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Simulation, optimisation and industrial information contents

Competence

VTT promotes the use of mathematical modelling, simulation, and optimisation in the research of complex systems. The systems vary from small systems like process components to process plants or enterprise-wide operations and management systems.

Working methods, tools, and standards are developed for the management of industrial information contents. A simulation tool APROS® has been developed and maintained since 1986. APROS is used for the modelling and simulation of the dynamic behaviour of power plants as well as pulp and paper mills and other industrial processes. The models have been utilised, e.g., for simulation-assisted automation testing, safety analyses, and as training simulators. A next-generation software integration platform, Simantics, will enable seamless integration of simulation tools and design systems.

System dynamic simulation of operations management facilitates the analysis and optimisation of large-scale systems. Typical applications range from management simulators to prediction models. Management simulators can be used to simulate and evaluate strategic and operational decisions in corporate-wide systems. Prediction models showing different scenarios help the development of business processes.

VTT has also applied large-scale optimisation for logistics and production planning problems in forest industry. Operational optimisation solutions have been integrated to ERP systems (Enterprise Resource Planning) and are used for the management and planning of logistics operations.

VTT participates in the standardisation related to plant modelling and connectivity: OPC UA (OPC Unified Architecture) development deals with the next-generation connectivity standards for industrial automation. THTH association is formed to enable decentralised data management.

Challenges

The main challenges in simulation include arranging the development, updating, and running of the simulation model cost-effectively. On the other hand, the models should describe the real system in enough detail, give predictions that are accurate enough, and run fast enough. In practice, the following technical challenges are faced:

  • How to integrate simulation tools to industrial lifecycle information management systems and design tools
  • How to arrange realtime communication between different simulation tools
  • How to run plant-wide or corporate-wide simulation models in realtime or even faster.

Solutions

  • APROS® – new features are added to support simulation of new plant concepts, and parallel processing for reducing the computing time is under development - apros.vtt.fi
  • Simantics – Open Source Integration Platform for Modelling and Simulation that enables Semantics Data Modelling Techniques in Simulation - www.simantics.org
  • Testing and training station – A tool for controlling the simulation system and planning and execution of simulation runs.

Benefits

The use of model-based methods enables analyses, development, testing, tuning, and optimising the behaviour of an industrial system without real hardware. In simulator training, the operators learn the behaviour of the process with the interdependencies of its components better than when only working with the real system, since uncommon situations can also be trained. The automation system of the plant will be more mature and better tuned when dynamic simulation has been used for testing it before being installed in the plant.

Similarly, at the enterprise level, the benefits of simulation and optimisation involve the ability to analyse hypothetical scenarios and the effects of alternative business decisions. Costs, profits, customer service levels, and risks related to alternative business strategies or operational arrangements can be evaluated. Model-based optimisation may lead to significant improvements due to better strategic and tactical planning. Current information systems and computing power has made it possible to optimise even operational decisions.

References and merits

  • 1 research professor, one-third of the staff hold a doctoral degree
  • APROS simulation software is used in 20 countries (e.g., by Alstom, Foster Wheeler, Doosan, Fortum, Metso, and Andritz)
  • Development of unique methods and tools for simulation-assisted automation testing and operator training
  • Control development tools for the pulp and paper industry
  • Active participation in the development of OPC Unified Architecture (UA) and standardisation activities USPI, Fiatech, CAPE-Open)
  • Technical lead of the SEFRAM project, which will enhance the exchange of digitalised information in process industry value chains and networks
  • Wood transport optimisation applications for a forest company (StoraEnso, Kuorma system) and for the enterprise administering Finnish state forests (Metsähallitus)
  • System dynamic models for several purposes (e.g., Nokia, Finnish Defence Forces)
  • The 2007 Award of the Finnish Society of Automation: System Dynamic Management Flight Simulator for Nokia’s product process


Additional information

Tommi Karhela
Research Professor
+358 20 722 6246

Peter Ylen
Head of Research Area
+358 20 722 6254

Jari Hämäläinen
Senior Principal Scientist
+358 20 722 6467

Additional information

Tommi Karhela
Research Professor
+358 20 722 6246

Peter Ylen
Head of Research Area
+358 20 722 6254

Jari Hämäläinen
Senior Principal Scientist
+358 20 722 6467

See also

Brochures
Projects