Per Levén och John Lindström nämner gruvbolagen som ett exempel på hur automation och digitalisering skapar nya värdekedjor. Bilden visar ett kontrollrum från Boliden. Foto: Thomas Westermark

Digitalising value chains: the big challenge

The big challenge within the process industry is getting systems to work together when entire value chains are digitalised. For ProcessIT Innovations, this involves taking on large, complex projects, according to process leaders Per Levén and John Lindström. The mining industry is one example they mention. Photo: Boliden/Tomas Westermark.

iHubs Sweden Automation Digitalising value chains: the big challenge

“The effects of digitalisation have brought big changes for the value chains that have been built up around raw materials,” explains Per Levén, process leader in the Vinnväxt initiative ProcessIT Innovations . “Primary industries are undergoing extensive changes, and all industries are affected by the digitalisation of value chains.”

“There’s no turning back, even though we can see that this transformation involves various risks,” adds John Lindström, process leader together with Per Levén.

As the importance of value chains grows, we have to work with increasingly complex projects

RECREATING VALUE CHAINS

“Technological development means that digitalisation has reached a very high level,” continues Per. “Entire value chains are being recreated.

“We’re starting to see an infrastructure for the internet of things that brings together data from entire value chains and based on packaged services. The interesting thing is what is happening at ecosystem level or value chain level.

“We’re seeing the growing emergence of the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, where machines with intelligence are managing to interact with products and with other machines. This will give us fully-automated facilities, or smart factories.”

A MAJOR CHANGE

Per and John emphasise that digitalisation is not only happening within processes in individual businesses. The big thing today is the change in the value chains from which industry is built up.

One example that they highlight is within the forest industry, where a large forestry machinery supplier comes on board so that their machinery can strengthen the value chain within forestry, from seed to product.

Another example is within the energy sector, with energy companies building up large-scale energy production while at the same time small-scale production is also emerging and players within battery manufacturing are creating new opportunities for storing energy.

“As the importance of value chains grows, we have to work with increasingly complex projects,” says John. “It’s a matter of being able to link direct production to platforms for data collection and the industrial internet of things.

“Here, we need to ensure that data remains current throughout the entire process, that it doesn’t contain inaccuracies, that it complies with new regulations such as GDPR, and that it is then analysed correctly before being returned to production.

“One big challenge is to ensure that the entire system is held together so that all this works.”

About ProcessIT Innovations

The Vinnväxt initiative ProcessIT Innovations is a business accelerator for industrial IT and an innovation hub for the regional innovation and growth system, established as a research centre at Luleå University of Technology and Umeå University.

ProcessIT Innovations’ strategic concept is to create projects where researchers and IT companies, along with process industries and their supplier companies, can tackle the IT and automation challenges that this process industry is facing.

In addition to the universities, a number of other partners support ProcessIT through a collaboration agreement. These organisations are County Administrative Boards in Norrbotten and Västerbotten, the municipalities of Umeå, Skellefteå, Piteå and Luleå and the companies of ABB, Boliden, Komatsu Forest, LKAB, SCA and Skellefteå Kraft.

THE ROLE OF PROCESSIT

Here, they both believe that ProcessIT Innovations has an important role to play. This involves working together with other players to drive and lead the work needed within different projects. Bringing new partners on board, finding financing, leading workshops and creating networks.

“Today, it’s not possible for businesses to know everything themselves – it’s impossible to have that expertise,” says John. “That’s why it’s important for researchers to contribute their expertise.”

RESEARCHERS’ CONTRIBUTIONS

Researchers have a great deal of expertise to contribute within new methods and fields such as data modelling, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
The complex work involved in holding entire value chains together places significant demands on setting strategic targets for different industrial sectors.

A BIGGER PICTURE

“Here, we at ProcessIT Innovations can contribute a bigger picture at a higher level,” explains Per.

One example he mentions is Smart Mine of the Future, where mining companies such as LKAB and Boliden have been driving forces.

“We need to see similar initiatives within forestry, paper and pulp, energy and life science.”

A ROADMAP FOR EUROPE

Another example that John offers is the roadmap drawn up by ProcessIT.EU for future automation within the European process industry, which ProcessIT Innovations was closely involved in.

“If we are to succeed, we need to see the full picture. Otherwise, we risk going astray.”

Photo above: Boliden/Tomas Westermark.

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