The Automation Imperative for the Pulp and Paper Industry

A pulp and paper plant is characterized by a set of many complex processes. Globally, the industry suffers from excess installed capacity, restricted raw material supply and cyclic nature. Given these constraints, for a paper plant to emerge and remain successful, it must have systems in place to provide real time visibility throughout the supply chain, across applications, platforms and organisational boundaries. Operating a pulp and paper plant requires availability of real-time business information and intelligence and systems that allow seamless collaboration.

The manufacturing environment in a pulp and paper plant is extremely complex and calls for automation and enterprise solutions that help coordinate all activities across applications and functional boundaries. Achieving production and business goals increasingly depends on the ability of an enterprise to link all business processes with the production floor and support processes. This requires manufacturers to automate and integrate plant and business enterprise processes and present processed information to involved users.

The plant automation and enterprise systems should be designed to achieve autonomous process automation and its improvement, enhanced productivity, decreased downtime, and efficiency while ensuring order fulfillment and customer satisfaction.

Systems and their designs must ensure the following :

  • Enable user application flexibility

  • Facilitate interlinking plant automation systems and enterprise solutions

  • Minimize total cost of ownership

Typically, a pulp and paper plant requires automation in terms of process measurement and control, motor control, and quality control systems. Enterprise systems will include enterprise resource planning, asset management, supply chain planning and execution, as well as other parameters.

Automation and control systems in a pulp and paper plant include stock preparation, water treatment, boiler plant, rewinder machine, paper machine, and others. These monitoring and control systems are essentially built around field devices, distributed control systems, programmable logic control systems, quality control systems, and drive systems.

Field devices encompass standard transmitters to measure parameters such as level, flow, pressure, and temperature, apart from special devices for measuring con sistency, thickness, and others. Customers gain by using transmitters with communication networking features, on-board intelligence, and asset management capabilities.

The stock preparation, water treatment, and boiler controls are carried out in most large plants with the help of distributed control systems for the process and PLCs for the sequencing segments respectively. Users are recommended to implement DCSs that are built around fieldbus and other open standards based architecture.

The application of drives in the paper industry is both from the process view point, for example the sectional winders control and /or for electrical energy saving. With energy consumption being almost 15% of total paper production cost, energy conservation methodologies have short payback times

Variable speed drives with advanced firmware have been widely adopted in the process control space, fans/ pumps, for energy saving; improved process quality ; reduced burden on the electrical system; and improved productivity.

Integration of these field devices, DCSs, PLCs, and AC drives means that systems do not work as islands, but respond to the need for continuous real time data and contribute to plant wide coordination and control.

Quality control in a pulp and paper plant is extremely complex but vitally important to achieve dynamic responses. Some of these parameters are basis weight, thickness, optical parameters including color and opacity, and other parameters. Quality control systems enable manufacturers to make better process decisions that reduce waste, ensure required quality standards, save raw materials and ultimately increase share holder value.

Condition monitoring systems for offline and online monitoring of various parameters like machine vibration, motor diagnostics, thermal imaging for hot spots, and others provide not only information on impending breakdowns, but can also be linked to the enterprise asset management systems. Asset management provides another enormous opportunity for raising the standards of plant performance.

The pulp and paper industry with its variety of complex and interconnected processes demands continuous online tracking of data to identify Key Performance indicators (KPI) .The dashboard approach of viewing data provides a means of obtaining information in an appropriate form for easier decision making.

Real-time Performance Management (RPM) is a management practice that measures performance in real-time. These measures are used to adjust targets to exploit current market conditions and improve business agility.

- Rajshekhar Uchil

ARC Advisory Group

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