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Pulp and Paper: The number 1 thing you can do to improve uptime and profitability

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Why it may be time for you to update to your Distributed Control Systems (DCS) and Safety Systems

In pulp and paper operations, the on-going pressure to improve productivity and simultaneously reduce costs is at an all-time high. Central to achieving this goal is an update to the hub of operations: the Distributed Control System (DCS) and Safety System. 

A legacy DCS can inhibit productivity as one overlooked issue often escalates to multiple issues and higher costs. While taking the time to modernize is never easy, the risk of delaying a DCS upgrade is even riskier to operational integrity. And one that pulp and paper companies simply cannot afford to take.

And, this risk is growing, as leading pulp and paper operators are adopting 4IR (Industry 4.0) digital and automation solutions, which must integrate with the DCS. Legacy systems are, for the most part, unable to accomplish 4IR integration.

In interviews with 40 leading pulp and paper companies, 85% have started, or are currently building, 4IR capabilities. Thus, for pulp and paper manufacturers, the call to action is clear and urgent:  It’s time to modernize your DCS and Safety systems.

Pressure points

Across all geographies, company types, and company sizes, no pulp and paper company is exempt from this call to action. Multiple, concurrent challenges are converging on pulp and paper companies, including:

  • Increasing global competition is driving down pricing and squeezing profit margins
  • Raw material costs are escalating
  • Demand is fluctuating from a volume and product mix perspective
  • Skilled workers are retiring en masse, creating an enormous and growing gap in knowledge
  • Investment is needed for the impending journey to 4IR

These simultaneous challenges are creating the perfect storm of opportunity for pulp and paper manufacturers.

Self-funding the journey

First and foremost, achieving next-level operational optimization to improve costs and productivity is no longer a nice to have – it is an operational imperative.

Leading pulp and paper manufacturers are investing to manage these challenges, with the goal of  accomplishing two things:

1) Self-fund future initiatives.

By providing real and quantifiable outcomes today, manufacturers can help to “self-fund” the multi-year journey to 4IR.

Key results include:

  • Better operational optimization
  • Increased cost reductions
  • Enhanced safety

2) Integrate with 4IR.

By integrating into the overall journey to 4IR, manufacturers establish a long-term roadmap and payoff vs. a “rip-and-replace” approach. Modern DCS and Safety Systems that are 4IR-integration-ready are an essential lever to enable the 4IR journey and maximize returns on investment.

Take these three steps

For pulp and paper companies, upgrading DCS and Safety Systems today will ensure that a legacy DCS will not continue to inhibit operations. Here are three steps to fully leveraging a next-generation DCS to enable the 4IR digitization and automation journey and deliver improved operational outcomes.

Step ONE: Upgrade to next-generation DCS and Safety Systems

Why? All DCS and Safety Systems are not created equal. Knowing the differences can save time, money, and frustration and ensure a smooth and seamless 4IR integration.

To do: Upgrade to modern, next-generation DCS and Safety systems. This is the foundational step to enabling automated control, data collection, and data analysis, which in turn creates actionable insights and quick access to application logic. 

Outcomes: Outcomes are smarter uptime, increased throughput, and safer operations.  These benefits help to counterbalance the pressure points on profitability outlined above.  In the case of unplanned downtime – which can make or break pulp and paper operational profits -- the ability to make critical, data-driven decisions enables both accuracy and speed in returning to normal operations.

Step TWO: Integrate other systems and applications through your DCS HMI  

Why? A single pane of glass is required to truly optimize operations. That single pane should employ a simple, intuitive HMI (human machine interface) that manages control of multiple sophisticated processes and operation-wide data.

To do: Leverage a next-generation DCS HMI that integrates to other systems and applications to provide a single pane to the production process via a common HMI platform.

Outcomes: A single HMI platform provides operators with a simple and sophisticated access point from which to achieve higher-order, operation-wide optimizations.

Step THREE: Take advantage of additional data, analytics, and insights

Why? Next-generation DCS implementations can fully leverage analytics and actionable, data-driven insights.

To do: Utilize next-generation DCS to connect to third party systems and applications via IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things).  As a result, a broader data set can be used for deeper insights.

Outcomes: Next-level outcomes in optimization can be achieved by further honing equipment performance based on a wider data set as input to analytics and insights.

What’s Next?

In pulp and paper operations, the time to upgrade DCS and Safety Systems is today. This is the only way to ensure a viable future and boost productivity while protecting profits. 

Please reach out if you’d like to discuss your specific manufacturing needs and a modern, next-generation DCS and Safety System upgrade.