Going Beyond Digital and into AI

There is no question that complex operations with high degree of visibility to production status, tracking, efficiency, abnormal conditions and real-time results make best use of their raw materials and energy inputs.  On the quality front, minimizing production errors and delivering on precise quality targets, production data and convenient analysis is necessary.

Real time operations in medium to large size facilities have been digitized for decades.  Remote monitoring and controls, also known as SCADA, DCS/PLC with HMI use control loops and alarm systems to operate and monitor for abnormal conditions.

Pulling data into “Level 3” or the business level allows the workflow of the operation to be automated.  Some examples are incoming orders for product such as paper, fuels, building materials, etc. can be automatically shuffled and scheduled to generate the optimal production instructions or schedule.  A programmed approach improves efficiency of high cost assets.  The ultimate goal is for the operation to harvest the greatest efficiency from their installed assets and personnel, improving raw material usage and energy consumption.

The promise of using artificial intelligence (AI) is to act as an overarching management tool in complex environments. AI applications automate the data analysis process so that complex interrogations can be performed on an on-going or on-demand basis.  The AI algorithms produce reports of value and alert management of potential equipment problems or efficiency issues not normally discovered immediately or realized by personnel.

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