When production problems arise on a paper machine and impact runnability, the papermaking process has typically drifted off track already for hours – just without anyone noticing. A new digital service by Kemira and SimAnalytics helps operators and engineers at paper mills ensure that this does not happen on their watch.
“Catching the first signs of upcoming disturbances in the complicated papermaking process is a challenging task, to say the least,” states Antti Pirneskoski, Director of the Pulp & Paper Services Business at Kemira. “We have combined our deep understanding of papermaking chemistry and its application with SimAnalytics’ proven capabilities in machine learning and advanced process analytics to make it possible.”
Together, we can create unique transparency and predictability in the papermaking process, leading to higher machine efficiency.
KemConnect Harmonizer is a digital service for advanced operative analytics at paper, board and tissue mills. It combines insights into both the chemical and mechanical process issues to create unique transparency and predictability in papermaking, leading to a more stable production process and higher machine efficiency.
Kemira and SimAnalytics have been working together to develop the solution in a customer project. Recently, Kemira acquired a minority share of SimAnalytics to deepen the collaboration.
Maintaining process harmony
In the papermaking process, there is virtually a limitless number of combinations of constantly changing variables, having an impact on paper machine runnability, end-product quality, and overall production efficiency.
“That’s why predetermined patterns for recognizing disturbances are typically not enough to ensure stable processes and uninterrupted production. They cannot sufficiently cater for the complicated nature of papermaking,” Antti points out.
Instead, the focus of KemConnect Harmonizer is to maintain process health and harmony at the paper machine. In practice, it monitors process stability through multiple key parameters and variables that cover the entire paper machine, and senses upcoming issues by identifying and highlighting deviations for the users. The anomalies indicate that the process is getting out of hand and the risk of process disturbances is increasing. Based on the data, the service provides actionable insights that enable the operators to make chemical and mechanical adjustments to the process before the disturbances start to impact production.
“This approach allows us to alert the mill personnel to the emerging issues early on and enables fast reaction. The operator’s attention is drawn to the issues that are most critical for maintaining process stability,” describes Samuli Kortelainen, COO and one of the founders of SimAnalytics.
The operator’s attention is drawn to the issues that are most critical for maintaining process stability.
Better visibility and insight into the harmony of the process support ongoing operative production optimization and ensure process stability in situations where disharmony easily appears, e.g. after grade changes or shutdowns. The service also helps level out the differences between operator shifts and their ways of running the machine.
“The goal is to help the people who are working with the production to increase the efficiency of the process they are responsible for. The impact of wrong decisions easily cumulates in such a long, continuous process that has spillover effects between different process phases,” states Samuli.
Revealing hidden opportunities
Over time, the visualization of the harmony of the process and the root cause analysis increase overall process understanding at the paper mill. In customer projects, the service has already shown its power by revealing previously unknown cause-and-effect relationships behind process disturbances.
“The machine learning model that runs the harmony engine is automatically built ground up on customer’s own process data. The users of the system don’t need to spend time Building or training the model but they can focus on utilizing the information for continuous development,” Samuli states.
The service combines real-time data on chemistry applications e.g. from KemConnect™ monitoring and control solutions with other relevant mill operation and performance data from the papermaking process. The model continuously learns from the process data collected from production, adapts, and improves the accuracy of the risk predictions and the root cause analysis.
A more stable process means instant 1–2% improvement in overall production efficiency. Stable papermaking process is a prerequisite also for initiatives to achieve raw material, energy, and water savings.
“The ability to take quick corrective actions to prevent process disruptions is becoming more and more important in the highly competitive environment, and with the increasing speed of the paper and board machines, there’s more and more to gain. There are a lot of hidden opportunities for improvement to discover,” says Antti.