Internet of bolts

IndTech in the Process Industry

We asked Jonas Uller, IT Development Manager at BillerudKorsnäs and a member of the industry Council of PiiA, to give us his take on current trends, challenges, and opportunities with digitalization in the process industry in Sweden.

What are the current challenges with industrial digitalization in the process industry?

Many large Swedish industrial companies have a high digitalization level and have been using modern technologies and systems for decades. From my perspective it is the ”soft” side that is our main challenge now in particular in the process industry. There is a wide range of IndTech technology available which is in constant development. It is rather the people, collaboration and competence that needs to develop alongside the technique. When things have been done in the same way for decades it is hard to change the thinking.

Competence shift to complement the technology development
In most industries there is a push towards taking more data driven decisions on all levels. Both equipment and working processes are automated. These data driven decisions and high level of automation requires consistent data. The challenge we are facing is that we need to transform part of our workforce and put much more effort into data governance. If maintenance plans are very much automated, we might no longer need a maintenance planner but to make the automated maintenance planning work we need to have people maintaining the data used for decision making. There is a competence shift ongoing and all levels in a company needs to have more information knowledge and care more about data quality. As a practical example virtually all process plants keep a close eye on their valves park with automatic alarms. The information about the valves was historically managed manually – the type and brand, what are the parts, where are they placed and what inspections and maintenance to do. Now when we’ve switched to managing the valves digitally, the required workforce skills changed from planning and pointing out what to do when to handling the valves data so that the system automatically take the rights actions.

The need to share operational data with external parties for development
Another aspect of more data driven decisions is with the OEMs we buy machinery from. They are usually the ones who specify and develop the requirements for operating the machines. The more they know about what the machines are exposed to and can follow the condition of the machines the more proactive the maintenance instructions can get. The data and insights are needed to enable this proactivity. In several of Sweden’s large industries, including the process industry, a lot of the technologies are from the 1990s but with a good ability to control and gather the data in one place. But then we are faced with a challenge because the systems we use are not developed to support control of data sharing outside our mills and our company. Internally it is working fine but it is just too much work to efficiently share the right data with suppliers and other external parties.

Being able to efficiently provide OEMs with data would benefit us but the distribution process is costly and inefficient. Getting back to those valves – giving suppliers more access to monitoring systems is difficult because the valves can often both be measured and remotely controlled from the software. We cannot allow external suppliers to have too many insights in what is going on at our site and not allow someone else to affect the physical condition of our plant. The process industry has no choice but to handle the data distribution of our centralized data ourselves – with increased demand for effective data governance. We see a large focus on data security in all industries and that will in the short period of time decrease access to data for external parties. However; in the long-time perspective data sharing will need to increase to enable innovation and development within the process industry.


About Jonas Uller

Jonas Uller has decades of experience of bringing new technique into industrial Sweden and has expertise in how IndTech solutions can and should be integrated considering the IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology) at industrial plants.

Main take-aways

  • Digitalization requires a competence shift and collaboration between different roles.
  • The lack of platforms to administrate industrial data and give access to the right external parties at the right level is currently hindering development.
  • The need to understand and ensure high data quality increases constantly. But no doubt someone still must for example tighten the bolts, just possibly more seldom with the right data insights.

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