“Digitization only works across structures”
– Industrial Analytics supports PCK in machine monitoring and process simulation

 

Digitisation is and remains a challenge. – This applies to small and medium-sized companies as well as to large corporations. With the PCK refinery in Schwedt, Industrial Analytics has gained a cooperation partner who wants to drive digital innovation on a company site that extends three by four kilometres. Frank Stargardt, Head of the Contractor Support and Services Department, and process engineer Jana Voss report on how the company is mastering this mammoth task and what contribution Industrial Analytics is making.

 

Mr. Stargardt, as the initiator of the cooperation with Industrial Analytics, how did you become aware of the Berlin start-up?

Frank Stargardt: I am quite well networked in the field of technical diagnostics, both in Germany and Europe. Industrial Analytics was recommended to us by one of the companies with whom we have been in contact for some time. After the initial discussions, I quickly realized that the Industrial Analytics system could provide many useful impulses not only for monitoring our pumps and compressors, but also for process engineering.

 

What added value does Industrial Analytics’ support for monitoring your processes and equipment provide for both of you?

Jana Voss: As a process engineer, I check whether the plant is running properly and try to optimize processes. Among other things, we use a sulfur-containing fuel to generate energy. To comply with emission limits, we have to desulfurize the flue gas again. Large compressors are used in the regeneration plant. With the help of Industrial Analytics, we can now simulate their operation on the computer.

Frank Stargardt: My focus is on maintenance and the early detection of irregularities. Virtual monitoring plays a decisive role in monitoring our machine trains. After all, it does happen from time to time that machines do what they want – but not what they should! If I can test certain states in the virtual simulation instead of having to intervene in the real process, it can save us a lot of trouble.

 

Can you please elaborate?

Frank Stargardt: If I have mapped the machine virtually in such a way that I can specifically change individual parameters – e.g. suction pressures, final pressures or temperatures – I can find out more easily and quickly what causes certain disturbance states. Thanks to Industrial Analytics, we have the opportunity to make even more detailed diagnoses than was previously possible with our own monitoring system. With the help of the Fraunhofer Institute, we would like to display the data from one of the monitored compressors in 3D images in the future to gain further knowledge.

Jana Voss: “The process simulation helps us to avoid damaging our compressors. This can happen, for example, due to fluid ingress when the machines are under heavy load. Through the cooperation with Industrial Analytics we have already been able to gain interesting knowledge for our work and optimize processes.

 

How does digitization generally work at PCK?

Frank Stargardt: We have 80 companies on our site that support PCK. In a sample project it became clear how many interfaces there are across companies. In order to serve these in such a way that everyone can work optimally, our working group Digitization was formed with over 20 people from different companies and departments. We try to view digitization holistically and to promote it.

 

Many companies have now launched their own innovation departments. What is your opinion on this?

Frank Stargardt: I think that real innovation must come from work practice – from people who are faced with concrete problems. In this respect, I don’t think much of innovation departments that make something up out of thin air. However, I would need a digitization officer on my right who would go on with the topic when I couldn’t get around it, bring people to a table and put a finger in the wound. That means we recognize the problems and also see possible solutions, but someone who has the time must be able to pursue them.

 

Why do you consciously seek support from start-ups like Industrial Analytics?

Jana Voss: We were primarily interested in the Industrial Analytics team bringing new ways of thinking and new perspectives to the table. I think that is also the strength of young startups.

Frank Stargardt: Because of the general concentration of tasks in industry, it is important to use all the data that machines give us to avoid negative conditions. I really appreciate the fact that the Industrial Analytics team thinks creatively.

 

And what do you hope to gain from this cooperation in the future?

Jana Voss: We are already looking forward to further expanding the simulation. We have also considered that the software could also be interesting for training courses. After all, it helps both newcomers and experienced employees to better understand our system. Whether I can read something on paper or test it myself in a simulation makes a big difference.

Frank Stargardt: I advocate that start-ups such as Industrial Analytics be included in the digitization process. But I also think it’s important that they are closely tied to us, because the effects are most noticeable after many years of cooperation. The companies belong here on the site. We have to get to know our partners – and they us – better. In a plant measuring three by four kilometers, that alone is a task. The experts in our departments have to be known by face and their competence has to be recognized as someone who is always available and brings added value. For me, a driver in terms of digitization belongs in the plant.

 

Interview in December 2019 by Anne Schwerin