Beyond Circularity: SEEDForest COACH explores tomorrow’s intelligent industrial work

May 8, 2024

Artificial intelligence, predictive algorithms, metaverse applications, and other smart technologies continue to shift the industrial landscape. How can these revolutionary technologies help the work of process operators in a way that complements their expertise?

Valmet Performance Center

SEEDForest is a collaborative project platform that brings together the forest and chemical industries, process technology, automation, engineering, service companies, and IT industries. It aims to develop Finnish industrial capability towards a twin transformation: a more sustainable future through smart digitalization.

Working together with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and other research partners, Valmet is participating in SEEDForest’s COACH project that aims to create steps towards human-centered, technologically enabled intelligent industrial work of the future. The project is also part of Valmet’s Beyond Circularity R&D program and ecosystem, which aims to enable our customer industries to shift to carbon neutrality and facilitate the green transition.

Process facilities are becoming increasingly networked and geared towards remote work due to rapid advances in digitalization.

“Working remotely in a specialist role can be lonely, but at the same time we are moving towards an industrial ecosystem where different system providers and their experts are continuously interacting and optimizing processes together,” says VTT’s Project Manager Hanna Koskinen.  

Discovering new modes for working and planning

The concept of Industry 5.0 encompasses the use of new digital technologies, the ongoing green transition, and a human-centered approach towards sustainability and responsibility.

“Environmental, financial, and social sustainability plus smart technologies are issues that need to be addressed promptly. Some themes and solutions apply to all industries, but there are also plenty of nuances specific to the process industry,” Hanna Koskinen says.

The collaborative research project started with workshops to discover scenarios in which the nature of human work was rapidly changing within participating companies.

“Valmet’s focus is in finding out how can we support our staff, partners, and customers in adopting new modes of working and planning. We’ve been working with user experience and human interaction with different systems since the 1970s. Every innovation should stem from actual user needs and make their work easier. When new concepts support users in their work, they become easier to adopt,” Valmet’s UX Manager Nina Flink says. 

Gaining insight to soften the blow  

One of SEEDForest COACH’s case studies features Valmet’s Performance Center service which provides Valmet’s customers with remote services and support. Broad international user interviews were conducted to find out what new requirements, educational needs, and tools the ongoing industrial shift will entail for process experts.

“We must truly understand the nature of the users’ work and its requirements to develop sustainable solutions and tools. This highlights the importance of a human-centered approach. Valmet’s Performance Center experts have been very active in providing input about their highly networked and data-intensive work,” Hanna Koskinen says.

Valmet’s Performance Center concept was first introduced in a research publication in 2002. Twenty-plus years later, it has become a cutting-edge unit that helps Valmet’s customers analyze production and improve their processes. Working both remotely and on-site, it’s a prime example of a data-driven industrial work environment that utilizes system knowledge, data, and smart tools.

“Our experts are facing new challenges: they have a key role in helping our customers meet energy consumption goals, environmental regulations, and increased transparency requirements. They also need to react to customer needs and challenges quickly in challenging contexts while supporting the ongoing changes in their organizations. The project has already produced short-term benefits as we have gained a wealth of insight and have been able to perform internal process development accordingly,” Nina Flink says. 

Wrapping up in late 2024, SEEDForest COACH will produce concrete suggestions on how the project’s findings could be applied into practice, and what kind of further research is required.

“In a nutshell, I’d say that our research work is all about softening the blow that these emerging technologies will have within the process industry,” Hanna Koskinen sums up.


Project summary 

  • Target: To create models and processes towards human-centered, technologically enabled intelligent industrial work of the future
  • Project timeline: 2022–2024
  • Project partners: Metsä Board, Valmet Automation, Kemira, Lingsoft, VTT, Jyväskylä University, Turku University of Applied Sciences, Business Finland
  • COACH project funded by Business Finland
  • Project budget: 1.1 M€ 
  • More information: SEEDForest – Themes and Projects