Competitive edge in a high wage country through new technology

Challenge

Due to strong international competition and internal organisational challenges, there was pressure to increase focus on more efficient production, higher quality in products and lower production costs.

Solutions

Moving from a decentralised, multiple operations organisation, to one common, centralised operation and automation platform made possible by a single control centre. The control centre is now based on ‘Experion Process Knowledge System’ technology (PKS), which has replaced the old and outdated third-party Distributed Control Systems (DCS) and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs).

Costs

Borregaard has invested a considerable amount of resources in the latest Experion Process Knowledge System and to migrate old systems into to a common automation platform.

Result

Considerable reduction of costs in relation to man-hours in production and control functions and higher efficiency in administrative processes.

Introduction

Borregaard is a company specialised in the production of bio-based chemicals. The company operates one of the world’s most advanced biorefineries and has a strong global presence (production plants and sales offices in 20 countries).

The company develops and supplies speciality cellulose, lignin products, vanillin and bioethanol. These products go to a variety of markets, such as agriculture and fisheries, medicine and foodstuffs, buildings and biofuels.

Initially, Borregaard was British owned (bought by The Kellner Partington Paper Pulp Co. Ltd. in 1889), but in 1918 the company was transferred into Norwegian hands. After a takeover in 1986, Borregaard was part of the chemical division of the Orkla Group until it was spun off and introduced to the Oslo Stock Exchange in 2012.

Improved processes to keep the competitive edge

Today, Borregaard considers themselves to be one of the leading global producers of bio-based chemicals. To keep its leading market position, Borregaard has started to focus more on the efficiency of its production processes. 

According to Borregaard, The Kellner Partington Paper Pulp Co. Ltd invested in Borregaard in 1889 due to the availability of cheap timber, cheap energy and cheap labour in Norway. Since then, the industry has become more globalised and comparatively high labour costs has made Norway a high cost country. Due to this development and in order to avoid outsourcing of its production, Borregaard needed to focus on the efficiency of its production processes.

At the same time, the industrial areas of Borregaard (Ligning-based products, cellulose, pharmaceuticals and vanillin products) are technically demanding and capital intensive. In general, high purity is required and products often need to be customised for the customers. Extensive R&D capability, process knowledge and customer support are essential elements for a business like Borregaard. As end-use products are demanding and have a high value added, customers require a consistent and secure supply, and there is typically a long qualification period.

“As a consequence of the high costs in Norway, combined with the technologically demanding production processes in our industry, we decided to implement a new organisational structure using state-of-the-art technology and invest in a new centralised control room”

- Ole Gunnar Jakobsen,
Plant Director of Borregaard’s Sarpsborg Site 

Besides their substantial investment in a centralised control room, Borregaard upgraded their facilities, including a new pulp-drying machine, new cutting, baling and reeling equipment, as well as conversion of the bleaching plant to sulphite pulp. The original digester house (built in the early 1950s) was modernised with new stainless steel digesters and a new chemiwasher. As a result, the entire pulp line has been either rebuilt or refurbished.

Since 2001, Borregaard has gone through various installation phases of its automation system upgrade. Borregaard has replaced its PLC (Programmable Logic Control) and DCS (Distributed Control System) infrastructure with Experion PKS (Process Knowledge System). The process control network employs a DSA (Distributed Server Architecture) to consolidate operator consoles across the multiple Experion systems. This enables global access to points, alarms, interactive operator control messages, and history data across the different systems, eliminating the need for database duplication and gateways. The centralised control centre utilises HTML as its native display format in order for it to process graphic displays. The use of an open, industry standard file format reduces engineering time while allowing displays to be reused between systems.

With this update of its automation system, Plant Director Ole Gunnar Jakobsen assesses that Borregaard has been able to meet their need for the most updated process control technology. At the same time, network redesign and adoption of best practices have improved system performance and stability. In total, the solutions have met the needs that Borregaard has in terms of controlling its production processes better and more efficiently.  There is a number of reasons for this:

The ability to standardise on a platform with increased flexibility, reliability and efficiency

Centralised control room with a common operator interface for improved effectiveness and operator confidence, i.e. more lean

New, state-of-the-art automation system to reduce the number of required resources and provide more accurate information for quicker decision-making

Enhanced HMI (Human-Machine Interface) to help operators perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively

With the centralisation of the process control, communication barriers within the organisation have been broken down and have generally made processes at the site more efficient and transparent. One direct effect is that the operators have increased their autonomy and have more control of the processes:

“Before this automation and digitalisation process, our plant was controlled from 15-16 different locations. Since we have centralised our operation in one communication and control platform, we have improved the communication at our site because beforehand, there were different cultures and ways of working at each location”

- Ole Gunnar Jakobsen,                                                  
Plant Director of Borregaard’s Sarpsborg Site

How PKS (process knowledge system) works

In 2003, Honeywell’s Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS) was launched. The Experion PKS system is used in industrial plants and mills to integrate, control and monitor complex processes in many types of
industrial settings, including refineries. The PKS has given the operators more autonomy and responsibility. Before, the production management was highly involved in the day-to-day production processes and carried out many interventions and adjustments. As an effect, the operators have become more vital for Borregaard’s daily operations.

As the operators have become more vital for Borregaard’s daily operations, Borregaard has focused on providing the operators with the necessary skills and know-how to run the new system. Alongside the technological improvements, Borregaard has had a focus on internal training sessions to ensure that the operators became accustomed to the new surroundings and have adapted to the new control system.

The results: Increased efficiency of the production

Overall, the updated technology has affected the company’s production by improving its efficiency. According to Plant Director Ole Gunnar Jakobsen, the quality and the volume of the products produced have increased. A reason for this is higher accuracy, as full automation means that it is the same chemicals (amount etc.) that is added every time so that variations disappear. With the new control system, Borregaard has a solution primed for the future. It has been an important step for them in running a more stable and consistent production, and thus, meeting the challenges arising from competitors in the global market.

To Borregaard, implementing the project in itself has been an important result, because the company has learned how to customise technology to humans and focus on adding the competences that can handle the technology:

“With this project we have strengthened the link between humans in the organisation and the newest technology. We now know that there is no contradiction between two and that by adding the right competences, we can utilise the technology the best way possible”

- Ole Gunnar Jakobsen,                                                   
Plant Director of Borregaard’s Sarpsborg Site