Volume 3 Issue 6 June 2021
In this Issue
Welcome to Industree 4.0 for June 2021, exclusively sponsored by SAP. Sustainable might be the word for the month. Sustainable supply chains and sustainable streams of skilled and motivated personnel.
By Christopher Gander

North American Industry Lead for the Mill Products and Mining Industries, SAP
Fixing the Lumbering Lumber Supply Chain

A bit of sleuthing around a modest deck project reveals the root causes of the persistent lumber shortage — and what it could take to relieve it

My contractor Monte had good reason to be stressed, having spent much of the current lumber crisis wondering if he could scrape together the right materials to keep his projects moving and his construction business viable without frustrating too many customers along the way. And that meant Monte had little reason to discuss the nuances of the lumber supply chain with me, the oddly inquisitive client who had hired him to build a deck.
The same could be said of Monte’s supplier, Mike, a lumber wholesaler who was contending with similar issues: a confounding lack of timely insight into his supply chain, difficulty providing his customers with clarity around product availability, and as a result, an uncomfortable degree of business uncertainty.
Yet both Monte and Mike were kind enough to answer my questions and feed my supply chain fascination by providing a candid inside perspective on the lumber shortage’s impact on their business, its likely causes and potential pathways for avoiding similar squeezes in the future. It was in the latter area that I could share a bit of insight with them, based on my knowledge of the building materials industry, the workings of its supply chain, and the digital tools that can help resolve issues like these.
To be clear, there is no silver bullet — no single, unilateral solution to the lumber shortage. There are, however, steps that the various segments of the supply chain can take multilaterally, and to some extent collaboratively, to relieve the current bottleneck, reduce the risk of recurring shortages, give people like Mike and Monte more business certainty, and with it, hopefully (and admittedly somewhat selfishly), the materials to finish my stalled deck project.
1.      Network the entire lumber supply chain.  “I am extremely pleased with our first quarter results, as our businesses delivered Weyerhaeuser’s highest quarterly Adjusted EBITDA on record despite severe winter weather and supply chain disruptions,” Devin W. Stockfish, Weyerhaeuser’s president and chief executive officer, said this spring in announcing the company’s first-quarter 2021 earnings.
When the very market conditions that prompt upstream lumber suppliers to rejoice cause major disruptions downstream, that’s a clear sign that the supply chain needs retooling. Rather than begrudging lumber mills their record profits, how about instead learning from the current shortage and taking steps to head off the next one by digitally networking the supply chain, so everyone is synched to the same, shared data in real time? Doing so would essentially embed the various parties into one another’s supply chains, giving them much-needed visibility into supply, demand and logistics information, which they can use to strengthen their planning, decision-making and communications with customers.
The networked approach would make the lumber supply chain more resilient and responsive by providing greater visibility into alternative supply and logistics pathways, and even alternative products. So, for example, Mike could learn from his suppliers exactly how much of which lumber products will be available, when, then plan customer allocations accordingly, while also making that information available to Monte and other customers. What’s more, Monte could use the network to access alternative lumber suppliers in his area and, when lumber is unavailable, suppliers of alternative materials like steel or cement.
Likewise, mill operators would gain deeper downstream insight, so instead of idling capacity, as some did at the start of the pandemic in response to a temporary dip in sales, they could have maintained or even increased mill production, based on information indicating they would soon need that supply to meet pent-up demand.
The benefits of this heightened visibility across the supply network eventually ripple down to end customers like me, in the form of more accurate project bids and timelines, as well as fewer delays and change orders.
Ultimately, as part of a connected business network, the various parties within the network gain a common platform for collaborative problem-solving, risk-sharing and better-aligned business interests.
2.      Improve intelligence and efficiency inside the mill. At the root of the current lumber shortage is a lack of capacity to turn timber into lumber. Though most U.S. sawmills are running at or near capacity, the shortage persists, with mill owners apparently loath to outlay huge sums of capital to build new lumber production facilities.
Another practical option for increasing output, at least marginally, is to optimize mill production assets and operations. A connected manufacturing approach, whereby assets within the mill are sensor-equipped and IoT (Internet of things)-networked, enables a mill operator to increase equipment uptime by moving away from a time-based maintenance model, to a predictive maintenance model, where the data streaming from a hydraulic press, for example, would indicate when that press likely will need a critical part replaced, so they can plan accordingly, minimizing disruption on the shop floor. With this level of asset intelligence, mill operators can minimize changeover time and scrappage, and be more responsive with their production scheduling, allowing them to shift from a fixed to a flexible schedule, so based on downstream demand data they’re receiving in real time, as well as information about shortages of materials like the adhesive required to make OSB, for example, they can sequence short-term production of different products. Not only do their planning cycles become shorter and better informed by current data, their overall lumber output could well tick up a point or two as a result.
3.      Enable seamless communication between Mike, Monte and the mill. One thing Mike told me he’s been frustrated by during the lumber shortage is the lack of real-time communication across the supply chain, which has left him largely in the dark about the products coming from his suppliers, and the products his customers want. As a result, not only has he been reluctant to take on excess inventory for fear it will go unsold, he also struggles to provide even his best customers with information about product availability.
What if Mike was privy to real-time information about exactly what’s coming from his suppliers and when, could make customer allocations accordingly, and, with a mobile app, URL or by text notification, promptly convey (or at least make accessible) information about product availability to his customers? What if mills provided real-time visibility into product availability and logistics to distributor customers like Mike, who in turn provided a similar level of visibility to his customers. What if Mike and his customers could then place orders digitally, in the moment, based on that insight? Not only would that help to resolve Mike’s concerns about carrying excess inventory, it could save customers like Monte time-wasting trips to multiple lumberyards in search of the right trusses to finish my deck.
Due largely to Monte’s and Mike’s persistence in overcoming numerous supply chain issues — and despite stretching the budget, timeline and occasionally, our patience — that project is finally complete.
Click here to learn more about how digitalization can support companies in the building products industry.
Connected Maintenance
By Pat Dixon, PE, PMP

