technology


A digital revolution

​Technological trends arising from digitalisation, such as IoT, artificial intelligence and data analytics, are having a major impact on society, the world of work and the business operations of Metsä Fibre.

6/18 TEXT: TIMO NYKÄNEN, IMAGES: SAMPO KORHONEN AND METSÄ GROUP

​Despite decades of progress already made, digitalisation continues to sustain the hottest new technology trends according to Research Professor Heikki Ailisto of the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT). These changes do not happen overnight, and such aspects as industrial process automation have advanced gradually in the background. In many sectors these processes have largely shifted towards a comprehensive digital data and control stream. Some of the current hype concerning such fields as artificial intelligence is nevertheless unwarranted, tending to overstate the impact of certain aspects and overshadowing other progress.

“Artificial intelligence is not a single issue topic involving quantum leaps, but has various levels. The AI currently in use is a narrow AI that works well with simple, limited functions, for example in optimising process elements, but has no understanding of the overall context,” Ailisto explains.

The next stage of development, strong AI, will call for broad understanding and human-like awareness, as the super AI of more ambitious predictions surpasses human abilities, builds its own intelligence and takes control. Ailisto nevertheless sees neither threats nor opportunities of this kind emerging in the near future with respect to creating strong AI.

“Three reasons for the emergence of the AI trend seem evident from the point of view of business needs and benefits. The quantity of exploitable digital data is increasing exponentially, there is greater access to affordable computing power, and algorithms have been successfully assembled into serviceable tools,” Ailisto notes.

A forest industry on the cutting edge of progress

Ailisto refers to the industrial Internet using the broader notion of an Internet of Things (IoT), which he feels is the most significant development already currently influencing business operations. The industrial Internet brings together intelligent machines, appliances and the people who use them, enabling an improved decision-making process through advanced information analysis, and thereby streamlining operations and generating new business.

“Metsä Fibre also seems to be quite advanced already in this respect. Smart devices and processes beginning with forestry machinery and wood procurement, combined with production analytics and staff access to information, are all core IoT factors.”

Ailisto feels that on the whole the forest industry is very much in the vanguard of digitalisation, even by the standards of other industrial sectors. It is even a pioneer, if we consider the development of remote links between production plants and machinery even before the spread of Internet communications. Forest inventories and channels of sale and distribution have likewise already been part of the digital information flow for many years. They have now been joined by electronic services and wood trading for forest owners.

Heikki Ailisto

Information to back up METSÄ FIBRE'S decisions

Ailisto feels that wearable technology and virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) have become important rising technological trends that may ultimately displace conventional mobile communications. Trials of virtual applications in portable devices have already taken place in industry, e.g. for servicing and training purposes. VR and AR are also increasing, with game applications already making these approaches familiar to younger people and fostering the expectation of a similar user experience at work.

Other emerging trends noted by Ailisto include blockchains and the platform economy. The blockchains chiefly applied in the trading and financial sectors relate in practice to decentralised storage of information on multiple sites, making it more difficult to compromise and making the system more transparent and robust. With the growth of online trading sites, the platform economy has in turn become a business format that reinforces the status of the consumer and of the platform enterprise itself. The best-known examples of platform economy operators that are rewriting the ground rules of trading include Amazon, Airbnb and Uber.

Ailisto says that the particular opportunities of digitalisation for Metsä Fibre lie in more accurate measurement and use of information, and in computational optimisation with respect to quality control in the forest industry, logistics and production.

“It would be possible, for example, to secure precise origin and growth information on each individual wood unit, including weather conditions, by combining imaging, geographic data and data analytics. A wealth of information and AI methods could enhance processes by supporting a more rapid decision-making process and more efficient use of resources.”

Impacts TO FOREST INDUSTRY hard to forecast

Discussing potential threat scenarios related to digitalisation, Ailisto observes that AI and the platform economy may have drawbacks for the world of work and the traditional economy, where a backfire effect may even emerge.

“The platform economy and software-based business operation may lead to an even greater concentration of incomes and assets. AI may also pose a threat to many occupations, with lower incomes leading to slump in demand. On the other hand, we may also surmise that automating routine work will improve productivity, stimulating growth and the emergence of new occupations.”

The main threats to industry nevertheless arise in the field of cybersecurity.

“Potential uses of ransomware and malware by hostile elements can even paralyse or destroy business operations, so it is vital to detect and ward off cyber risks.”

