Digitalization merging with sustainability

Digitalization is used to create revenue, improve business, and to replace and transform business processes. Digital solutions offer tools for more competitive ways to run business. Digitalization is increasingly utilized to reach a higher sustainability performance and to meet the requirements of increased visibility and transparency in the end-to-end supply chain. A digitalization strategy is needed to deploy the full potential of digitalization, also in terms of sustainability.

DIGITAL SOLUTIONS AS ENABLERS OF CHANGE

Accelerated digital transformation is continuing at all levels of organizations that are enhancing their operations. Digitalization, robotics, and AI have been complementing human labour for the past 20 years. However, the pace of change is accelerating and machine learning, and big data are enabling robots to perform increasingly complex tasks. Internet enabled devices, machines, mills, and warehouses can communicate with processes, devices, and humans alike. Well managed digital and self-directed artificial intelligence applications can contribute to creating a competitive advantage and facilitate company value creation and growth.

During the COVID pandemic we have witnessed an accelerated utilization of digitalization and it has also brought up sustainability questions to the global discussion.  Facilitated by COVID, business processes have changed, and totally new disruptive business models and processes have been created i.e., in supply chain management, customer relationship management and marketing and sales.

Process digitalization supports achieving higher efficiency and productivity and enables flexible and customized production processes. The whole end-to-end supply chain and delivery process has become more efficient, agile, and visible, thus capable to meet sustainability requirements.

THE FOCUS HAS BEEN ON EFFICIENCY 

Digitalization in the pulp and paper industry has been a continuous development over decades to improve operational and environmental performance.

A recent example is one of the latest pulp mills in Latin America with Andritz technology, where the mill reached an automatic runability mode of 97-98%. The automated processes contributed to improved operational efficiency both in operations and maintenance, and it increased the operational efficiency level up to 93%. As the automated operations also contribute to a better stability and quality, this also translates into continuous cost savings.

More stable operations support companies in the efforts to reach their sustainability targets. Improved resource utilization and material consumption, better energy efficiency and lower emissions and reduced waste generation – these all contribute to lowering the carbon footprint and reducing the environmental impact.

In this Andritz technology reference case the automated and stable process also resulted in lower raw material consumption i.e., a 7% reduction in chemical consumption. By using AI and machine learning, we can further increase efficiency and be closer on sustainability targets.

FULL END-TO-END SUPPLY CHAIN VISIBILITY

The Pulp and Paper industry is continuously striving for increased sustainability performance. To deliver sustainable wood pulp-based consumer products, like paper packaging or textiles, it is extremely important to ensure that the wood is sourced from sustainably managed forests. Raw material sourcing of consumer products is becoming increasingly important in building consumer confidence. Thus, both tracking and transparency of the whole supply chain is being increasingly expected by the consumer.

In wood-based products, the missing link has been the woodyard.  New automated wood yards enable an unbroken chain for tracking the fiber, from forest throughout production all the way to the end products.

Data sharing technologies, like blockchain can improve the supply chain credibility and enable tracing the wood from the forest, provide real time information and thus improve the sustainability of global supply chains.  In end-to-end supply chains blockchain technology can improve visibility, transparency, and data accuracy for tracking fibre components for fabrics throughout the supply chain.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IS A CONTINUOUS JOURNEY

This development will not be revolutionary. Digital transformation can be seen as a continuous industrial development for reaching sustainability targets. A digitalization strategy is needed to deploy the potential for more visible, efficient, and resilient value chain. It is a roadmap to capture opportunities within business for improved sustainability.  What is the digital transformation roadmap like in your company?

Author Teija Konttori, Managing Director, Vision Hunters

 

Vision Hunters provides strategic advisory services for the forest industry and energy sectors. We assist leadership teams in making the smartest strategic choices to improve the outcome of their company in the future. We are highly experienced and result oriented and have advised many of the leading companies in our industry.