Outotec uses the PI System to better serve customers
- ChallengeRemote sites and lack of centralized data meant long and arduous response to and recovery from production issues
- SolutionPI System created a single source of truth and connected in-house experts to even the most remote customer sites
- BenefitsResponse and recovery times improved, on-site intervention is now rarely required, and new case deployment became easier
Outotec is one of the global leaders in minerals and metals processing technologies, innovating breakthroughs in ore processing and metals refining. With R&D, sales, and service centers in over 36 countries, the company faced a complex challenge when it came to providing the best service for its products. “How do we ensure that our best experts are available for our customers in all the places?” asked Mikko Paakkolanvaara, manufacturing information systems specialist for Outotec. At the 2018 PI World Conference in San Francisco the company found a solution with the PI System.
Inaccessible remote sites require remote connection
With customer sites in over 80 countries, a service request is no simple matter. Although local experts can often troubleshoot production issues on-site, some problems require Outotec’s in-house experts. But customer sites can be extremely remote, often located deep in jungles or in the middle of a desert. Sending an expert to the site can take weeks or months. And when special parts are needed, it can take even longer still.
Aiming to build long-term continuous improvement for its customers and fast, expert resolution of service requests and production issues, Outotec knew it was time to invest in a remotely accessible, real-time data infrastructure. In 2014, Outotec interviewed its customers to gauge their available systems and discovered that 40% or more already had the PI System as their site—or corporate—level data historian. This made PI System the perfect solution to build a globally centralized platform, and creates the kind of remote services Outotec’s customers needed.
The power of Asset Framework
One of the most powerful elements of the PI System is its contextualization layer, Asset Framework (AF). “Asset Framework plays quite a big role for us,” said Paakkolanvaara. “One of the challenges is that we have different customers, and every customer has their own AF structure, their own templates, their own way of naming tags, and so on. Even within a customer, different sites have different ways of doing this.” The customer often doesn’t have the time or resources to restructure its AF to match Outotec’s needs, so Outotec encouraged each customer to publish its framework through PI Cloud Connect. Creating its own database and template for AF with universal naming conventions and KPI calculations, Outotec was able to deploy this system to its customers quickly and efficiently. It also offered its customers not already working with the PI System the option to deliver a prestructured PI Server to their sites to simplify the site-connection process. Now fully connected, Outotec launched remote services, offering both remote troubleshooting and remote assessment.
Comprehensive service worldwide
Previously, requests for service from remotely located customers required time-wasting on-site intervention. Now, with customer data collected on-site in Outotec’s PI System, in-house experts have access to all on-site processes and Outotec’s advanced analytical tools and can usually solve the problem in hours without having to visit the customer site. Customers also have access to a browser-based remote service portal containing PI ProcessBook and PI Vision dashboards with specialized information for each employee’s needs. With shared visibility between Outotec and its customers and a full understanding of customer processes and assets, dedicated experts can assess and report on-site operations and guide site personnel remotely, providing regular performance analysis and improvement suggestions.
The dashboards also have some built-in functions, such as manual data-entry forms, for backfilling data as it arrives from laboratory testing, reporting tools, and simple logbook functionality to log downtime categories and other events. “We create an event in Asset Framework whenever the equipment stops, the operator gives a downtime reason for that, and the KPIs are calculated on the downtime categories that were put into the system,” explained Paakkolanvaara. These functions make it easy for customers to use these systems immediately and add value to an already valuable remote-service product.
By investing in the PI System and using it to connect with remote customers, Outotec has improved its service response and recovery times, as well as its operational capability. With reduced need to travel on-site, there are shorter operational downtimes during process issues for the customer, and AF templates make the customer-setup process faster than ever. Outotec’s future strategy is to have the PI System as an ERP for process data. The company plans to integrate new data into its system to create more advanced predictive maintenance and asset performance management capabilities, as well as integrating with Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning studio.
For more information about Outotec and the PI System, watch the full presentation here.