Integrating Environmental Processes

With rising prices of forest resources, producers have found ways to use lower cost raw materials while producing final products with higher levels of consistency and workability that professional builders want to keep projects profitable. One problem is that engineered wood products frequently use resins and adhesives that outgas potentially harmful solvents and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

By Rob McGreevy, Wonderware August 1, 2008

With rising prices of forest resources, producers have found ways to use lower cost raw materials while producing final products with higher levels of consistency and workability that professional builders want to keep projects profitable.

One problem is that engineered wood products frequently use resins and adhesives that outgas potentially harmful solvents and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Plywood depends on phenol-formaldehyde adhesives for exterior grades and urea-formaldehyde resins for interior grade hardwood plywood. Oriented strand board (OSB), medium density fiberboard (MDF), and other hardboards use phenolic, urea-formaldehyde, and melamine-urea-formaldehyde resins as critical binders. For laminated and finger jointed products, resorcinol-formaldehyde and phenol-resorcinol-formaldehyde adhesives are typical.

“Anybody in the wood products manufacturing business is using some kind of resin to bond the wood together,” says Chris Selph, account executive from Wonderware Southeast. “That’s where you get the byproducts such as methane and formaldehyde that have to be eliminated under the clean air act. (Clean Air Act of 1970.)”

In production, process fumes are collected and treated using regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTO), biofilters, scrubbers, or other systems. While such abatement processes have often been thought of as add-ons to larger manufacturing systems, recently environmental compliance stages have been integrated more completely into the control platforms.

Georgia-Pacific (GP) is a major player in the larger forest products industry, producing lumber, paper, chemicals, and countless variations on these basic resources. The GP plant at Monticello, GA is one of the leading producers of thin MDF. Each day, the plant produces more than 690,000 square feet of paneling in 42 different textures, patterns and finishes for home improvement outlets all over North America, including The Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Advancing control functionality

In an effort to maintain its position in a competitive market, GP recently introduced an MES (manufacturing execution system) software solution from Wonderware. The project has helped the company reduce unscheduled downtime and increase production capacity while maintaining high quality standards.

“Since we’ve introduced the Wonderware software at the Monticello facility, we have been able to significantly reduce downtime,” says Kurt Williams, production superintendent. “In addition, we have been able to work on our cost structure and increase production capacity. But the feature I like the most has been the increase in the quality of the product we are able to produce.”

Prior to installing the MES solution, GP Monticello relied on a DOS-based legacy system that required a Microsoft Windows 98 platform. The old platform was prone to crashes that would typically take individual systems down for four to five hours at a time.

Rather than simply updating the legacy system with a newer HMI (human-machine interface), managers at Monticello wanted to use the opportunity to take a step forward, centralizing control and adding functionality that would support flexibility and operational standards throughout the plant. The new system had to eliminate islands of automation by incorporating object oriented technology, which could simplify process changes. Moreover, it had to locate tags and integrate with the existing plant historian—an older version of Wonderware’s historian server software—as well as provide a foundation for future growth. To meet all these goals, GP chose the Wonderware system platform, which is built on its ArchestrA industrial automation and information software.

“The Wonderware system platform, with its distributed architecture, gives Georgia-Pacific Monticello the opportunity to control systems using thin-client technology, providing more flexibility and control than the old system, which was composed of individual PCs running a single HMI,” says Charles Fox, electrical superintendent.

The platform enables using standardized application objects so GP engineers can reuse object configuration across plants. More importantly, it helps manage system changes using a single InTouch template.

Historian assists decision making

As part of the platform, GP deployed Wonderware’s historian server software that provides plant decision-makers immediate access to detailed, real time plant information. The historian draws data intelligence into the P&PM (production and performance management) solutions, delivering current and historical data, enabling detailed analysis and trending that form the backbone of the overall solution.

GP is also using other software to assist with its MES efforts. InTouch HMI enables users to visualize information and use it to control processes. ActiveFactory reporting and analysis software enhances data collected and stored by the historian server, enabling individuals at all levels to access plant and process data.

Data is shared through GP’s wide area network, enabling authorized users to connect from their desks to view what is happening on the factory floor in real time. This access has enabled Chad Christman, who heads Monticello’s quality control program, to improve his efforts. Now he can examine historical data and perform trend analysis. This enables him to look for factors in manufacturing process that can be improved to increase efficiency and product quality.

The real-time feature of the MES system means that data is collected almost instantly, making it immediately accessible for analysis. In fact, Christman has been able to arrive at the office in the morning and solve a problem experienced by the night shift.

“Before I had the P&PM system, I had to go back and sift through multiple databases to do data analysis and identify problems and trends,” he says. “With the new system, it is quicker and easier to do this.”

Simply having this kind of immediate access to reliable information has driven efficiency across the breadth of the plant’s operations. Data collection for GP Monticello’s stringent safety and environmental reporting requirements, for example, can be controlled centrally using the P&PM system.

“Wonderware software is used in several different ways to help manufacturers adhere to environmental requirements,” says Selph. “The first is real-time control of the equipment itself and interfacing with the larger control system. We provide real-time visibility and control of that part of the process. Beyond that, we provide historization of the data, including any parameters that are crucial to effective operation. This supports the third item, reporting, for the EPA or state environmental agencies. We can also collect information on events, or excursions, which detect when some parameter is out of tolerance, such as maintaining temperature in the RTO while not wasting energy. They need to know when that occurred, how long it occurred, and any sort of reason code as to why it occurred.”

Williams adds, “Safety compliance and environmental compliance are two critical management challenges that we have to meet every day, and the Wonderware system has given us [that] data.”

The rollout required almost six months and turned into a remarkable example of collaborative engineering, with teams from GP Monticello and Wonderware. This significantly cut down the time required for the project.

Click for performance data

“When I come to work everyday, it is the very first thing I look at to assess how well we performed,” says Williams. “Changing weather conditions can affect the process, and because you can go back and trend, you can better understand what has happened to the process. You can then share that information with the people on the plant floor who are actually running production, and they can use it as well.”

Currently, the new system has only been rolled out on the MDF side of the plant. The next steps extend integration to the finishing lines, where textures and colors are added to the panels. This will give managers control of every aspect of the MDF production process. GP also expects to use InTouch and historian server software to build a series of machine models that will monitor machine variables and performance. This will improve control and continue to drive quality and efficiency benefits.

“I’m really excited about the technology and what it’s already doing for us,” says Fox. “This is the type of application people in engineering and process control have been waiting for, for a long time. We’ve always had to stumble through Visual Basic programs or things we’ve had to build on our own to get this kind of access to mission-critical data. Now we have a full-blown application in the industrial application server.”

If someone is looking to give a home a makeover or just spruce up the basement a little, one option for wood-paneling products is Georgia-Pacific’s MDF—with a little help from Wonderware.

Author Information

Rob McGreevy is director, product portfolio and industry solutions for Wonderware. Reach him at .