President of 
www.DPAS-INC.com, offering project management and engineering for industrial automation projects.

It is very likely that your motors and valves are automatically accumulating usage data. It has become much easier in PLCs and DCS controllers to implement motor runtimes, number of start/stops, and number of valve open/close cycles. This is important to know because motors and valves wear down with usage and require maintenance in proportion to how much use they get.  

Obviously, you do not want equipment failing when you need it. You would like to plan your maintenance. This is especially critical when many mills have fewer maintenance personnel to cover growing inventory of equipment. You cannot afford to waste labor hours on equipment that has not been used, and you need to ensure that high demand equipment continues to perform.

This is the subject of a May 11 article in Plant Engineering magazine entitled “What a bad or non-existent maintenance program costs manufacturers” by Phillip Rowly and Jake Jakowitz . They state, “While proactive maintenance requires more upfront investment, it’s a fraction of the cost of a catastrophic shutdown that may have been preventable.”

What investment is required? Assuming you already have usage data in your control system, it is a matter of making that data useful. It is not useful if nobody knows about it.

• A low cost first step could be to implement alarm limits. It is not that important to know the usage until it reaches a limit that indicates maintenance is merited. A warning alarm followed by a high priority alarm is a reasonable approach. The challenge with implementing any alarm is to follow good practices such as the ISA 18.2 alarm management standard. Filling up an alarm journal does not help. Operators need to know what actions are required to respond to alarms and keep the alarm journal from being filled. An additional issue is that operators are not the ones that need equipment usage information. It is the maintenance manager that needs this information. If an alarm triggers an email to the maintenance manager, this can help.

