NEW HIGH TECNOLOGY! Kalle Heiska science journalist
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Millions saved thanks to improved production reliability
VTT's development work has substantially reduced stoppages

Unscheduled stoppages of a production line can easily lead to significant financial and production losses. For example, a stoppage of Rautaruukki Oy's plate production line costs the company EUR 10,000 an hour. In a three-year project VTT together with a number of companies has developed methods for improving production reliability. Rautaruukki Oy set itself the target of cutting one hour off its average unscheduled stoppage time of 15 hours per week. The actual outcome was a reduction of no less than two hours.

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Development Engineer Risto Korhonen of Rautaruukki Oy has become an expert on the reliability of the steel mill's all-important plate production line. For years he has been leading development work that has essentially improved the productivity of the production line. In this work he has been supported by experts from VTT in particular.
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Photo: Riitta Kalliosalo

As a result of the joint research project the participating companies can boost their competitiveness by improving the reliability of their production plant using new monitoring systems. These methods are based on just the right combination of long experience, decision-making support systems, and information gathered from condition monitoring sensors and especially from measuring sensors used production control. In addition to Rautaruukki Oy, the research project partners included Lillbacka Oy, Metso Paper Oy, Metso Minerals Oy and Outokumpu Oy.

"We invested five man-work-years in the R&D project, but annual production losses were cut by EUR 250,000," says Rautaruukki Oy's Development Engineer Risto Korhonen, describing the benefits of the project for his own company.

Korhonen says that knowledge acquisition is essential in order to improve condition monitoring. The developers must be able integrate the information provided by existing measurement and control sensors into expert systems. These yield mathematical ratios that are translated processed into an understandable form and then used to support the decision-making of production personnel. Rautaruukki Oy is currently testing the demo version of a upgraded condition monitoring system on its plate production line.

"I am cautious when it comes to state-of-the-art technology. On the other hand, when a condition monitoring system is changed, it's worth doing a comprehensive job. At least the new self-diagnosing sensor that analyses its measured data and passes on its conclusion is interesting," says Korhonen.

The possibilities of using telecommunications to support the monitoring of remote plant maintenance was also studied in the VTT-coordinated research project. The method supports the regular servicing of plants delivered to remote customers as well as repair work planned by local maintenance personnel. New technical methods supporting condition monitoring were also studied. These included vibration and oil analysis sensors, rule-based decision-making, reliable methods of transmitting measurement data, the use of simulation in diagnostics, and the combination of condition monitoring and control system data to enable comprehensive condition analyses and even fault forecasts. The need to make further improvements in the reliability of plant and equipment has already spawned a number of continuation projects led by companies and VTT.

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Jyrki Tervo
Photo:Erkki Makkonen

Additional information:
VTT Industrial Systems
Jyrki Tervo,
Senior Research Scientist
Tel. +358 50 375 2678

Rautaruukki Oy,
Risto Korhonen, Development Engineer
Tel. +358 40 549 0207


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Feel free to use all news. Photographs copyright Kalle Heiska.
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