Digital operations streamline production


The effects of digitalisation have long been visible at Metsä Fibre mills, for example in extensive automation of production and in the operation of mill equipment from a central control room. Equipment at the Äänekoski bioproduct mill is even more comprehensively integrated into data networks, for example through condition monitoring links.

“We can monitor such aspects as vibration levels and the state of frequency transformers during operation, thereby forecasting potential malfunctions. This helps us to ensure that maintenance work is done promptly and precisely,” explains SVP, Production at Pulp Business Camilla Wikström.

New features include tablet computers and a mobile application deployed at the bioproduct mill to provide swift access to maintenance and condition monitoring systems not only from the control room, but also from other locations. This application enables malfunction reports and acknowledgements of completed maintenance work. It can also be used for monitoring the production process remotely.

“Tablet computers have been deployed for maintenance at all of our mills over the last winter and spring, and they have already enabled us to predict certain malfunctions and thereby avoid production losses,” Wikström explains.

She feels that deploying new technology and tools is also largely a matter of learning new working methods and proactive operation.

“We must ensure that our people have the expertise and practical ability to interpret and analyse all of the information collected. Forecasting improves the reliability and consistency of processes, providing a more uniform quality of product and security of supply to our customers.”

Related articles

  • 4/2020/ Metsä Fibre

    Comparing pulp grades can be accomplished with Metsä Fibre’s FIT tool

    ​The FIT tool used by Metsä Fibre's technical customer service can be used to quickly and cost-effectively evaluate and modify paper and board furnishes. Optimisation of the stock furnish results in the best possible final product quality, more efficient production and lower production costs. 

    Read More
  • 4/2020/ Metsä Fibre

    A chair for better school days

    ​While Isku interior's new Prima chair may look like an ordinary plastic chair, it is not. The chair is made from a biocomposite, in which the plastic has been reinforced with wood fibre.

    Read More
  • 3/2020/ Sawn timber

    Metsä Fibre’s sawn timber has a new brand image

    ​The Nordic Timber logo previously printed on the protective plastic packaging is no longer in use and instead the white cover now features the word Metsä in a black font, as well as the elk logo in green, and a forest pattern depicting Finnish nature. We also used this opportunity to harmonise the look of the shipping marks stamped on the ends of the sawn timber.

    Read More
  • Sawn timber

    3/2020/ Sawn timber

    Sawn timber is now sold by Metsä Fibre

    ​Sawn timber sales and customer service have been transferred from Metsä Wood to Metsä Fibre’s organisation. The goal is to create a closer link between production and sales, and improve day-to-day customer service. 

    Read More
  • 3/2020/ Pulp

    Metsä Fibre takes bioproducts to the multi-million tonne markets

    ​Metsä Fibre is complementing its current product range with new bioproducts converted from pulp. The best production model for this is an industrial ecosystem in which the new products are developed and produced by partners. So far, product development is furthest along in the advance of textile fibres and biocomposites.

    Read More
  • 3/2020/ Metsä Fibre

    Metsä Fibre’s services to customers

    ​In addition to traditional pulp sales, Metsä Fibre provides numerous services that enable customers to develop their business operations and cut costs. 

    Read More
  • Vanha-Pälsilä

    2/2020/ Metsä Fibre

    Generations of sustainable forest management

    ​The next generation is taking over the forests of Vanha-Pälsilä farm with the help of Metsä Group’s Forest Management Specialists.

    Read More
  • forest, aerial, lorry

    2/2020/ Metsä Fibre

    FibreOnline gathers the data needed by customers in one location

    ​FibreOnline is an information service for Metsä Fibre’s pulp customers. The service provides customers with information about deliveries, product quality, certifications and statements, as well as for other sustainability matters.

    Read More
  • Pulp sheets

    1/2020/ Pulp

    Pulp lends itself to many things

    ​While we've known how to make pulp for over a hundred years now, its versatility keeps on surprising us. 

    Read More
  • Metsä Aspen fibre

    12/2019/ Pulp

    Accurate pulp refining analysis with Metsä Fibre's renewed FORE tool

    ​Proper pulp refining gives paper or paperboard desired properties and often saves costs as well. Metsä Fibre's Pulp Refining Audit service can be used to determine how you can refine pulp for the best result.

