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From research excellence to impact – building solid value of digitalisation in forest industry within SEED ecosystem

Katri Valkokari, Helena Kortelainen, Jutta Nyblom, Anu Purhonen, Daniel Pakkala, Nikolaos Papakostantinou, Pasi Valkokari & Pertti Saariluoma

SEED is ecosystemic joint action that bring together the pulp, paper, board and tissue manufacturers, engineering companies, technology suppliers and IT sector.

SEED strives for enhancing understanding the value of sharing through research, benchmarks and conceptual work. At first project phase, the four core domains of the research were: Operational excellence, Optimal use of digital twins, Future work Environment and Ecosystem orchestration in platform economy (Figure 1). These research domains were derived from the use cases given by the forest industry partners and having significant business value. Furthermore, use cases framed the research and joint actions. They offered a breeding ground for the innovations and collaboration between partners. Now, it is time to reflect the research results from the first two-year research project.

Figure 1. Systemic challenge areas of SEED.

Maintaining or even elevating Finnish Forest industry´s competitiveness and enabling new future investments in Finland and abroad, call for productivity and performance improvement through operational excellence has been the starting point of the research work. There, next generation asset management combining existing data and tacit knowledge, refining the data towards business knowledge, and by supporting decision making across ecosystem has been key topics within the Operational excellence domain. The research results have been summarized at the three posters as follows:

The lack of industrial data format standards has hampered the use of data and made e.g. the automatic generation of Digital Twin (DT) artefacts a challenging task. The assumption of SEED research at optimal use of digital twins domain was that AI-enabled methods together with rules-based techniques could offer a solution to combine the available plant data and generate digital twin artefacts automatically. The research work aimed to integrate digital twins for real life operational and strategic decision making. The research work was done in close collaboration with use case owners and research results are presented at the four posters:

Within the next 10 years, 30% of the current personnel will retire and therefore a remarkable loss of tacit knowledge quite soon was identified as a third challenge. Thus, tacit knowledge has a critical position in developing future competitiveness and there is a need to enable efficient (tacit) knowledge utilisation in the future work environment. This could support operators and maintenance people in their work by developing work practices and tools for integrating human expertise and problem solving capability with novel AI algorithms. The research results within Future work environment domain have been summarized at three posters as follows:

Finally, SEED research as a joint effort aimed to setting up an agile innovation ecosystem and attractive R&D market place for digital forest industry – with an experiment platform of real mill cases and practical challenges. The fourth domain, aimed to utilize the potential of ecosystem orchestration in platform economy over the whole system life cycle, manage the risks and enhance organizational change towards digitalization. The research results are presented at the following four posters: 

The experiences of the joint research work highlighted that building mutual language between industry and IT companies requires efforts from ecosystem coordination. Thus, mill sites as a real innovation platform, was a very efficient way to showcase IT companies’ competence to solve the challenges. Many of the challenges of digitalizing existing and new business processes are systemic – for example fundamental problems of sharing data and its ownership. Solving these problems calls a new kind of collaboration, innovation and renewal capability in the business ecosystem. Therefore, the work of SEED ecosystem will continue under SEEDs which aims to enlarge ecosystemic activities to several industry sectors. The first of these are the SEEDForest and SEEDMining ecosystems.

Further information of listed research results is available via this link.