Transparent wet end chemistry
Already during the test period, Metsä Board identified several direct benefits, such as improved runnability, reduced breaks and quality issues, and optimized chemical usage, that result when the process is adjusted based on the predictions and recommendations provided by the service. In addition to the efficiency gains, Timo Ahonen emphasizes the importance of the soft benefits.
“The service creates transparency to the complex wet end chemistry and related phenomena. I find it valuable as it helps build and broaden the knowledge of the mill personnel over time. The increased understanding of wet end chemistry supports the continuous development of our process.”
Already during the data analysis phase, previously unseen process disturbances that impact the machine runnability and board quality were identified, and their root causes discovered. As Ahonen points out, the experienced operators and quality engineers might have had a gut feeling on some of those process variables, but without real-time data on the many variables of the process and advanced analytics capabilities, it was impossible to pinpoint the disturbance and its impact.
Toward automated chemistry management
Metsä Board Kemi mill is already looking ahead to the next steps in the partnership with Kemira. In the future, the real-time process data and the risk predictions will be used for automated chemistry management at the board machine.
“Now we can make decisions and take operative actions based on the predicted risk level, alerts, and recommendations provided by the service. It’s a natural next step that the wet end chemistry would be automatically adjusted to match the prevailing process conditions, which would enable an even more proactive approach for our mill,” Ahonen states.
The long-term vision is a mill where the process and functional chemistries are adjusted in real-time, and the up-to-date information on the board quality is always accessible.
“We see a lot of potential in the predictive approach for optimizing and forecasting the performance of other chemistry applications as well,” adds Tomi Vähä-Ruohola. “My long-term term vision is a mill where the process and functional chemistries are adjusted in real-time, and the up-to-date and reliable information on the board quality is always accessible. The mill personnel’s focus would shift from reacting to process variables to optimizing and ensuring end-product quality.”
Kemira is currently developing several new predictive services that help paper and board producers to e.g. reduce breaks, defects, and off-spec production and improve the overall machine efficiency.
“In many cases, the mills still need to rely on reactive measures in chemistry management when optimizing process performance or end-product quality. With the advanced analytics capabilities, we enable a new, data-driven way to manage chemistry,” says Antti Pirneskoski from Kemira.
Featured image “Paper reels in warehouse”: Copyright Metsä Board (2020)