From logs to logging on: Paper machines built with digital manufacturing

Building paper mill machines with digital manufacturing can save millions of dollars, with a stringent digitalization strategy and an autonomous factory.

A fully automated ANDRITZ tissue production line for high-quality paper represents digital manufacturing

Harald Henkel

June 8, 2021

min read
  • ANDRITZ, an Austrian company that manufactures machinery for pulp and paper mills, is using digital manufacturing and artificial-intelligence (AI) processes to save millions of dollars.

  • Skilled workers and engineers on ANDRITZ production lines are now able to take advantage of data-driven support as standard.

  • 3D modeling and digital twins also give ANDRITZ a competitive advantage by guiding operators safely through maintenance and repairs and ensuring transparent access to data.

Just last year, the huge rush to buy toilet paper highlighted the importance of paper in everyday life. But not everyone is aware of the state-of-the-art digital-manufacturing technology behind the tissue.

Hungarian company Vajda Papír produces about 30,000 tons of napkins, toilet paper, and paper towels for the whole of Europe every year. The firm’s sophisticated factory uses sensors and AI-optimized processes to achieve sustainable, cost-effective paper production.

“Digitalization and artificial intelligence have become indispensable for paper production,” says Attila Vajda, founder and CEO of Vajda Papír. “Comprehensive sensor technology, big data, and smart algorithms are essential for efficient operation.”

Austrian plant and machinery specialist ANDRITZ designed and supplied the complete production line for the Hungarian mill. At the heart of the company are its Metris Performance Centers, where ANDRITZ can remotely commission and control plants and production lines. “The performance centers help our customers avoid problems before they arise,” says Gerhard Schiefer, chief automation officer at ANDRITZ.

“Customers expect us to be a technology leader,” adds Bernhard Grader, head of PLM application services at ANDRITZ. Data-driven support is now part of everyday life for the skilled workers and engineers who work on the production lines. This is true for not only pulp and paper but also the other three business areas to which ANDRITZ supplies equipment: hydropower, metalworking, and separation technology.

Conserving resources with industry 4.0

exterior shot of a pulp mill at night
ANDRITZ also supplies complete plants for various industries, including this subsystem for one of the world’s largest pulp mills in Brazil. Image courtesy of ANDRITZ.

ANDRITZ has 27,200 employees, a revenue of more than $7.9 billion, and more than 280 offices in 40-plus countries. Chief Digital Officer Klaus Glatz does not long for the good old days. “Before we digitalized our planning and design processes, there was paper everywhere,” he recalls. “An average production plant could produce a couple of tons of plans, records, and operational documents, which made it extremely difficult to coordinate large projects.”

This comes as no surprise, because in predigital times, any changes to construction work tended to be labor-intensive and susceptible to error—especially if internal and external stakeholders from opposite sides of the planet needed to be informed of critical changes to the plans. But those times are long gone. Today, ANDRITZ benefits from digitalized planning and control technologies along the entire value chain, from design and construction to commissioning and operation, including maintenance, repair, and deinstallation.

Change management and digital transformation

Change management was the biggest challenge in mastering the transition from analog to digital,” Grader says. “We optimized information flows and guaranteed uniform data access to avoid errors in processing and transport.”

The availability of continuous design updates through software solutions such as Autodesk Forge, Vault, and BIM 360 provided major advantages to ANDRITZ and its customers, allowing each to mitigate unforeseen events that would have driven up costs significantly. This was especially true on large projects such as the Vajda Papír tissue mill in Hungary, which was commissioned in 2018.

Now, endless reams of design papers are a thing of the past at ANDRITZ. “Every company and person involved in the design and construction process has access to real-time synchronized data,” Grader says.

This also makes it much easier to involve suppliers in planning and avoid communication errors. ANDRITZ does not manufacture machines that work in isolation; it designs highly networked plants with a level of complexity comparable to that of a small city.

Digitally integrating stakeholders

Two people working in front of many computer screens at the ANDRITZ office
The performance centers provide digital service and support for ANDRITZ equipment worldwide. Image courtesy of croce & we.

Modeling each component in 3D provides another important advantage. The digital twins created using Autodesk AutoCAD and Inventor ensure the effects of any change on the rest of the plant are transparent. They also ensure all appropriate information is immediately available.

