Cosun leverages real-time information for value creation

At the Emerson Exchange EMEA 2024 in Düsseldorf, Robin Kobesen, innovation manager smart operations at Cosun, provided an overview of the company’s Smart Operations program, including many of its organizational, technical and project-related challenges and best practices. His presentation, entitled `Ignite collaboration through real-time predictions’, won the award for most innovative Boundless Automation application.

Daan Brinkman, from Cosun, receives an award on behalf of his colleague Robin Kobesen for the presentation demonstrating the most innovative Boundless Automation application at the Emerson Exchange EMEA 2024.

Cosun produces sugar and refined sugar products, processing 68,000 tons of beet a day at 25 factories in eight countries. The company’s Smart Operations program, which began in 2022, aims to create more productive and sustainable operations by providing plant operators and engineers with real-time digital insights that support data-driven decision-making.

The program will transition Cosun’s factories from what Kobesen described as “traditional operations”, to real-time optimized operations. This will be achieved through a series of steps, with competences, value, cost savings and knowledge increased with every step.

The first step is to achieve more stable operations, which would require the implementation of dedicated dashboards, data analytics, alarm management and control loops in auto mode. There would also need to be improvements to field equipment, PID tuning and regulatory control. The next step, to `constrained operations’, would be achieved through advanced process control (model predictive control), predictive maintenance strategies and greater use of soft sensors. The final step to `optimized operation’ would require dynamic modeling and use of digital twin technology to enable real-time process optimization.

Kobesen described the plant digital maturity model, including the objectives and the digital transformation building blocks required to achieve those objectives. Cosun was looking to move to the third level, with the objective of making data-based decisions. The Smart Operations program requires the digital transformation of Cosun’s factories. At the factory level, there would be a need for greater use of dashboards and predictive maintenance to get the basics right. From an infrastructure point of view, that means increasing the availability of secure and real-time data. Generating business value would then require advanced process control, energy monitoring, and KPI dashboarding to increase efficiency, provide business insights and retain knowledge.

Data lake concept

Connectivity is a key driver to create impactful change, with the need to provide access to process performance, equipment and energy consumption data from each factory and use this to establish baselines, understand best practices and make improvements. A key challenge was the ability to turn raw plant floor data into actionable information for decision-makers. Kobesen said that “contextualized real-time data is essential”. Achieving this begins with a solid data architecture. The IT/OT architecture needs to be able to integrate a variety of different data sources across the entire supply chain and product lifecycle. Structured, semi-structured and unstructured data will be provided to the data lake, which then feeds reporting, data science and machine learning tools.

Emerson’s AMS Optics asset performance software and Inmation data management software from AspenTech have been implemented at 25 facilities. These platforms aggregate operational data from across the facility and create a data lake – a centralized storage repository – that serves as the foundation for business intelligence and analytics. Kobesen provided several reasons for their section. Firstly, he said that all technology would be “under one roof”, including off-the-shelf asset templates with embedded pattern recognition algorithms, FMEA models, and integrated first principles rules based on over 40 years of experience in the field – combined with contextualized data and deep connectivity. He also explained that the off-the-shelf asset templates eliminate the need for data scientist resources and reduce the implementation and adoption cycle significantly. By implementing readily available expertise knowledge, short-term wins are possible.

Cosun is taking a stepped approach to digitally transform its factories to optimized operation.

Kobesen explained that the data architecture is managed centrally and the lessons learned from implementation at one site have been brought to the next. He then gave some examples of how the technology is being used.

At one of its smaller facilities, in Zwolle, The Netherlands, the existing data management system was based on an Excel plug-in historian that offered no self-service data connection and had reached the end of its service life. This has been replaced with Inmation software, made available from the enterprise, which provides real-time information management across operations, process control and IT systems. Six dashboards have replaced 50 Excel views and provide flexible analysis functionality for control room operators. Secure, standardized data is also made available to anyone within the organization who needs it. This facilitates remote assistance from subject matter experts. Projects are now under way to implement advanced process control to two dryer units as well as remote analytics. Dryers are complex processes for operators to control. A model-based solution will enable optimization, and this will be supplemented by dashboards that provide more process insights.

At the sugar beet factory in Dinteloord, The Netherlands, the goal has been to improve maintenance performance through faster or even predictive actions. Detecting faults before they create issues has been enabled by collecting and analyzing equipment data using AMS 2140 Machinery Health Analyzers from Emerson. For online measurements on other rotating equipment, using technology from other vendors, the raw data is sent to the enterprise data lake provided by Inmation, where it is aggregated and contextualized. For visualization purposes, this data-turned-information is then presented to the plant staff for anomaly detection, diagnostics and predictive maintenance actions.

The sharpness of knives is measured using wireless vibration transmitters, with replacements made when needed, instead of at fixed intervals.

Within the cutting mill at Cosun’s facilty in Vierverlaten, The Netherlands, production optimization has been aided by AMS 9420 Wireless Vibration Transmitters from Emerson. Data from these devices are used to determine when cutting knives need to be changed, ensuring optimal and consistent sugar beet slicing. Given the size and scale of the Vierverlaten plant, in addition to the enterprise data lake, a localized plant asset management system based on Emerson technology is also being used for prioritization of mitigation actions. AMS Device Manager from Emerson allows remote configuration, administration and diagnostics of over 3000 smart and wired and WirelessHARTRegistered devices. The condition of over 500 pieces of rotating equipment is established from a combination of route-based inspections/measurements and wireless vibration sensors that provide over 10,000 spectra and time waveforms. AMS Machine Works from Emerson provides a single location where the rotating equipment data comes together to enable easy and accurate assessment of the machinery health in the facility. In doing so, two large and independent maintenance groups – electrical and mechanical – have their own expert tools to drive efficient decision-making.

Key learnings

In conclusion, Kobesen offered some valuable insight and lessons learned. He began by saying buy-in from the board is essential, as is a long-term vision and strategy. Collaboration and forging a strong partnership between operations and corporate IT is also very important. The IT department must build OT knowledge, and OT must adjust to meet corporate requirements. Critically, both domain areas need a common approach to cybersecurity. At Cosun, the implementation of AMS Optics and Inmation was a catalyst for that collaboration. Finally, to speed up the digital transformation process, there needs to be a strong focus on operations. Utilizing real-time insights to reduce energy consumption, and increase throughput, sustainability and quality, will quickly drive enthusiasm. Delivering business value is key.



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