Changes and benefits of digitalization in industry

I started working at Lapland University of Applied Sciences in the New Industry RDI as a project engineer in the DigiProcess project in September 2021. I have spent my previous career in the paper industry in different management positions at Stora Enso Kemi. I have seen both good and weaker periods in the paper industry. Technology was developed for the better and safety was constantly better taken into account in different activities. The expertise of operators was expanded and trainings were organized as a result of the changes. Operations and maintenance became part of the whole and brought new opportunities for operations.

In this model, therefore, the operating personnel are responsible for the daily routines of predictive maintenance. One good example was the ODR measurements (Operator driven reliability) that were detected using the technical auxiliaries needed to operate the devices. The measuring devices provided information on for example the temperature and vibrations.

The level of operation in the factory was always excellent and people worked with great professionalism. The decline in demand for paper was visible for a long time, but hardly anyone could have expected the forest giant to decide to close paper machines entirety.

So, I was able to watch today's operations & maintenance and digitalization entering to the process industry. This has been a clear trend in more industries for a long time. Operators are also maintenance operators rather than mere operators. Manual functions have been automated and robotics has replaced people. The world in which the operator carried out only the tasks assigned to him and, at the time of the fault, waited for the special maintenance forces, has changed. Operators have been forced to change with the world, although it has not always been easy.


Today's situation and change of attitudes

Industrial operational management level has taken great steps forward. Attitudes have changed, equipment and tools have been updated to meet standards. In addition, the functions enabled by digitalization have brought the necessary addition to maintenance and process.

The technology has evolved and condition monitoring has been partially automated. There is no longer necessarily a need to carry out concrete field measurements from critical devices because the data can be obtained directly into the control systems.

Those equipment that have entered into digitalization require a lot of change in attitudes. People are used to certain habits in a large industry. For example, the alignment of engines is now done by using laser technology. In the past, such alignments were only visually aligned and bolts were twisted.

One step is to get used to more experienced people in this changing world and to discover the benefits of development. This potential should not be ignored. Operators' know-how must be harnessed to the structure of a changing industry.

Little by little, we are in a situation where we are supposed to be. Changes are accepted and smarter maintenance will also be accepted at the operational level. Companies are ready for change, and so are the employees. When cooperation, know-how and attitude are brought to an adequate level, digital transformation of industry will be welcome once and for all.


Mika Turska, Project Engineer, Lapland University of Applied Science, New Industry RDI,

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