Increased efficiency and sustainability with a virtual factory
The use of reality capture software and virtual reality is getting increasingly common in many industrial sectors. It means that some software solutions help to create 3D models from photographs, photogrammetry, or laser scans. These solutions vastly improve productivity, accuracy, quality, and safety throughout the plant lifecycle.
Reality Capture vs. Google Street View and house views
Reality capture can more easily be described as a technology that enables your own staff and external employees to walk around the site virtually. It is basically the same as Google Street View of the factory. In a project meeting or shift change, everyone can walk around the factory virtually and everyone at the meeting sees the same view.
Another example is a virtual house tour used widely by real estate agencies: it is the same solution but moved into the industry environment.
Metsä Board Husum in Sweden captured a real mill to a virtual environment
Through its efforts to always be at the forefront of technology and contribute to reduced emissions, Metsä Board decided to create a virtual twin of its Husum mill in Sweden. Finding solutions to enable remote working has been relevant for a long time, but now, in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, the need became extra importantly, not least because of Metsä Board’s ongoing expansion project regarding a new recovery boiler and a new turbine at their facility in Husum, north of Örnsköldsvik. And on top of that, also during the planning of the upcoming investment project to increase folding boxboard production. In this kind of expansion, project contractors, suppliers and engineers need to have real-time information about current mill conditions.
What was previously done by partners while visiting the site was stopped due to travel restrictions and a ban on visiting the site – all to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Encountering obstacles during larger projects is often unavoidable, but the situation with the pandemic was something else. At this point, AFRY presented the possibilities with reality capture solutions to Robert Gidlund, Project Manager at Metsä Board Husum.
“We quickly saw the benefits of bringing this into our business to support this major investment project but also future daily operations. We were able to minimize the number of people on site and involve everyone remotely in an incredibly smooth way, while this is completely in line with our sustainability work. This solution is permanent for us,” says Robert.
Less costs, increased safety and information 24/7
AFRY as a trusted partner of Husum mill was selected as the service provider and Matterport as the capturing technology supplier.
The service has led to decreased travel costs and more effective meetings and, in addition, large sums are also saved by eliminating errors in connection with initial data correctness and assembly while contributing to increased safety. This is because the contractors can review details on an ongoing basis and receive information 24/7.
Metsä Board has been extremely satisfied with the solution that has helped them succeed in the challenges of remote working, which means that the expansion project is proceeding according to schedule.
“Of course, information received on site is valuable, but this is a great alternative to also contribute to sustainability. The industry is facing growing challenges because Sweden’s goal is to have zero net emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by 2045. To succeed with these climate goals, we need to work with digital solutions of this kind,” says Robert Gidlund at Metsä Board.
Smooth way of working with an optimal investment level
There are many ways to start the reality capture project and the creation of a virtual factory. The first decision needs to be done in the level of accuracy and describe the path towards the full digital twin if that is planned to be implemented later. This decision has an impact on the selected capturing technologies and computing software.
The first version of the virtual factory is already a step towards the digital twin when you already have your factory in a digital format. The next step would then be to add more and more intelligence with 3D modeling and eventually integrating also operational data from processes and MES systems.
AFRY has been active in reality capture solutions since the early 90s when laser scanning technologies were used especially in rebuilding projects. The change is that the equipment and cameras are nowadays much more efficient and cheaper so that the cost of the virtual factory creation can also be adjusted to meet the budgets. Today AFRY has a wide ecosystem of different solutions and technology providers to help its clients to find the most optimal solutions for their needs.
As in the Husum case example, AFRY has worked in collaboration with Matterport and today has several customers who have seen the advantage of this technology. In connection with Covid-19, the service has exploded. Matterport has the software, while AFRY has the expertise to deliver the service based on the parameters required to get the best possible virtual insight of the factory.
"AFRY has the whole range of equipment and software, and when we go further into the projects, we use different and more accurate equipment so it fits the purpose of viewing or designing according to the data. Therefore, we keep the cost vs use in mind all the time", concludes Johan Johansson at AFRY.