Solving the digitalisation puzzle requires understanding application solutions

Solving the digitalisation puzzle requires not only understanding application solutions, but good technology and process know-how

Industrial plants are already typically gathering data from production processes, production control systems, business control systems and even their partners. However, this data is utilised only marginally, and is limited to specific operations, or is not used at all. By combining data collected from different sources on a common platform and with the possibility to include further information, we can easily optimise production processes, develop operation models as well as effectively make strategic business decisions.

Many industrial plants have undergone continuous development to optimise their operations for decades. However, a global survey carried out in Germany concluded that different industries have achieved significant savings by using the Industry 4.0 method (source: Institute for Industrial Management FIR, Germany). For example, the lifetime of devices has been extended by 20–40 %, their operative efficiency has been increased by 20–25% and their energy consumption has been decreased by 20–30%.

Digitalisation as a part of company strategy

Digital solutions are often sought when the performance of the processes are insufficient or unstable. The inoperative process part often hinders the overall process and may become a bottleneck for the entire mechanism, stalling production elsewhere. There is nothing wrong in implementing digital solutions piece by piece, but it may result in the overall view becoming blurred when compared to a situation where digitalisation is implemented throughout the entire production plant. Many individual, partially optimised solutions make controlling the entirety difficult, and may, at worst, lead to ambiguity of responsibility as well as stall operations during problem situations and transformations.

To ensure the best possible holistic solution, the utilisation of digitalisation should be part of the company’s strategy. Digitalisation is only one of the tools in ensuring overall competitiveness and enabling new product solutions. For example, AFRY Smart Site™ gathers all of the processes and operations of an industrial plant into a single solution, which is typically started by mapping out the customer's operations in its entirety. This includes the technical equipment as well as the organisation's operations and culture. The operation mode follows the Industry 4.0 structure, where project goals are made, the key performance indicators for different areas are defined, the required resources for transformation projects are estimated and, finally, the projects are prioritised. This forms the customer's own roadmap, which incorporates the necessary technology, software and guides on how to implement the schedule.

How to get started? Technical solution towards industrial plant digitalisation

Technical solutions can be divided into three parts:

  1. The first part involves gathering data from the plant and connectivity. Typically, the data already exists somewhere in a local system, it then needs to be transferred into our Smart Site cloud service for analysis. If not yet gathered by the customer, the necessary data and its connectivity must be defined and implemented. This may also require updating equipment, either the specific software or by replacing equipment as a whole. Data can be transferred from existing information systems through standard interfaces, making it significantly easier to implement solutions.
  2. Data management, analytics and predictive models. The AFRY Smart Site platform solution may utilise any form of the customer’s basic data. The data may be structured (e.g. Microsoft Excel sheets and simulation data) or unstructured (photographs or videos). It may come from a production plant's automation system or sensors, production control system, equipment maintenance system or customer information system. Data can either be internal or external, and even data provided by different vehicles for example, may be used to optimise operations – whether the vehicles are bringing raw materials, transporting intermediate products within a production plant or moving finished end products to the customers.The second part involves data handling, analysis and predictive modelling. In this phase, the data is modified into a useable form and analysed with the necessary tools through simulations, making correlations either linearly or nonlinearly, as well as through different predictive models.
  3. Presentation and visualisation. The third part is what is visible to the customer: the reporting view. The view includes the results of the analyses and gives instructions on controlling the processes. It also shows the operation and products of the process and its parts, in comparison to the defined KPIs. In addition, it may be used to predict operations through current parameters or in comparison to defined goals. Reporting views may be tailored for different roles to include information necessary for each, and the end user may tailor their own views based on their priorities. Sharing reporting views to partners also enables remote consulting services, such as inspections of reference values related to process optimisation.
Efficiency via different applications

The most commonly used applications in industry are related to predictive maintenance, production process optimisation and logistics. In addition, numerous other applications are available, of which at least health and safety-related views and monitoring of conditions in industrial buildings will become the interest of many companies. We have developed these applications and integrated them into the AFRY Smart Site™ service platform, enabling increasingly wider analyses of data between different operations. Recently we have integrated a smart end market analysis tool into its range of applications, which extracts data related to the customer's markets from the internet and uses it to refine a prediction for the end product's consumption and price development.

AFRY Smart Site™ is a suite of services utilising digitalisation, through which industrial plant processes and operations can be optimised in terms of efficiency, safety and quality, while promoting sustainable development. All of this has proven to lead to an increase in profitability. The service utilises the latest technological solutions, such as Big Data, A.I. and Machine Learning. Its toolbox gathers all of an industrial plant's operations related to digitalisation, combining the applications of the entire value chain into a single whole. AFRY Smart Site™ is produced on our service platform by default, which is based in a cloud service in the EU. The solution may either be built partially in a customer's premises as a hybrid solution or in its entirety. The latter two will be especially needed in a situation where a process is to be controlled fully automatically, based on smart control and analysis without operators intervening.

AFRY Smart Site™ improves industrial operator operations by using digital technologies and methods aligned with Industry 4.0 framework. Industrial companies can take advantage of the data and make use of it with a number of different applications. They can touch various operations in the industrial site from raw material handling to ready-made products delivered to the customers and market analytics. All this including the connectivity and the data platform is provided in our service.

More information

Mikko Markkanen - Head of Smart Site department, Finland

Mikko Markkanen

Head of Smart Site department, Finland

Contact Mikko Markkanen

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