Prod-IQ® for SMARTPLY, as comprehensive as never before

Update of production data management system
All system data at a glance

The ContiRoll® of the OSB board manufacturer SMARTPLY, located in Waterford, Ireland, has been running since 2016. As with every new Siempelkamp plant this 45.4 m long 9ft. press is pre-installed with Prod-IQ.basics for raw board production, the basic module of our control system Prod-IQ®. In 2021 SMARTPLY decided to expand the system to the entire plant - a first for our company in that Prod-IQ® covers more plant areas for SMARTPLY in the area of product data evaluation than for any other of our customers, and another example of outstanding cooperation which leads to success remotely.

The modernization concept
Designed for the future right from the start

An interface from the raw board production to the customer's own ERP system SysPro was already part of the system in 2016. Furthermore, SMARTPLY ordered three additional Prod-IQ® Visu licenses for management shortly after the start-up. To provide SMARTPLY teams with a networked view of plant performance and make processes more efficient, the management decided to update the system. In order to be optimally equipped for this expansion the SMARTPLY-IT provided a new, powerful virtual server in advance in cooperation with the SLS control technology team.

The scope of the follow-up project:

  • Extension of process data acquisition to the four other plant sections chipper/strander, cut-to-size line (CTS), tongue and groove line, and lamination
  • Integration of downtime management for each plant section
  • Production data evaluation in the form of shift reports and visualization modules
  • Update of all Prod-IQ® modules and interfaces to the latest version
  • 10 additional Visu licenses (5 for office PCs, 5 for the operator station on an RDS remote server)

Furthermore, the company now relies on an MS-SQL database. On the one hand this enables an easier connection of customer 3rd party tools to the Prod-IQ® database and, on the other hand, it is a prerequisite for the dashboard web app currently under development.

In addition, future extensions were directly included when planning the design of the update, such as the refinement of material flow tracking and connection of the laboratory system in preparation for the Prod-IQ.quality option. The next logical step for SMARTPLY is to conclude a software maintenance contract with SLS for continuous support of the system. In addition, there is a possibility to extend the ERP interface to the additional sections of the plant.

The procedure
Exemplary teamwork

The project was planned and implemented by both teams in close cooperation. The fact that each of the four additional plant sections was put into operation one after the other proved to be particularly successful - even with the first plant section, the tongue and groove plant, because it was the first challenge due to outdated control technology with ModBus protocol connection. Actually no problem for Prod-IQ®, after all, with the help of a suitable OPC server (Tani OPC in this case) the system supports all common controls and protocols, even older ones. After a short testing phase, however, it was discovered that weaknesses were hidden in the control itself, for example a limitation of board counting per order to a maximum of 10,000 pieces. In order not to invest too much time in a technology being phased out, SMARTPLY's electricians reacted quickly and moved the data to a newer Allen-Bradley control. This and the other necessary adjustments, such as the introduction of a selection screen for product codes, became “lessons learned” from which the subsequent measures benefited. The good and agile cooperation of the two project teams, who were able to quickly develop feasible solutions, also contributed to this.

The result
Everything to the satisfaction of the customer

With optimal project management and teamwork between SLS and SMARTPLY it was possible to realize the project as our customer had wished. This made up for the fact that our team was unable to travel to Ireland to get an on-site impression of the project. Another factor contributing to the success of the project was the fact that all services and training during commissioning were provided remotely via Siempelkamp Symmedia access and via MS Teams. The different plant sections and the many client stations to be installed could thus also be updated remotely and with short response times. With additional status meetings once or twice each week this project was completed successfully and on target, even below the budget.

Insight: remote training at SMARTYPLY

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7 questions, 7 answers

In conversation with the SMARTPLY project team

How did you come up with the decision to invest in the update and extension of Prod-IQ® and what have been your main goals in this project?
“At SMARTPLY we are on a journey of operations excellence and we are investing to become a smarter and more efficient OSB plant. As we had Prod-IQ® already installed as part of our Siempelkamp Continuous Press it made sense to look at rolling out Prod-IQ® to the rest of our production areas. In addition, Prod-IQ® contains the features we needed to better automate or reporting and analysis of key processes. Our goals in this project were to enable our teams to have a connected view of the plant operation and performance. Additionally, we wanted to ensure our operators would quickly engage in the new way of recording data and move our focus to making our processes more efficient and streamlined.”

What challenges did you face and what went particularly well from your perspective?
“Clearly the Covid-19 pandemic was one of the main challenges for us during this project. Normally the commissioning activity would happen on site over the course of 2 weeks. However, in this case we had to do almost everything remotely. This required a lot of preplanning and work to ensure a smooth execution. The SLS reassured us we could still complete the commissioning remotely. We established a weekly rhythm between the SLS project team and our engineers. Ultimately this proved to be an effective method to complete the project and ensure our people where protected and safe. Overall this project went very well. The teamwork between SMARTPLY and te SLS in particular made this to be a successful and enjoyable endeavor. The combination of process knowledge in SMARTPLY and the Prod-IQ® capability knowledge of the SLS resulted in a well-rounded solution for our needs.”

How satisfied are you with Prod-IQ® in general? What do the users say so far?
“Overall we are very satisfied with Prod-IQ®. The product enables us to automate and simplify our date gathering and production recording. This in turn frees up resources to focus on problem solving and continuous process improvement.Initially the end users were a bit reticent to change over to the new software. It was all new to them and a big change. However, once they were trained and started to use the Prod-IQ® software they saw how user friendly it was and how easy it was to use. Also, they soon realized they could spend less time updating production sheets and more time focusing the production process. So, the feedback so far has been really positive.”

What is the main benefit of Prod-IQ® in your point of view?
“Prod-IQ® has enabled key parts of SMARTPLY’s journey to operational excellence. The analytical and diagnostical capabilities of Prod-IQ® help us to spend less time asking what went wrong and more time asking how can we make this better. The integration into our preexisting databases and PLCs was almost seamless and this allowed a quick and efficient commission.”

How would you rate the collaboration with SLS on this project?
“The cooperation and collaboration with the SLS was outstanding. When we hit roadblocks the SLS team was able to work out a solution and present to us within a few days. We then tested quickly and updated our plan based on real time data from the production areas. The SMARTYPLY team felt really engaged and energized throughout the project.”

What advice would you give to someone considering investing in Prod-IQ®?
“For someone investing on Prod-IQ® we would say to do your homework. Try to understand the full capabilities of Prod-IQ® and what you want it to give you from each area of the plant. Also spend a good bit of effort in the project planning phase. At SMARTPLY we did this, and it really helped execute the project without any major headaches.”

How would you summarize this project in one sentence and where do you go from here?
“This project is an example of how expertise and collaboration of remote teams can deliver a successful project and learn many things along the way. SMARTPLY has a vision to become the best operating OSB plant globally and we will continue to partner with the SLS and Siempelkamp to achieve that goal.”