Start-ups as sources of inspiration: Industrial Analytics supports digitization at Vattenfall

Don’t stop now! In times of increasing digitalisation, new ideas and technologies are more than ever in demand. Even large companies like Vattenfall are clearly feeling this – and are opening up to working with young, innovative start-ups. In a joint pilot project, Industrial Analytics is currently monitoring a natural gas compressor in the Berlin-Mitte combined heat and power plant. Oliver Küter, employee in the Digital Maintenance department at Vattenfall, and his colleague Tatiana Gómez Londoño, head of monitoring, draw a first conclusion in an interview.

 

Ms. Gómez Londoño, you have already accompanied Vattenfall for some time as an external consultant on digitization projects and are now head of the monitoring department. What do you currently see as the greatest challenge in your field of work?

Tatiana Gómez Londoño: We want to carry out digitization projects centrally in the future. In the past, each power plant or facility used to approach such measures individually. Our main goal now is to collect and combine more data from the individual plants and to create standards that will serve to increase efficiency and safety in the long term.

 

Does Vattenfall have a direct digitization department?

Oliver Küter: There are various digitization departments at different levels of the group, but most of them are still being set up. Different approaches are being used. Certain digitization measures are controlled from above. For example, the aim is to digitize the normal everyday office routine or contact with the end customer. However, there are also digitisation projects that come from the individual areas, such as the Digital Maintenance and Monitoring departments. We are looking at how we can digitize the processes of energy production and distribution.

In my area, we fulfill all wishes within plant maintenance. Other departments approach us and draw our attention to where something needs to be done. We then look together to see how we can solve it. In addition, we have a working group in which employees from various departments of Wärme Berlin AG come together and talk about current digitalisation measures. However, these are very few people who are involved in this full-time. Most of the time this happens in addition to the normal work activities.

 

What role do startups such as Industrial Analytics play in driving innovation in your company?

Tatiana Gómez Londoño: We are increasingly realizing how important it is to think outside the box. Right now we have the opportunity to improve many of our processes and framework conditions. And the Group wants us to draw on external expertise and new ideas.

Oliver Küter: I would say that these efforts have intensified in recent years, particularly with the issue of digitization. We are an energy supply company and digitization is not our core competence.

In order to accelerate this process and keep pace with our competitors, we have begun working with start-ups in certain areas in recent years.

 

What conclusions can you draw from the cooperation with Industrial Analytics so far?

Oliver Küter: At the moment we are still in the project phase. In a large corporation, the decision-making processes are somewhat longer than in a start-up. We also notice this in our cooperation with Industrial Analytics. The team can react and adapt very quickly. What particularly surprised and impressed me was how much prior knowledge Industrial Analytics had brought into the race.

The team was able to tell us exactly which sensors a specific plant needs. That was the aha moment that also motivated us to work with Industrial Analytics. We hope that together we will be able to generate more knowledge about our plants in the future and derive concrete steps from it.

 

What steps could these be, for example?

Oliver Küter: We want to use data analyses to better assess the condition of the plants. In the past, there were engineers who walked through the plants and simply heard if something was wrong. But we have to be prepared for the fact that in future we will no longer have these engineers who have been at the same site for 20 years. The additional knowledge we generate with Industrial Analytics should make it easier to make decisions on maintenance measures. We hope that we will successfully complete the current project and that we can start joint projects at other plants in the future. We have many other components in our power plants,