Voith Group Automates and Digitizes Paper Mills’ Operations

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By Michael Larner | 2Q 2022 | IN-6502

Voith Group supports paper mills with both production equipment and a portfolio of digital solutions that can help them to prevent unplanned downtime while optimizing their operations.

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Voith Supports Paper Mills' Digitalization Plans

NEWS


Voith Group is an example of a manufacturer of heavy machinery that manages to straddle the world of Industry 4.0. The German firm was founded in 1867 and today offers customers across the paper, oil and gas, raw materials, and automotive sectors both machinery and digital technologies that support efforts to improve quality and productivity. Today the company employs over twenty thousand individuals, across sixty countries, and posted revenues of €4.2 billion in 2020/2021.

In the paper industry, Voith supplies the giant machines that converts pulp and recycled paper into paper products. The company sells digital technologies under the banner Papermaking 4.0. The company supports the efforts of paper facilities, using Voith or a third party’s equipment, to digitize their production processes be that the production of tissues, specialty papers, graphic paper, or board and packaging papers. Customers are seeking to avoid unplanned downtime from paper breaks and optimize their operations and also reduce their use of water, chemicals, energy requirements, while reliably meeting their quality targets.

Focusing on Uptime and Optimizing Processes

IMPACT


Voith’s digital solutions focus on increasing the availability of the equipment or improving the efficiency of the production process. For customers looking to keep their equipment up and running Voith offers condition-based monitoring with sensor data analyzed in real-time via OnEfficiency. BreakProtect enables the customers to proactively identify root causes of web breaks and support their elimination.

For supporting operational efficiencies, there is a portfolio of tools for advanced process control. In addition, the company helps customers looking to improve paper quality (OnView.VirtualSensorBuilder and OnEfficiency.Strength) and yield levels (OnView.MassBalance and OnEfficiency.DIP). Voith provides the equipment for the entire paper production line for Turkish producer Modern Karton and supports the efficient operation of the mill with its advanced process control system OnEfficiency. Italian customer Fedrigoni is an example of Voith working with a third party’s machinery. Voith installed the OnEfficiency.Strength solution on the machinery to help Fedrigoni reduce the variations in paper thickness.

The company is investing in visualization and analysis tools to see and work with the production data with the OnCumulus Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform able to help customers shine a light on operating performance, with the OnPerformance.Lab helping staff in operations centers to analyze the data emanating from the machines and help customers optimize their operations.

To support staff working with the machinery there is OnCall.Video, which is the firm’s remote support tool enabling a Voith expert to work alongside the staff member as if they were there in person. For those customers planning operational changes, there is a virtual reality capability to train employees on their new machine but also experiment in the planning stage prior to installing the machine in the paper mill.

Voith Mirrors other German Equipment Manufacturers

RECOMMENDATIONS


Pulp and paper producers are beginning to appreciate the benefits that investments in digital technologies can deliver in supporting their operations. ABI Research forecasts that spend on digital technologies will increase by Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 6% over the rest of decade and reach US$6 billion in 2030.

Voith currently has over three hundred digital engagements around the globe and benefits from having multiple engagement points with pulp and paper mills. First of all, the firm can add digital technologies to customers who have bought their equipment but also provide solutions that match their maturity with digital technologies. For example, an engagement could start as part of maintenance management and then the firm can be involved in more sophisticated work supporting the paper mill optimizing its machine performance, improving product quality or the operations of the entire facility using virtual reality.

By adding a portfolio of digital solutions to its offering that support its own equipment but also customers elsewhere, Voith is mirroring other German machinery manufacturers like Bosch and Siemens. The key step in Voith’s strategy for Papermaking 4.0 is the focus on delivering better performance for paper mills regardless of the equipment’s origin. The company should also look for opportunities to partner with system integrators to scale their capability. Offering both equipment and digital solutions means that the firm is attune to the needs of the paper industry from both perspectives.

However, the wide range of solutions for the paper industry as well as equivalents in other industries such as robotic solutions for the automotive industry risks the firm trying to be all things to all clients. Competitors with deeper pockets that are focused on a particular technology could in future be more appealing to paper mills.