BRUSSELS, July 1, 2014 (PPI Magazine) - Just one step inside the machine hall at Saica's virtually brand new EUR 360 million containerboard mill at Partington, near the city of Manchester in the UK, reveals to the visitor that this mill is run with precision and pride. Minute attention to detail is simply part of everyday life here. Even the floor shines, and PM 11, the gleaming centrepiece of the whole operation, is possibly one of the quietest paper machines in the business - as well as being one of the most automated.
The mill itself was officially opened just a year ago, and is known in the industry as one of the most advanced, producing some 425,000 tonnes/yr of fluting and linerboard. At full capacity PM 11, which has a width at the reel of 7.7 m, will run at 1,500 m/min producing a weight range from 75 - 135 g/m² and the start up speed was a world record for these grades at 1,100 m/min.
In charge of the whole operation at the Partington site is Pasi Hayrynen, a seasoned Finnish papermaker with vast experience of some of the most challenging start-ups in Europe in recent times - particularly of those machines using 100% recovered paper. Hayrynen's professional experience has taken him all around Europe to countries including Spain and Finland, but his particular experience in the last three years has been in the UK with Palm Paper in Kings Lynn and now at the showcase Saica containerboard mill at Partington.
"10 years ahead of other Automation"
As anybody in the business area of making quality paper from 100% recovered material knows, achieving speed and quality is more akin to an art than a pure skill, and it is a question of getting a lot of things right - all at the same time. And this is where automation comes in. "To achieve the quality that the market demands, and at the speed we demand, we need to take out all the inconsistency which often occurs because of the human element on the paper machine," says Hayrynen. "We like an operating world of ‘no surprises' at this mill".
As one of the pillars of this ‘no surprises' working atmosphere at the mill, Metso Automation supplied the complete automation package for the Partington mill, which has already been described by Saica management as "10 years ahead of other automation". Hayrynen says: "At other mills we tend to use independent suppliers for automation, but Saica Partington was different as we went for Metso (now Valmet) as a machine supplier, so it was decided to use Metso Automation. It works well in this case as the two companies are in close communication with each other and there are all sorts of warranties and guarantees in place."
So how have operations been since the start up, and has PM 11 lived up to expectations? "Like all start ups in my experience, there were one or two teething problems to begin with," says Hayrynen, ‘"however, these problems were outside of Metso's scope of delivery.
"As far as the PM 11 goes, it is has been the best start up I have ever been involved in, in fact we haven't had any problems at all with the machine. This has a lot to do with how Saica management approached the project, there was a lot of planning that went into this start up, in fact, preparations were on an unprecedented scale," continues Hayrynen. "We had extensive training of our people in Spain and Finland before the start up, and it was absolutely crucial that this machine was the most automated as possible so that we could try to eliminate any ‘human factor' and minimize the amount of operator intervention. This was especially critical as more than 90% of our operators did not have any previous paper making experience.
"This approach has really worked," adds Hayrynen.
Saica sent Hayrynen and his team to Metso Automation's headquarters in Tampere, Finland, to take part in the Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) for the automation system to make sure that every eventuality of running a brand new paper machine was taken into consideration. Hayrynen says: "We left absolutely nothing to chance when it came to installing and starting up this machine at Partington, and Saica management planned everything meticulously. Basically what we have with PM 11 automation is push button technology from the stock prep to the winder and everything in between, we tested all of the sequences and phases during the FAT test in Tampere over three months, so that when we got onto the machine, there were no surprises."
Hayrynen estimates that PM 11 is 95% automated which is extremely impressive when you consider the phases a paper machine has to go through to get quality paper on the reel. For instance grade changes are 100% automated, and all done at the push of a button. "The speed and quality of the grade changes is spot on, and we can do a 20 g/m² grade change in seven minutes without any hands on intervention from the operators at all," adds Hayrynen.
Measuring enables managing
So what part of the automation system has helped most to achieve this ‘no surprises' production philosophy at Partington? Hayrynen highlights a number of Metso Automation solutions that particularly stand out as being instrumental in allowing the smooth running of PM 11: "The Metso DNA system is extremely operator friendly," he says. "All of the information I need is right there at my fingertips, making the whole operation of PM 11 transparent. Using the Operator Tracking System I can see exactly when grade changes have been made, where there were delays, analysis of alarms, and when manual mode has occurred.
"I can come in first thing in the morning and at the touch of a button see what happened on the night shift the night before, and not only where things went wrong, but where things went right, where we can learn about the phases of the machine when it is at its most productive," continues Hayrynen. "We use the operating tracking system a lot, it is a very powerful management tool."
Another favourite piece of the automation system on PM 11 is the Functional Description element, also on Metso DNA. Hayrynen explains: "Because our philosophy here of aiming for total automation, it means that the skills of our workforce can be honed in on getting the maximum production rates out of the machine, rather than the intricacies of paper making. The Functional Description mode on the Metso DNA system means that as soon as there is any kind of problem, the operator can zoom in on the area of concern, and automatically a screen will pop up telling him what should be happening, behind all the control loops, as well as the reason for the problem and where to go to fix it. This takes away all the time taken to search for the problem, isolate it, then wait for it to be fixed.
"This puts a microscope on the problem at the same time as coming up with a solution meaning we achieve maximum up-time," adds Hayrynen.
Up-time are key words at Saica right across the company, with the goal being at 90% plus across all units and facilities - and a very healthy competition exists within the company. Partington is well on the way to achieving this goal with Hayrynen stating that over the last three months PM 11 has hit the 90% up-time target consistently. Again, Metso Automation concepts come in here which have been designed to maximize up-time by remote monitoring. This is where engineers in Tampere use Metso's Process Performance Monitoring system to remotely analyse data from PM 11 making sure the machine is running in a completely stable environment. Hayrynen explains: "This is another powerful tool which allows the monitoring and managing of machine performance, making sure that there are minimum variations in moisture right the way across from stock approach through to the winder. It allows the engineers to isolate any areas of the machine that are underperforming, for instance valves, and then retune as and when necessary for maximum performance.
"We have regular meetings with the Metso team in Tampere, and they visit us here at the mill twice a year here when they tune the loops and valves and improve all the systems, which is part of our ongoing service contract," adds Hayrynen.
The challenges keep on coming...
Saica's Partington mill is a fantastic example of a modern mill, located in a busy metropolitan area, creating an environmentally friendly product to a bar-setting industry standard in terms of speed and quality. But there are limitations here when it comes to space, which means that the pressure is very much on for the mill to absolutely maximize its performance in every way to hit the targets and stay out in front. Hayrynen says: "We have our work cut out here, and as at any mill, when we solve one bottleneck another one automatically pops up. Our next project will probably be to increase the capacity in stock preparation, and improve consistency of raw material using Metso's microwave technology, but there are also other things on our wish list, for instance improving our steam network, and optimising it so that it programs automatically for the most efficient usage.
"One thing is for sure," concludes Hayrynen. "We will continue on the road of maximising efficiency and quality and keeping our costs down well into the future."