The cultural shift towards effective data exchange

From the perspective of someone who is responsible for delivering a complete mill project, the schedule and quality of the process is key. With tens of vendors and an infinite amount of data involved, developing fluent operating models and standardized data formats is the way to improve the process and the experience for the end customer.

Information is the key to efficiency

If we want to achieve optimal efficiency in project delivery, we need to work on effective sharing of information between the different parties involved. Challenges come usually in form of ownership and availability. It is typically dictated by contracts, what information each project participant must provide, and what they can see.  The exchange of relevant data is still in many cases tied to project milestones that are defined by documentation hand-over. This means that information that could be useful may not become available to others at a time when they could prove most useful. Understanding the potential of better data management and writing better contracts can open new possibilities.

In an ideal world all parties would have access to the relevant data when they need it. This transparency would eliminate time-consuming back-tracking, reduce revisions and changes, ultimately shortening the through-time of the entire project. It would also have a positive impact on overall quality and accuracy. In this ideal scenario, also the data formats would be standardized across the board, making data handling and exchange even smoother.

Finding a common language

Digital tools and platforms have the capacity to make this sharing process more efficient through automation. Developing APIs that allow each vendor’s systems to communicate across data borders in a standardized language and format will allow for fast and accurate information exchange during the project. This can significantly reduce the time and manual labor required to unify the wealth of data generated and recorded.

The issue today is no longer a technical one. Systems have the capacity to communicate with each other and the degree of automation could easily be increased. What is needed is a common structure and rules for exchanged data and a common agreement ensuring they are used across the project. Together with our key customers and trusted vendors and partners, we want to be ready to harness the full potential of data once these hurdles are overcome. As a valves partner Neles is also committed to taking things forward and supporting positive developments in terms of EPC project execution. They too, recognize the potential of digitalization and the open sharing of information, making them an ideal partner for an EPC such as ANDRITZ.

Working for the greater good

In Finland the THTH Association, which consists of companies, research centers and universities with strong ties to the industry, is leading the way to better information management. Their mission is to support the development of distributed plant information management during the whole life cycle of industrial assets. As the former Chairman of the association, I was happy to see how involved the entire industrial sector wanted to be, when it came to the TIE (Technical Information Exchange) initiative. With numerous big Finnish multinationals actively participating in resolving the challenges of standardization and exchange of technical data, we are seeing a real change in terms of developing an open digital business ecosystem that will benefit everyone involved.

We all share the same challenges, and it is in all of our best interest to solve them together. We must also remember to embrace the young and ambitious emerging engineering talents who will drive the technology and processes we use forward. Harnessing digitalization and embracing a culture of openness will help ensure the smooth execution, delivery and hand-over of all mill projects of the future.

Text originally published in 2020, and slightly updated in April 2022, due to the company name change to Valmet.

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