A new era of distributed control systems begins with Valmet DNAe

Jun 2, 2024

The launch of the Valmet DNAe Distributed Control System (DCS) redefines what a DCS can be in a digital, connected world.

The future holds remarkable prospects for process industries. Every challenge is a spark for innovation and growth. The pressures of globalization, demographic changes, and climate change are reshaping expectations. As technology leaps forward, Valmet creates solutions that transform complexity into simplicity, enabling a new generation of workers to navigate and excel in a digital landscape.

Transformative times create opportunities

“The world around us is changing fast. Industrial systems like the DCS need to embrace this connected, digital world,” explains Jukka Ylijoki, Vice President of R&D, Automation Systems, Valmet. “Building a truly open yet secure and sustainable DCS that will last for decades required a complete overhaul. No aspect of our recently launched Valmet DNAe Distributed Control System was left untouched. We had to be sure it delivers the reliability, performance, flexibility and security our customers need.”

Redefining the possibilities of digitalization

“Compared to 20 years ago, the requirements for a DCS have dramatically changed,” says Harri Mustonen, Director of Control Systems, Valmet. “The primary purpose of a DCS is still to connect field devices to process controls, but over the last few years, digitalization initiatives everywhere have pushed the DCS towards higher levels of connectivity and automation.”

Harri Mustonen, Director of Control Systems, Valmet

Valmet DNAe enables customers to improve their digital intelligence at every level to achieve higher targets while reducing production costs.

The common thread is better utilization of data. To enable greater autonomy, the DCS needs to collect, manage, analyze and share high-quality data across Operational Technology (OT) systems at the facility and the Information Technology (IT) systems of the back office.

“Valmet DNAe makes this possible as a single, unified system,” says Mustonen. “In addition to real-time process controls, Valmet DNAe brings structured high-quality information management tools for advanced analytics and reporting to the core of the DCS. This enables customers to improve their digital intelligence at every level to reach higher targets, while lowering production costs.”

Cybersecurity meets open connectivity

Making the digital transformation smooth for customers was a key ingredient in the development of Valmet DNAe. “Customers need to be able to open their DCS in an easy, controlled manner to combine systems and data sources,” says Ylijoki.

Jukka Ylijoki, Vice President of R&D, Automation Systems, Valmet

How do you secure a system designed to be open and adaptable? To answer that, we maintained a laser-like focus on cybersecurity.

“Our networking and connectivity goals for Valmet DNAe were far more ambitious than anything we had done before. How do you secure a system designed to be open and adaptable? To answer that, we maintained a laser-like focus on cybersecurity.”

“This was perhaps our biggest insight when we started developing Valmet DNAe,” Ylijoki continues. “The need for a fundamentally cybersecure platform is proving itself time and again.”

Valmet DNAe ensures cybersecurity from the operative field layer up to IT level communication. Different network layers and technical features of the system have been developed based on Security Development Lifecycle Assurance (SDLA) certified methodologies, ensuring security from the first line of code.

At the core of the Valmet DNAe Distributed Control System is the Trusted Information Framework (TIF), which serves as the backbone for communication and data management. The TIF framework provides a robust foundation for system security and system integrity. Built upon the TIF foundation, Valmet DNAe architecture is cybersecure by design, and it includes measures such as role-based access control, authentication, encryption, endpoint protection and comprehensive audit trails. IT security integration helps security teams stay alert to potential threats, and the Valmet DNAe system also enables intrusion detection to be implemented.

Every user counts more than ever before

“Industries face a silver tsunami of retirement,” says Mustonen. “The most experienced people are leaving the workforce. New recruits lack the know-how from 30+ years in the same job and they don’t even want a career like that. Changing jobs after a few years is the norm now. Even though the DCS role is bigger, the system needs to be much easier to learn and use to counter high turnover.”

Attracting new recruits and keeping them is hard, adding to the pressure to optimize and do more with less. Smaller and smaller teams need to be able to run processes in larger, more complex operations.

"Keeping the big picture in mind is vital. The new system prioritizes information and presents what needs attention. It enables managing larger process areas efficiently based on real-time data and predictive applications," says Petri Tiihonen, Product Manager, Platform R&D (left), pictured with Taavi Veltheim, Business Manager, Pulp & Paper, and Anton Meuronen, Product Manager, Energy & Process Industries.

Valmet DNAe DCS empowers teams to collaborate seamlessly across process areas, sites, departments and organizations by implementing a design philosophy that focuses on usability. Users get an intuitive, holistic view of processes, sites and fleets for best situational awareness and cross-team collaboration.

Valmet DNAe is as much about bringing people together and new ways of working as it is about connecting systems.

“Valmet DNAe is as much about bringing people together and new ways of working as it is about connecting systems,” says Ylijoki. “We want the best experts to be available for our customers and work seamlessly to analyze data, solve issues and optimize process performance.”

All users can now easily access and leverage process data to improve and accelerate data-driven decision-making. Bringing more users into the DCS realm is central to success.

Performance for a sustainable future

With the DCS taking on a bigger role, high availability is a must for a fully digitalized DCS. “System reliability is utmost important because the primary function of DCS is to secure continuous trouble-free production,” notes Mustonen.

Fault tolerance and redundancy have been at the core of Valmet DNAe development, ensuring continuous availability of real-time, high-quality data. This enables precise control over the process and faster response times to both unexpected disturbances and planned changes.

“You can eliminate process variability and run at the optimal operating point to produce the targeted production and quality with the minimum input,” says Mustonen. “This is critical for long-term sustainability. Valmet DNAe delivers the controls, data, analytics and diagnostic intelligence to confidently move towards more efficient use of resources and lower emissions.”

The future starts now

Valmet keeps its lifetime systems compatibility promise to customers with Valmet DNAe. Existing Valmet DNA customers can now benefit from the latest technology and innovations in Valmet DNAe.

“We have well-defined upgrade paths for existing Valmet DNA customers to transition to Valmet DNAe on a timeline that best fits their production and investment plans,” says Mustonen.

Common controller and I/O family enables a smooth transition from Valmet DNA to Valmet DNAe over the plant's lifecycle.

“Whether it’s a hydrogen production or power plant, paper machine or whiskey distillery, there is tremendous process know-how in those applications,” adds Ylijoki. “They are the strongest foundation to build on. We introduce innovative technology but secure customers’ existing assets by migrating control functions without changing their behavior.”

One of the key advantages of the Valmet DNAe system is that it can evolve. This is pivotal to our customer promise.

Customers can jump-start optimization and performance enhancement through a library of industry-specific applications for Valmet DNAe. Valmet also provides a reference network with ready-made templates to significantly reduce project times and ensure the final Valmet DNAe network design adheres to cybersecurity requirements.

Securing the present is as important as securing the future. "One of the key advantages of the Valmet DNAe system is that it can evolve. This is pivotal to our customer promise,” says Ylijoki. “More than that, though, our system is designed to adapt and remain competitive in the future.”