Testing production scenarios with simulation and a digital twin

Metsä Fibre is building the world’s most modern sawmill in Rauma, Finland, with annual production amounting to 750,000 cubic meters of pine sawn timber. The value of the investment project is EUR 200 million and the production of the fossil free pine sawmill, unique for efficiency and technology, is due to start in the autumn of 2022. Customers of the Rauma sawmill include quality conscious woodworking and joinery industry companies who set high quality standards to their products.

Simulation of different alternatives to bring certainty to decision making

Before making the investment decision, Metsä Fibre wanted to make sure that the sawmill’s designed drying capacity was correctly dimensioned. In cooperation with Pinja, they assessed the production lead time related to the drying plant’s infrastructure and carried out a warehouse management simulation project. The jointly realized simulation project ensured that the layout solution and workflow of the new sawmill would enable throughput volumes required at the drying plant. Metsä Fibre also wanted verified information, for example, on the ideal size of the drying plant building, how many fresh and dry storage places are needed in roadside landing and what is required from a transport wagon.

– Products sawn from logs must go through the drying plant, although they would differ both for drying times and other production parameters. The simulation model created also serves as a basis for a digital twin”, says Pinja’s project leader Aku Mäkimattila.

Before starting the actual simulation project, Metsä Fibre had pre-designed the drying plant evaluating its possible dimensions. Cooperation with Pinja started with a more detailed definition and by setting the scope and limits of simulation. In addition, precise questions to which simulation was to answer were formulated.

The next step consisted of collecting the necessary initial data, based on which the simulation model was built. This included product-specific data, batten load production cycles, roadside landing needs and the dry sorting capacity.
The simulation project took three and a half months in total. The progress of simulation was monitored on a weekly basis and the simulation model was continuously iterated.

Before this, Metsä Fibre and Pinja have cooperated, among others, on the ERP system piloted at the Renko sawmill and the related MES solution. It was natural to utilize the same basic model and simulation scope in Rauma as well.

As the result of simulation, we could analyze the flow of designed production in the form that we see it today. As needed, simulation allows us to test the drying plant area for possible bottlenecks and needs related to changes in the product range of the future-proof plant.
Jarkko Vihervuori, Technical Director, Metsä Fibre.

Towards a Digital Twin

The simulation project carried out with Pinja provided a basis to Metsä Fibre’s project team for dimensioning the storage capacity of fresh and dry product and helped ensure the performance and target lead time of the drying plant. Without the simulation, a significant amount of risk assessment and comparison between different alternatives would have remained to be performed by Metsä Fibre. As a result of this collaborative simulation, a so-called Digital Twin begins to be formed allowing assessment and development of the production environment in the future. The Digital Twin can be used to input real-time data to represent potential future scenarios.

– Regarding Pinja’s work, a digital twin is created almost in the same way as a simulation model. Of course, real-time data is input into the digital twin and the model is continuously maintained. We have had cases where the customer has returned after many years with a desire to examine new aspects in their manufacturing process”, Mäkimattila says.

However, the question whether to update the old model or to make a completely new one must always be asked. Pinja has carried out various simulations for some 20 years, approximately 200 projects in all.

– Often, it pays off to create a new model, when the focus has changed and creating a new one is then usually quicker than modifying the old one”, Mäkimattila continues.

The model can also be placed in the cloud, which allows the customer to run the simulation model on their own towards experiments that are considered necessary. If bigger things are desired, it is necessary to peek under the hood, so to speak, where Pinja will always help.

Photo: Metsä Fibre

Project in brief

1

Investment value of Rauma sawmill is EUR 200 million and the production of the fossil free pine sawmill, unique in efficiency and technology, is due to start in the autumn of 2022.

2

The simulation project ensured that the layout solution and workflow of the new sawmill would enable throughput volumes required at the drying plant.

3

The simulation project took three and a half months in total. The progress of simulation was monitored on a weekly basis and the simulation model was continuously iterated.

3

As a result of the collaborative simulation, a Digital Twin begins to be formed allowing assessment and development of the production environment in the future.

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