    Read More
  • Sun paper building

    12/2019/ Pulp

    China's cardboard market is changing

    ​Consumers’ demand for the quantity and quality of cardboard will rise as the economy develops. For the Metsä Fibre’s client, Sun Paper Group, this is good news.

    Read More
  • 11/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Sustainable forest management is important to us

    ​Sustainability and responsibility play a key role in Metsä Group’s forest management. Specialists help forest owners manage their forests in a way that safeguards biodiversity and allows the forest to grow well. 

    Read More
  • Sellu, pulp

    11/2019/ Pulp

    The future of the pulp market: these 4 changes are to be expected

    ​The consulting and engineering firm ÅF Pöyry estimates that demand for market pulp will grow by approximately 2.5 per cent a year over the next five years. 

    Read More
  • Forest and sky

    9/2019/ Pulp

    Plastic became a problem – is wood the solution?

    ​Plastic was once considered an irreplaceable material. Now plastic has become a problem to which we are frantically trying to find a solution. There is therefore plenty of demand for a biodegradable, bio-based and sustainably produced material.

    Read More
  • pulp fibre

    9/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    The pre-engineering of the Kemi bioproduct mill is progressing

    ​Metsä Fibre kicked off the pre-engineering project for the Kemi bioproduct mill in the spring of 2019. The project is now proceeding in terms of the environmental permit process, among other things.

    Read More
  • 9/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Finnish forest management made an impression

    ​Metsä Fibre provides its customers with a service that lets them get to know a Finnish commercial forest up close. A Metsä Day visit is not only entertaining, but also educational, as it affords a glimpse into responsible forest management. 

    Read More
  • A sustainable circular economy needs efficient utilisation of side streams

    5/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    A sustainable circular economy needs efficient utilisation of side streams

    ​A comprehensive circular economy is incomplete without the bioeconomy. The bioeconomy can contribute in several ways to the circular economy, and this includes the utilisation of organic side and waste streams from forestry and the converting of these production side streams into value-adding products. Metsä Fibre has world-leading capabilities in this field.

    Read More
  • Our products sequester carbon throughout their life-cycles

    4/2019/ Sawn timber

    Our products sequester carbon throughout their life-cycles

    ​The high-quality and sustainable sawn timber we produce is used to a particularly high degree in end uses where the carbon remains sequestered in the wood for a period spanning decades or even a century.  Such end uses include various wood construction solutions and furniture.

    Read More
  • Finnish sawn timber is a sustainable choice

    4/2019/ Sawn timber

    Finnish sawn timber is a sustainable choice

    ​Thanks to sound forest management, Finland’s forests are growing by roughly 20 per cent more than they are being used. This is why Finnish sawn timber is a sustainable and resource-smart solution.

    Read More
  • We utilize the properties of northern wood

    4/2019/ Sawn timber

    We utilize the properties of northern wood

    ​Metsä Fibre possess solid and long-standing know-how in the conversion of northern softwood. We know our raw material and the opportunities it offers inside out. 

    Read More
  • Premium sawn timber from northern wood

    4/2019/ Sawn timber

    Premium sawn timber from northern wood

    ​Northern sawn softwood offers extremely advantageous strength qualities in relation to weight, due to which it is well-suited for use in load-bearing structures.  In terms of its appearance, northern wood is consistent, and it is easy to process and treat in the preferred manner. 

    Read More
  • Metsä Fibre’s bioproduct concept

    3/2019/ Pulp

    Metsä Fibre’s innovative bioproduct concept

    ​The cornerstone of Metsä Fibre’s operations is continuous improvement, and it is according to the principles of continuous improvement that we develop our products and operations. Renewable wood raw material and innovative solutions offer solutions for future global challenges, such as climate change, population growth and resource efficiency.

    Read More
  • Metsä Fibre acquires biogas plant in Äänekoski

    3/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Metsä Fibre acquires biogas plant in Äänekoski

    ​The biogas plant located in the mill area of the Äänekoski bioproduct mill was transferred from EcoEnergy SF to Metsä Fibre’s ownership on 10 December 2018. It produces biogas and biopellets from wood-based sludge generated by the bioproduct mill.

    Read More
  • Metsä Fibre awarded with supplier excellence award in China

    3/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    C&S presents Metsä Fibre with supplier excellence award in China

    ​Metsä Fibre has received a Supplier Excellence Award from C&S, one of China’s major tissue producers, for being the company’s Partner in Excellence.

    Read More