• A better way is through connectivity. Your maintenance manager should already have a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). This is the system that has the inventory of equipment and gives the maintenance department the information they need for planning what to inspect/fix and when. Some of these systems just give you dates to know how long it has been since the last maintenance on each piece of equipment. A better way is to schedule based on usage. It is impractical to perform data entry of the usage data from the control system to CMMS. Realtime connectivity of usage data into CMMS is the way it is done in a connected facility. Not every CMMS supports this connectivity. Therefore, the cost of implementation is to get a CMMS with connectivity if you don’t have one, then once you have this capability it requires configuration to get the usage data from the tag in the control system to the matching equipment in the CMMS. Once implemented, the maintenance manager knows that the CMMS can be used every day to present realtime planning information.

• The next step would be predictive maintenance with machine learning. This would use high frequency vibration or realtime process data to identify abnormal equipment conditions. We all know that there are times when equipment fails much earlier than we expect it to. If the CMMS can tell the maintenance department that something does not look right with a motor or valve in realtime, it can prevent a much more costly and dangerous failure.

You may notice that we have missed a huge portion of the maintenance scope. We have not covered the multitudes of field instruments. These are continually in use, so maintaining usage data for transmitters and sensors is not pertinent. There are several asset management systems (AMS) on the market made to support maintenance of field instruments. An AMS may provide features that are specific to field instruments that you would not find in CMMS, such as calibration tools and management of device definition files for digital instruments. They may also provide tools for valves such as stroke testing. Therefore, there is some overlap between AMS and CMMS.  This can mean you have both systems being used independently, which can lead to maintenance headaches to maintain the maintenance systems. Quite a paradox!

The goal in Industry 4.0 is connected manufacturing, which includes connected maintenance. You may already have a lot of the data you need sitting in your PLC or DCS controller. Connecting this data along with field instrumentation into a single, comprehensive system that the maintenance department can use in realtime can be the difference between facilities that thrive or fail.
Calm and Stable
Both Cristopher Gander and Pat Dixon are talking about creating a calm and stable commercial and industrial world in their articles above. I have seen managers resist this, particularly on the commercial sides of their businesses.

This is foolishness. Thinking you are going to gain some sort of commercial advantage in a world of turmoil is a vocation best left to ambulance chasers.

Under normal conditions, you should strive to run a manufacturing business that is as dull and boring as a well run electrical generation station (ignore Texas this past winter!). Industry 4.0 helps us run with this stability.

While many have focused on logistics and supply, however, others still ignore the maintenance side of the equation. Industry 4.0 is as important to good maintenance as it is to good production.

Industry 4.0 is the glue that finally weds these two sides of manufacturing together. One cannot maintain their product specifications if they cannot maintain their equipment. Industry 4.0 speaks the truth on this relationship.

Six steps toward predictive analytics success
By Mohamed Abuali
Combined with the ability to route data and decisions across the internet, the real power of predictive analytics and AI can now be brought down to the users on the shop floor. Ultimately the end customer cares about an intuitive solution experience they can trust, and the value (business case), and not the AI/ML technology and algorithms.
How Virtualization is Changing Automation
By David Greenfield
Though virtualization is a relatively new concept for industrial automation, it has a long history of use in IT applications. Essentially, it’s a way of consolidating computing resources on fewer computing hardware devices so that you can use more of the server’s computing capacity while also reducing server cooling and maintenance costs.
What’s next for Industry 4.0 tools, Technologies, and Transformations
By Leonardo Vieira
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, disruption is one condition that hasn’t been in short supply across global supply chains. Without functional logistics, import, manufacturing and export have all been inconsistent. Supply chain and logistics professionals have had to reevaluate systems and adapt to evolving demands, navigating unprecedented disruptions while keeping the gears turning and employees safe.
The safety opportunity enabled by IIoT
By Tony Downes
As the principles of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – or Industry 4.0 – become widely prevalent, leading industrial organizations are adopting a new generation of environmental, health and plant safety solutions to drive employee health and safety and deliver secure and sustainable operations. A safer work environment is critical not only for the well-being of personnel but also for improving productivity levels.
Industree 4.0 is exclusively sponsored by SAP