Using digitization – a challenge at brownfield sites in the process industry

CHORUS Digital takes on the task and offers concrete solution paths in which logical-technical aspects are combined with content from management, personnel and organizational development and the tools of digitization.

In March 2019, the two Viennese entrepreneurs Franz Peter Walder and Richard Wipp founded the service company CHORUS Digital. From 35 years of combined experience in business design and process engineering process optimization came the ambition to generate significant and demonstrable added value through digitization in the process industry. The focus here is on concrete optimization measures for existing production facilities (brownfield).

As a digitization partner for the energy-intensive industry, CHORUS Digital combines the three major areas of enterprise management, process and control engineering, and data science under one roof.

These three areas are often considered separately in companies. When applying individual disciplines, the entire optimization potential can never be exploited. Thus, problems can often only be solved meaningfully and sustainably by combining process engineering considerations and data-based methods. In order to apply this solution in optimization and digitization projects and thus also to establish process changes permanently, it is necessary to anchor them with the employees while taking the corporate strategy into account. To achieve this, approaches from organizational and human resources development are being implemented, says Richard Wipp, Managing Director of CHORUS Digital, describing the situation.

Know-how provider with holistic approach

“We want to be a technology and know-how provider for the digitization projects of the sawmill, wood-based panel and paper industry with a comprehensive, holistic approach” says the CEO. The focus in consulting is on linking several areas that build on each other in digitization. It has been shown that in areas of IT and OT, an understanding of the other subject often needs to be established. Due to the mutual dependence with simultaneous overlap, for example in the area of security, cooperation is essential for successful digitization projects, Wipp continued. The focus of the process and control engineering teams together with the Data Scientist team is on industry-specific mathematical and physical as well as data-driven models, so-called digital twins.

This means that in an increasingly dynamic production environment, upcoming tasks can be carried out and presented by means of simulations and tests without interfering with existing production lines and thus without risk. With the aid of defined boundary conditions, work is carried out on forecast models for optimum production output and on proactive, predictive maintenance scenarios for individual components and entire production lines.

Development of optimization potentials

This approach enables optimization potential to be tapped step by step. Quick wins, which already include the appropriate personnel and organizational development during the implementation, are thus lifted, the entrepreneur explains. In the context of digitization, an overall optimum of work organization, material flow, energy efficiency, and product quality is required with highly fluctuating production volumes.

Companies usually understand digitization partners as the individual suppliers of their digital production facilities. Employees often associate digitization with workforce reduction, especially in the production process. CHORUS Digital breaks down this basic understanding, Wipp points out. Improving existing equipment and increasing competitiveness through product variety, efficiency, speed and product quality help individual operating sites and support the successful implementation of cross-site production strategies. It is not uncommon for projects to fail not because of the technical tasks but because of the social complexity and the lack of involvement of the people. Wipp knows that a strong corporate culture can be very beneficial, but can also be a major hindrance if it is not integrated. This is exactly where CHORUS Digital’s integrative, comprehensive and both technically and socially sophisticated approach comes in.