“Regulated access to data, in particular, has significantly improved change management,” Glatz says, explaining that it avoids tedious manual changes and considerably reduces susceptibility to error. “What’s more, those involved can easily use mobile devices such as cell phones or tablets to access up-to-date plans on-site, make changes, and issue joint approvals.”

Monitoring status using digital solutions

ANDRITZ’s work clearly shows how the Internet of Things and the use of the resulting process data can present entirely new possibilities for optimization, not only in planning and design but also in ongoing operations. “It’s important that there are no unplanned shutdowns at our customers’ plants, as this significantly reduces productivity,” Glatz says.

It’s exactly this that has led ANDRITZ to provide industrial digitalization solutions for its customers as part of the Metris brand. The idea behind the brand is to increase plant efficiency and profitability, optimize resource use, reduce downtime, and maximize user-friendliness.

ANDRITZ has developed several technologies to help do this, including an integrated production optimization system with a holistic concept that covers any factory. Metris risk-based management monitors individual machines while also protecting the entire factory from undetected production downtime.

On-site operators working with this technology require a high level of expertise. This is because if you change a parameter in a process as complex as paper production, its effect will be felt only after eight hours—that is, at the end of the lengthy production process. “We can use data analytics to make predictions about any maintenance work that will be required in the future and avoid unforeseen component failure,” Grader adds.

Proactively identifying vulnerabilities

Person using HoloLens data glasses to manipulate digital 3D model
Microsoft HoloLens data glasses allow remote maintenance and remote commissioning of systems. Image courtesy of ANDRITZ Metals Germany GmbH.

This feature allows potential weak points to be identified and repaired in advance. Operators can not only use the integrated spare-parts catalog to directly order parts but also reliably make repairs with augmented-reality-based 3D models and Autodesk ShotGrid (formerly Shotgun), which guides operators safely through maintenance and repair procedures.

The 3D model represents every section of the machinery and is completely animated. “You can see an individual screw loosen,” Glatz says. “And since the pandemic, our customers have increasingly used remote maintenance and remote commissioning options.”

Optimizing production processes in a digital twin

Another key element of Metris is the ability to optimize production processes. The analysis software correlates the data for all control loops (valves, motors, et cetera) in a mill. A pulp mill can have anywhere between 15,000 and 17,000 sensors, and the Big Data each sensor measures is evaluated and correlated using clustering algorithms.

“This reveals the potential for optimizing the operation of the mill,” Grader says. “We then evaluate these together with the customer and use them to determine future adjustments in order to improve production.”

Securing big data management

Data-security questions arise wherever there is a need to measure large amounts of data. ANDRITZ offers a comprehensive cybersecurity program together with OTORIO. Founded several years ago, this subsidiary has decades of experience in the data-security field and uses its expertise to ensure the integrity and availability of highly sensitive plant data.

Deepening value creation with digital manufacturing

One of the key challenges in data collection is analyzing the volumes of data generated in the process. Grader explains that the company is working toward further process automation. “The long-term goal is an autonomous factory that can produce, monitor, and control itself with almost no human intervention,” he says.

The advantages of digitalization achieved so far benefit not only ANDRITZ’s customers but also the company itself. This is due to the seamless integration of the performance features described in this article into the company’s own value chain. “Digitalization has given us a deeper insight into our processes,” Grader says. “And we can offer this to our customers as another value-added solution, particularly in the areas of service, after sales, and maintenance.”

ANDRITZ is offering more than a plant: It’s offering a stringent digital strategy that intelligently optimizes plant processes, and in so doing, it has already realized savings of more than 150 million euros for its customers. “This sum is increasing every day,” Glatz says.

Being inside the Performance Center at ANDRITZ headquarters in the Graz, Austria, makes it easy to believe him. With large flat screens displaying diagrams, graphics, and figures, the building looks like a space mission control center. Welcome to the future.


About Harald Henkel

After his degree in international relations and theater, film, and television studies at the University of Cologne, Harald Henkel completed an internship at inmedia Verlag, a publishing house specializing in the real estate industry. Since 2009, he has been working as a journalist, editor, and PR consultant for B2B trade publishers, SMEs, and international companies. His main topics are business, finance, real estate, technology, and software.

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