than today. The aim is to cut the costs of raw materials and energy, minimize unplanned shutdowns and reduce the number of web breaks,” explains Jari Almi, Director of Industrial Internet operations at Valmet.

Agile application development

Almi emphasizes the importance of taking an early proactive role in creating an integrated digital technology platform. “We are running the entire automation system through a single platform. We have coherent process automation data available, which is also important for the development of new Industrial Internet applications,” he notes.

“For example, process data from a customer’s production line can be analysed and visualized for KPI follow-up and decision making. The customer can also benchmark the performance of a machine against the entire machine fleet. The Industrial Internet offers excellent tools for decreasing variation between different machines in the fleet, but also for improving the productivity of mills or plants,” he explains.

Almi points out that in the field of the Industrial Internet application development, Valmet is moving towards agile software development processes. “The idea is to launch the first version of a software application quickly and then update it constantly in cooperation with our customers. This is a new philosophy compared to the traditional product development.”

Towards plant-wide optimization

Ruotsalainen estimates that with digitalization there will be new opportunities, especially in the field of advanced process control, predictive maintenance and plant wide optimization.

“For example, bioenergy production is growing rapidly. Our customers are using several kinds of fuel mixes that can cause corrosion and be harmful to the power boiler. To prevent failures, we have developed analyzer equipment to measure the combustion process as well as control and optimization models. The new technology and applications guide operators to use the proper fuel mix and substances to minimize the corrosion impact,” Ruotsalainen explains.

“This service combines our experience in analytics, automation and energy, and it includes versatile performance monitoring applications for the fluidized bed boiler, a fuel management system for solid fuel, condition monitoring, and other DCS features designed for power plant automation.”