MRO Magazine

Downtime minimized while paper mill automated

Norampac Inc.'s Trenton, Ont., mill has avoided the costly downtime normally associated with the installation, commissioning and extensive operator and supervisor training required for the implementat...

September 1, 2003 | By MRO Magazine

Norampac Inc.’s Trenton, Ont., mill has avoided the costly downtime normally associated with the installation, commissioning and extensive operator and supervisor training required for the implementation of a new process control system.

An advanced process and control system had been installed and commissioned without interrupting the paper machine’s normal 480-ton per hour production of corrugating medium (containerboard).

Norampac Inc. of Montreal is the largest containerboard producer in Canada and the seventh largest in North America. The company, which is also a major Canadian manufacturer of corrugated products, is a joint-venture company owned by Cascades Inc. and Domtar Inc. that was created in 1997.

The Trenton Division mill has been in operation since 1927 and currently has a production capacity of 180,000 metric tons per year of corrugating medium in various basic weights.


The mill’s Apacs+ control system was provided and installed by Siemens. “Our challenge was to install the system hardware then connect the process control system in segments during normal scheduled shutdowns,” says Brian Roberts, a Siemens senior account manager. “Termination of signal wiring to and from the system was performed as available and as normal downtime allowed.”

The project took a year to complete from the initial purchase order. Segments were chosen with regard to type and number of input/outputs (I/O) and anticipated shut time.

Siemens configured the system and tested it on a nested simulator. Because the installation was segmented, the few small configuration changes that were required after termination were easily isolated and adjusted. With this method, total overall installation and commissioning times were reduced and no production was lost.

This is in sharp contrast to changing an entire control on a paper machine where commissioning can see several configuration issues cascade into each other to the point at which significant time can be taken up with creating permutations of possible fixes. This adds to the time and in fact often means that putting the system in place at once can actually consume more time than the staged approach. It can also expose the mill to possible lost production.

The Norampac plan was to replace various control panels with a totally automated and modern control room. At the same time a system was needed that could connect to other process systems such as an OLE for Process Control (OPC) interface to a new Honeywell scanner system.

The goal was to provide operators with better information, both current and historical, on paper machine operation. Operators who are used to running the machine with single loop controllers and manual switches and pushbuttons would graduate to full machine control from a computer Human Machine Interface (HMI).

Segmented installation and commissioning also had a benefit for operator training, acceptance and a bumpless control transfer. The first step in the training process was to introduce the operators to ProcessSuite HMI graphics that are driven by a simulator.

Control of the paper machine remained with the existing panels, but PCs running the HMI graphics were also in the same area. As segments of the I/O were added to the Apacs+ DCS, corresponding HMI graphic symbols were activated. After each shutdown, operators returned to an increasingly functional HMI, while the panel control was segmentally decommissioned, thereby avoiding a massive operator overload.

As the project progressed, the operator routine consisted of restarting the machine with new increased functionality in control and HMI. In this fashion they were not overwhelmed with massive change, which can typically lead to confusion and lost production.

Key to Norampac’s selection of Apacs+ was the need for a system that combined a wide range of control functionality with ease of configuration. Apacs+ unified the best features of Distributed Control System (DCS) and Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) technology into an integrated, yet, open environment. Also inherent with Apacs+ is its HMI software, ProcessSuite, which provided operator graphics, historical data, simulator, and a web connection for off-site viewing. “This means that the mill manager, with access to the Internet, could remotely log on, in view-only mode, to observe the process in real time, the same as in the control room,” notes Roberts.

Embedded into ProcessSuite is a simulation tool containing an off-line version of the control configuration, useful for training and experimentation. With it, operators train in a simulated environment that replicates the actual mill process. This helps them understand and master the process by giving them simulated experience on the controls, much in the same manner as a pilot trains in a flight simulator.

With the system not requiring a dedicated control module, but rather a PC for simulation, training expenses are reduced. The simulator package is also ideally suited for testing and troubleshooting, so engineering or maintenance can develop and test a control strategy configuration without disrupting a live process or necessitating the use of test hardware. System configuration factory acceptance testing can be done without control hardware, allowing construction to proceed with installation of control cabinets and wiring, resulting in shorter project schedules.

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Manufacturers of temperature sensors and transmitters in North America are likely to witness moderate growth, even though they are challenged by the market saturation of many technologies that are in the late stages of their life cycle, according to a recent study by Frost & Sullivan, New York, NY.

Market participants are focusing on driving down costs, as there is a compelling need for economies of scale, which will provide an edge over competitors. They are also likely to move toward selling more profitable, sophisticated technologies such as infrared and integrated circuit sensors, as certain segments are experiencing flat growth.

Advanced technologies such as infrared sensors are likely to witness significant growth — in fact, over double the growth rate of the total temperature sensors market — with a continuous devolution in price.

The efforts of infrared sensor manufacturers to target under-served markets are expected to widen the existing user base and open up new sales avenues in many process control industries. However, end users in process control industries are reluctant to adopt infrared sensors, as they are unsure about their use and benefits and the return on investment on equipment price.

“Infrared sensor manufacturers have to redefine technology and their sales efforts to ‘cross the chasm’ and overcome the uncertainties prevalent among end users,” says Frost & Sullivan.

The research examines the North American temperature sensors and transmitters markets and the following types of sensor technologies — infrared, thermocouple, resistance temperature detector (RTD), thermistor, integrated circuit and temperature transmitter.

The report provides market potential analysis of different technologies in many end-user industries that include chemicals, petrochemicals, oil and gas, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals and metals.

For more information, call 877-463-7876 or visit


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