Control Engineering Online Update for August 12, 2005


Control Engineering Online Update - Technology

August 12, 2005


Sponsored by Contec Microelectronics

Cascades Inc. centralizes information at its various mills to share information throughout the company for improved energy management and plant operations optimization.


Company-wide Data Visibility Improves Decision-making

Cascades Inc. is a 40-year-old North American company that specializes in the production, conversion, and marketing of packaging products, fine papers, and tissue paper. Internationally, the company employs more than 15,000 people, with 150 operating units located in Canada, the United States, and Europe. The company is known for its leading-edge de-inking technology, ongoing research and development, and a recycling program that processes more than two million tons of paper and board annually, supplying the majority of the company’s fiber requirements.

Headquartered in Kingsey Falls, Quebec, Cascades has acquired several mills in the U.S. over the last few years as part of a strategy to increase its tissue production capacity.

Cascades’ engineering and projects division supports all mills and operating units, and serves to centralize the technical sources into one group. In this organizational setup, personnel can solve problems for different mills and share information between mills. The group acts as a profit-based center for Cascades, and has approximately 80 employees in engineering and services.

Moving to real time
Cascades installed OSIsoft’s PI System (PI) at several individual mills in 2000 and 2001. In late 2003, the company’s energy department requested a better method to track and analyze energy usage across the company. Previously the information was collected manually from a database running on an IT server. In response, the company initiated an enterprise-wide implementation of the RtPM Platform—not only for energy management, but also for plant operations optimization.

“The IT database was not helpful when it came to trying to analyze the data,” explains Francois Ruel, automation projects engineer at the engineering division. “We were tracking all the bills that the mills receive, such as electrical bills, gas, steam, pulp, oil — all kinds of energy and raw material types. We received the bills by fax and email, and sometimes we would be able to grab the information from the supplier’s Web site. The information was manually entered into the IT database. When it was time to generate a report, it wasn’t comprehensive and was difficult to modify.”

The engineering division made the decision to move to the RtPM Platform in order to centralize the information from and between the various mills and operating units at Cascades. Using RtPM, an energy application was built by the staff that helps to track the bills and monthly energy usage of the mills.

All mill personnel now receive real-time reports, including crew directors, mill managers, production managers, energy managers, and accounting. The increased frequency of the reports, now produced every month instead of every six months, has made it easier to keep track of performance and progress.

With RtPM, Cascade's energy department can analyze the mills' energy usage and make recommendations in real time.

Besides the energy application, people from the different mills are making continuous improvements by building applications (using RtPM) such as:

  • Downtime tracking applications for use in determining the best correction to the process.

  • Quality improvement applications that help compare machine configurations to determine the ideal setup for the best product runs.

  • Water usage applications to determine where usage can be reduced. Cascades is now receiving fewer environmental penalties since reducing water usage.

Enterprise-wide deployment
Cascades made the strategic decision to deploy RtPM at the corporate level as an enterprise-wide standard for access to ample tags, more client licenses, and all-inclusive interfaces, which results in a lower cost of ownership for the company.

“We do not have a standard [automation/controls platform]. We have Foxboro DCS, Honeywell DCS, Rosemount instrumentation, and some Measurex—a lot of different DCS and PLCs,” says Ruel. “When you acquire a new mill, you don’t take all that out and replace it up front. You start with what you have and optimize it. By having all the interfaces available from OSIsoft, our different systems were incorporated into one common data center.”

Energy savings goal
Cascades’ goal is 2% energy savings per year for the next three years. The company pays several hundred million dollars annually for energy between Canada, the United States, and Europe. Thus, if 2% per year is saved for the next few years, it represents a significant amount. As a fixed cost that continues to rise, energy is one area in the company with a very high focus.

Energy usage is being effectively reduced now that employees at each site can visualize, report, and analyze data in real time. Staff now clearly sees if progress is being made or if performance has fallen short. At the corporate level, use of RtPM enables management to see and compare the performance of one mill versus another, and to establish a standard. Being able to catch inefficiencies, set higher standards, and make more informed decisions has greatly improved energy management across the board.

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