“Big data” analytics – will it work for pulp and paper?


The first people to acknowledge the exponential growth in the volume of data were scientists in the fields of astronomy and genomics. They were also the ones who coined the term “big data” and the first to use it. Today, a huge amount of data exists and is constantly created in all sectors of industry.  However, this constantly growing amount of information is often fragmented because of numerous source systems, and different data content and structures. Due to this missing data integrity, big data analytics has often been and still is impractical.

And the pulp and paper industry is no exception. This is where the new concepts of “big data analytics” – or better for an industrial environment – Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and “data computing” solutions come into play in the form of technical data software applications. Used by technical experts, these specific applications can analyze huge amounts of data, discover hidden patterns and correlations, and help industries operate more efficiently. But how do they work?

Human resources not enough to see the big picture

Information that can be easily accessed today no longer provides the “big picture.” This puts you at risk of making partially informed decisions, reducing your full business potential.

A traditional maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) inventory has many challenges. These include long replenishment lead times, demand unpredictability and low turnover, among other things, leading to unnecessary operating costs and tied-up capital  Tackling these challenges calls for an analytical, detail-focused and intelligent approach – because the fine details matter in big data. Still, finding a solution is not fully achievable by either man or machine alone, but rather using an entirely new smart way to combine, manipulate and compute the source data in an expert environment.

Managerial compass for decision making

Big data analytics tools are not just a new trend, but a huge game-changer for modern industry. In practice, these specific software applications collect, store and interpret data together with technical experts from all connected equipment and operational processes in the new environment – across the entire supply chain.

This involves deep analysis and intelligence, resulting in the creation of a new kind of managerial compass to aid in decision-making. With these tools, experts can finally bring huge amounts of data previously hidden from managers to a graphical, user-friendly control panel, opening up new dimensions for accurate decision-making. The process is already underway. But is the pulp and paper industry taking advantage of this breakthrough? 

The answer is yes. According to a report from Euro Graph, the European association of graphic paper producers, anything that can be digitalized will be – starting from planting and monitoring the maturity of trees through inventory assessment and the crossover of information on shipments, freight prices and more. At the moment, technical data management and the data exchange of industrial equipment and solutions are experiencing a strong growth in development focus.   

Digitalization improves production and MRO

The crossover of mill information benefits from the growth of the IIoT or Industry 4.0. Tracking all relevant operational parameters in real time reduces manual interference and optimizes production.

The same occurs with MRO. Identifying interchangeable equipment maximizes inventory use. Demand unpredictability decreases and replenishment lead time can be optimized by equipment identification in the mill’s advanced inventory. Yet, this is only achievable with man-machine collaboration and systems to enable such results.

In maintenance, improved predictive measures reduce downtime – even for scheduled maintenance.

These are just a few examples of the power inherent in big data analytics.

Still, cybersecurity is of utmost importance. So, by no means should the mill data be made publicly available in the Internet.

Turning data into opportunity

We stand at the start of the digital transformation era. An era that will turn the avalanche of new data into a streamlined opportunity for better-optimized processes, higher-quality products and customized services.

The variety, volume and value of big data will continue to grow and have an ever-greater presence in every industry − and our experts are there to help you with a smooth transition to more efficient pulp and paper manufacturing.  

To use data computing to its fullest, it is absolutely essential to involve experts from the field who can use their wisdom and experience to add the required perspective and unique value. Applying new ways of thinking cannot simply be left to a “big calculator.”

Welcome to big data analytics!


Co-author: Ilpo Miettinen