As part of the European Union’s initiative to focus on renewable energies, the number of pellet factories in Europe is growing. The production of pellets is highly automated, and new plants use smart factory solutions. Pellet manufacturing is often closely located to the sawmills, and the production of the pellets requires only a small number of employees; thanks to the intelligent control options, they do not necessarily have to be located on site.
One of Europe’s leading manufacturers of woodworking equipment is the Estonian engineering company Hekotek.Together with its Estonian supplier SBA Service, which provides the automated process control systems for plants installed in a sea container, Hekotek offers smart factory solutions for the woodworking industry. This self-organizing production environment applies sensors and intelligently connected devices. The company has implemented numerous solutions in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
The walk-in control container is equipped with electronic and hydraulic control modules as well as surveillance monitors. “This fully installed form makes it possible to realistically run test simulations under various conditions in our factory before delivery,” says Maria Kikkas, member of the SBA Service management board. “In addition, the container solution provides a compatible transport form for ships, trains or trucks; it is fire-resistant and can be flexibly installed on site, regardless of the construction progress of a pellet factory or the climate – for example in Vietnam’s tropical environment with high humidity or in the freezing cold in the northern Russian lowlands on the Lake Beloye”.
Smart industry for automated manufacturing
The data sourced in the smart factory is merged in the control container. Sensors at various points in the pellet production, such as at drying, filter or press, collect data on temperatures, pressures, flows and so on. The information is used to monitor the entire plant to optimize the production or to identify problems. The operating parameters can then be automatically adjusted or individually overwritten. Factory operators can thus balance the ideal balance between maximum output at the lowest cost; this is particularly interesting in countries with high energy costs. “Thanks to the digital connection, we can also reprogram the plant from Estonia, update software or install additional programs,” says Maria Kikkas.
Estonia, known as the most digitalized country in the world, stands for a digitalized administration and education system as well as for the digital transformation of various economic sectors – such as automotive supply, energy, mechanical engineering, chemicals and logistics. “Estonian companies have installed industrial 4.0 and automation applications in over 120 countries worldwide,” explains Triin Ploompuu, member of the board of the Federation of Estonian Engineering Industry.
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