5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Know if Your Pulp and Paper Plant is AI-Ready

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July 31, 2020

Producing pulp and paper requires a large amount of both water and energy. As such, plants around the world are looking for technology that will help them optimize their operations to reduce costs - without sacrificing the quality of the product or their ability to remain compliant according to wastewater treatment standards. 

AI is one such technology that is helping pulp and paper plants achieve streamlined operations - but how do you know if your plant is AI-ready? Answering these 5 questions will put you on the right track.

1. What are your key operating expenses that can be optimized?

The pulp and paper industry is one of the heaviest users of water within the U.S. economy. The efficiency of water-intensive processes and effluent treatment can present big strains on pulp and paper mill operating expenses (OPEX) – especially when it comes to energy, water, and chemicals. To see where you can start saving quickly, you’ll want to know:

  • Your estimated monthly or annual energy cost (by $ or kWh / month)
  • Your estimated monthly or annual chemical cost (by $ or load kg/month)
  • If you have a variable energy tariff structure

Investing in AI to improve the operational use of these resources can save you thousands of dollars in OPEX - usually with a payback period of only 6 months.

2. What is your plant’s process design?

Knowing the unique characteristics of your plant will expedite the machine learning process so that you can quickly start realizing the cost-benefits of AI.

You’ll want to know:

  • If you have dedicated power metering in place
  • If you have inlet/outlet or flow monitoring
  • If you can remotely control your system via SCADA

The more unique information you know about your site, the easier it will be to deploy an AI application that will learn from your system to begin optimizing processes.

3. What is your data infrastructure?

Data is the fuel that helps an AI engine to run. An AI-ready plant will have a SCADA system in place, and a SCADA historian that will store data on plant operations.

Ideally, you’ll have 2 years of historical SCADA data. But if you don’t, AI can gather and iterate on current data. Security is crucial to effective data management, so make sure the AI solution you are evaluating follows standard security procedures.

4. What are your compliance requirements?

Being out of compliance for wastewater effluent standards can carry high costs for pulp and paper plants. With the complexity of variables that exist in plant operation, knowing your specific requirements for effluent quality is key to setting “constraints” on the AI. This keeps recommendations aligned to save costs, without putting compliance at risk.

5. Is your organizational culture open to innovation?

Finally, bringing AI into an organization is a big step in an organization’s digital transformation. Using AI to control costs while meeting sustainability targets is a growing trend for beverage producers. Ensuring AI adoption aligns with your organizational goals will only expedite your ability to be AI-ready.

By finding answers to these 5 questions, you'll know whether or not your operation is ready to bring AI into the fold. If you are feeling confident in your answers, reach out to us today and we can help you get started. 


Tags: ai, pulp and paper, pulp and paper operations