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How EAM software unlocked visibility, reliability, and efficiency at one pulp and paper company

Sept. 21, 2022
Maintenance modernization for pulp and paper and beyond.

In pulp and paper, like any industry vertical, uptime is essential. For an organization consisting of multiple sawmills, paper mills, and paperboard production facilities, it is even more urgent due to the necessity for seamless product flow between the divisions.

One such organization has thousands of employees and a multitude of other stakeholders counting on its maintenance, procurement, finance, warehouse, and project management practices to keep the operations running. It is also dealing with industrial assets becoming more complex, more expensive, and more intelligent than they've ever been.

For years, this company operated with multiple home-grown, non-integrated legacy systems and databases and an architecture unable to scale for organic business growth or acquisitions. But in 2002, that began to change. A journey was initiated to upgrade its information systems and processes throughout the enterprise, including harmonizing its maintenance system in 2013 to reduce unplanned downtime at its mills and production facilities.

Today, they are in an even stronger position with state-of-the art capabilities added to their harmonized enterprise asset management (EAM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. Maintaining the multiple mills is an increasingly efficient, synergistic exercise that heightens uptime and reduces costs. On top of that, its software solution easily scales and facilitates continuous improvement.

Their path provides a recipe that any industry may find appealing in this era of unprecedented business challenges and fast-advancing digitalization.

Historical barriers to reliability

Streamlining business processes throughout the organization, particularly in its paper and paperboard divisions, is complicated by diverse and demanding operational requirements. The integrated business produces lumber, sawn timber, construction products, innovative paper products, and paperboard for sectors such as cosmetics, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and food. Each mill has hundreds of thousands of assets needing to be monitored and maintained.

When their journey to modernization began, there was no shortage of opportunities for improvement. The legacy software and paper-based systems were so cumbersome to navigate that it strained user adoption and productivity and failed to produce timely insights. Managers and technicians needed to search for information including basic asset, work, inventory, and procurement statuses, slowing task completion, complicating decision making, and increasing the risk of errors or omission. Innovations were not a priority because dealing with the basics was all-consuming. Maintenance labor efficiency and performance gains were urgently needed.

Perhaps the greatest challenge was all the siloed and inconsistent data. “Ensuring uptime is critical for our mills, and maintenance of our plant and machines is very data driven,” says David Lyrén, a technical manager at one of the paper mills. “We needed a solution that would give us the data collection, insight, control, and stability to secure production capability through preventive maintenance.”

Realizing rapid improvements

Right off the bat, deploying IFS EAM on top of their ERP system from the same vendor improved visibility and maintenance efficiency for the pulp and paper company. Consolidating on a fully integrated solution with common data, a familiar user interface, and optimized workflows alleviated much of the struggle users formerly dealt with daily. For example:

  • Data consolidation eliminated unproductive silos of information so the mills can be more proactive about preventing downtime, including leveraging predictive maintenance fueled by a rich and growing pool of asset, process, and condition data.
  • Greater visibility and speed of access to data enables more informed, accurate decision making.
  • A modular architecture allows capabilities to be added, adapted, or integrated as needed.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) readiness is easing digital transformation.
  • Asset lifecycle management (ALM) enablement further boosts operational and cost efficiencies by optimizing and lengthening the full lifecycle.
  • Regular software upgrades provide the comfort of continuity along with continuous improvements, allowing the company to remain competitive with new innovations and minimal customization.

Benefits in action

One of the most consequential capabilities and time savers is the ability for each user to create their own personalized home screen, which shows information that is important to their role or task in an intuitive, visually appealing format. Without special data analytics or data warehouse skills, users can choose the health and status indicators they want to see for their assets or projects on their IFS Lobby. It puts knowledge at their fingertips the moment they access EAM, instead of having to hunt through multiple windows to personally compile and analyze diverse information.

“EAM systems are amassing data faster than ever through automatic condition sensing and other sources, but human beings just can't process that much information. Lobbies help to sift through the noise in real time,” explains Carol Johnston, VP of energy utilities and resources at IFS (www.ifs.com). “They process and analyze the data with artificial intelligence and machine learning to tell the user what is happening now, and also alert them when an event or KPI of interest needs attention.”

The EAM solution also provides better control of inventory and work order activities, making users more aware of their performance. Additionally, budgeting advantages exist. “We can extract planned work orders with budgets for the coming year to give us the financials that each cost center needs for its budget,” explains Lyrén.

For compliance and governance, having one hub for all the data and objects is a welcome change for the pulp and paper company. “In external audits, we use the software to show how we work with root cause analysis, how we document, and how we can access information to solve problems at hand,” Lyrén says. The system is also supporting several ongoing digitalization projects at the mills, such as AI and ML solutions to improve predictive maintenance.

Driving digitalization

Digital transformation continues to make old practices obsolete. For instance, the days of conducting preventive maintenance on a rigid pre-determined schedule and planning replacements based on a universal expected lifecycle are long gone. Whether a given asset lasts 10 or 30 years depends on the environment where it is deployed and the conditions under which it operates. Digitalization harnesses that insight.

By monitoring the health of the asset using remote sensors and analytics and establishing risk scores, predictive maintenance and replacement decisions can be tailored to the actual conditions and criticality of the asset. This use of AI and ML for smart assets driving smart insights is a prominent trend in industry today.

Another significant value proposition is the tight integration of EAM with geographic information systems (GIS) to form a digital twin of key assets, enabling predictive modeling and optimization of maintenance, configurations, and other scenarios.

“Technology needs to evolve, or you will get run over by the competition or demand in the market. EAM vendors especially need to keep pace and keep up or they will become obsolete,” observes Johnston. “New innovations in augmented reality, AI/ML, smart assets, the IoT—it all drives more innovation, more technology, and more complexity into the EAM solutions.”

Choosing a vendor who proactively stays ahead of the technology curve will help to maximize your EAM investment, no matter what industry you are in.

About the Author: Sheila Kennedy

Sheila Kennedy, CMRP, is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at [email protected].

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