Instead of typical production planning and control, datadriven applications incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) help us take a more holistic view of production by utilizing data from several sources. While Industrial Internet applications can be used to instantly optimize processes, they also allow us to predict what's around the corner.
"Tomorrow's successful companies will increasingly base their decision making on insights, predictions and prescriptions provided by artificial intelligence applications," emphasizes Jari Almi, Vice President, Industrial Internet at Valmet.
"In practice, this means, thanks to AI-based applications and machine learning, it will be possible to predict upcoming variations and incidents, make decisions based on predicted events and act proactively. This approach is valid for production, maintenance and business too," he explains.
Simply put, the benefit of advanced analytics is that it can recognize abnormal behavior, repeating patterns or a chain of events in large data volumes leading to a certain incident in the future. By recognizing these patterns, it can predict when the same incident is likely to reoccur and alert the user in advance. In future, artificial intelligence will likely also replace the operator and fill the best setpoints automatically in the system.
"Nowadays, operators run machines based mostly on historical data and their experience of the best running parameters and setpoints. A lot of real-time data is available from the automation system, but data use is mostly limited to controlling the process. This is because it's impossible for a human to analyze thousands of data points at the same time and recognize repeating patterns in them. In the future mill or plant, it will be possible to manage and optimize mill-wide operations through data-driven applications by combining and analyzing data from various sources," says Almi.
"We want to reduce unplanned downtime and optimize maintenance. For example, when we can predict upcoming machine failures early enough, the maintenance team can proactively plan the required actions before the next shutdown. Preventing equipment failures happening brings real business value to customers."
This allows a move from scheduled equipment maintenance to outcome-based maintenance. "Based on prescriptive analytics, the system can indicate how to run or modify the machine to ensure it's safe to extend operations until the next planned maintenance break. Our future vision is for the system to autonomously recover from detected problems by changing its own settings to adapt to the predicted problem."
The best approach to seeking value from the data and getting development started is to initiate a data discovery process utilizing a batch of historical data, e.g. from the mill information management system. Data discovery makes it possible to find a root cause of an identified problem or to take a more holistic approach to finding improvement potential in the production process by utilizing historical data. Typically, data discovery takes six to eight weeks, and engages Valmet's data scientists and process specialists in collaborating with the customer's specialists to get everything out of the data. The outcome of data discovery is not only limited to a final report; typically, a data-driven advisory application is also created during the process to address the discovered improvement opportunity.
All told, artificial intelligence will play a major role in the future mill or plant, but it will be a long time before it replaces the role of experts. The best results can be achieved by engaging people working with the new technology through an agile development approach. Instead of multi-year development projects trying to solve all the issues at once, new opportunities should be explored step-by-step and by learning on the go to achieve the vision of the more autonomous mill of the future.
For more information on Valmet Industrial Internet and it's ability to help predict future runnability, view our webinars on industrial internet and mill wide optimization and contact your Valmet representative.