The surging of IIoT technology has completely transformed the way organisations nowadays conduct business. The concept in whole factory connectivity have seen increase in productivity, efficiency, and flexibility. Like many other industries, the pulp and paper industry has also adopted this new and advancing technology in process control and daily manufacturing operations.
The pulp and paper manufacturing processes may involve either batch or continuous production. The entire processing is basically a high-volume operation and is greatly affected by global commodity pricing. Additionally, it also operates on narrow margins which makes the cost of production as a key contributor to profitability. Any unplanned or extended downtime will significantly cut the profit margin and incur big loss for the factory. Therefore, it is imperative that the sector invests in value-added technology that can be reliably used for process optimisation from processing the raw material to finished products.
With the introduction of the Industry 4.0 technology, the whole process of papermaking will be revolutionised and the complete eco-system will be driven by real-time communication. Sensors, equipment and control system can interact with each other without human intervention; from real-time data gathering, monitoring and control. Critical applications such as measuring physical parameters of aggressive pulp slurry with extremely high pressure and temperature conditions, corrosive chemicals, are being digitally managed which offers stability and more accurate measurement.
Starting from the processing of raw materials, critical process parameters can be monitored in real-time including the condition, amount, and maturity of the tree stock. These information can be accessed by all the staff in the entire factory, enabling relevant parties to take appropriate action when required without relying on traditional communication method. This would simplify the quality control process and maintenance of capital equipment. Raw materials can also be replenished without extended delay by forecasting production quantity, sales and inventories.
The IIoT technology heavily rely on the use of analytics tools and artificial intelligence to communicate data in the factory, for example, while calculating kappa number in the residual pulp. Kappa number is a measurement of the concentration standard potassium permanganate in the pulp. An inconsistency in the kappa number may result in high chemical loss and production loss. The integration of IIoT technology enables a data-driven prediction of the model to provide the best-optimised process variables to achieve the targeted kappa level.
The integration of IIoT technology also brings positive impact in the paper production. The adoption of a digitised approach eases the race towards a better quality of the products and helps the manufacturer to keep up with trends for the development in the industry. This allows for full transparency of capacities, costs, and customer needs, which are based on historical and real-time information about supply and demand.
Taking smart connected assets to a whole new level, IIoT technology enables a much higher level of reliability and productivity in the factory. Manufacturers can have a ‘smart’ reel of paper interact with the slitter/winder in which the exact profile of the paper, such as weight, moisture, opacity, brightness, caliper or ash, on the reel can be obtained. Using this information, the sheeting or roll winding operations can be programmed to produce rolls or pallets targeted for specific buyers based on a specific profile. Hence, subdividing data to the roll/unit level makes processing much more efficient and provides a value-add that differentiates the supplier in a highly commoditised market.
The paper industry, being an asset and labour-intensive sector, employs smart sensors to detect and trigger early warning signs of machinery issues, and predicting the likeliness of an equipment breakdown. However, sometimes a critical failure may only be discovered further down the production line once the product quality deteriorates. Combining sensors with machine learning algorithms and high-end analytics tool will enable predictions of the impending failure. When a certain pattern from the measured signals is picked up, it would warrant an alert directing the factory staff to execute the corrective action.
The integration of the state-of-the-art Industry 4.0 technology is expected to drive efficiency, productivity, reduced operational costs and improve reliability in the pulp and paper operations. With the availability of many sensor technology and advance in analytics tools, it is expected the IIoT implementation is not far off in the future for the paper industry.