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Coordinating Optimisation of Complex Industrial Processes.

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - COCOP (Coordinating Optimisation of Complex Industrial Processes.)

Reporting period: 2019-04-01 to 2020-03-31

The final goal of COCOP (Coordinating Optimisation of Complex Industrial Processes) was to increase the competitiveness of the European process and automation industry. The objectives were to increase product quality, improve sustainability, reduce operation costs, and improve working conditions. The approach was to consider operating conditions of all unit processes of an entire plant, and the mutual interactions of the unit processes to optimise and improve the overall plant-wide operation. Development of data based and mathematical process models and application of plant-wide optimisation are the key elements of the project. A big challenge is that straightforward optimisation formulation of the plant-wide operations creates such a huge mathematical optimisation problem that it is not solvable with existing optimisation algorithms. An alternative approach, benefited in COCOP, was to decompose the entire optimisation problem into sub-problems and then, coordinating the solutions of sub-problems to achieve a plant-wide optimal operation. The proposed concept relies on the fact that large systems have a definite structure of rather independent unit processes. Knowledge about this structure can be utilized while decomposing the control problem.

The importance of the project is threefold. Primarily, it improves the efficiency and environmental impact of European production processes, and thus, the competitiveness of European industry. The project also gives new tools to operators and other personnel via a social innovation co-creation process to improve their skills and competence, which improves working conditions and make process operator work more attractive. The project also provides new methods for automation industry and improves it competitiveness, as well as giving new insights of combining technological and social innovation within a common co-creation process.
In the beginning of the project the requirements of the two pilot cases were defined. The results included the definition of the use cases for both the copper and steel pilots, definition of future users, their objectives and tasks by the application of the social innovation methodology. In addition, key performance indicators for impact evaluation were defined for pilot processes as well as for the social point of view. To facilitate adoption and improve impact on operator work user acceptance factors were also studied and became part of the co-creation process of developers and users.

A generic architecture for the system was designed, and necessary data pre-processing methods and module-specific analysis methods for the information flows were defined. The architecture is based on an asynchronous loosely-coupled data-driven and event-driven message bus architecture. Methods for evaluating data quality, pre-process data as well as tools and methods for feature extraction were developed. The work was demonstrated with prototype implementations of COCOP system.

The work done on process modelling contained the development of simulation models that were needed in pilot cases. The unit processes were modeled both for scheduling and for advisory tool purposes. Many of the models were developed from the beginning but others were based on existing models. For the copper case, an advisory system and scheduling prototype was developed. For the steel case, models were developed to predict the castability in the secondary metallurgy, to predict the temperature and the shell thickness evolution in a continuous casting, to predict the temperature of the billet before the continuous rolling mill and to predict the generation of surface defects in the final product. The coordination optimisation was used to optimise converter batch schedules in the copper case and, for the steel case, to find a good combination of values for the key defect-related parameters that minimize the generation of defects at the final product.

A dissemination strategy was defined and implemented with the goal of increasing the visibility of the COCOP project on selected target groups to ensure the maximum impact of the project and promote the exploitation of the project results. Main results of these activities are: the webpage of the project (www.cocop-spire.eu) including a blog; the presence of the project in social networks; the presentation of the COCOP project in scientific and trade journals, scientific conferences and special interest group events, with sixteen scientific papers published during the project; and the organization of joint workshops.

The identification of the exploitation results was a continuous activity. At the end of the project, the consortium defined ten exploitation results (related to methodologies, open-source software, or specific tools developed during the project) and two key exploitation results:

- Steel Advisory Tool for surface defects reduction: a steel manufacturing plant-wide monitoring and advisory platform to reduce the number of surface and sub-surface defects at the final product, ensuring a good performance of the related sub-processes (secondary metallurgy, continuous casting and hot rolling).
- Copper smelter optimization tool: plant-wide optimization tool for copper smelter operating flash smelting furnace, Peirce-Smith converters and slag cleaning and anode furnaces.

Österwalder's methodology was used for studying potential business models and business environment for these two key results. Finally, a transferability assessment of the COCOP concept to other sectors (Wastewater Treatment, Chemical and Glass Manufacturing sectors) was performed. The COCOP adaptation workflow guideline includes a Digital Maturity Analysis and Human Factors Milestones starting from feasibility evaluation, continuing to implementation, and an action plan showing the status of fulfilling user requirements at different stages of the project.
"The COCOP solution developed in the project consists of a novel ICT architecture, methods and instructions (""cookbook"") for developing models for pilot cases, pilot case related models and the corresponding optimisation methods, and implementations for test cases. Additionally, the integration of technological development within a social innovation process led to new methodological insights and tools.

The new predictive models and optimisation algorithms provide relevant information of the process. Using this information, the operator and other personnel can improve the overall understanding of the constraints of the process and bottlenecks of the operation, which affects to process operation and efficiency. Based on this understanding the operators can improve their mental models and understanding and be more motivated in their work. The COCOP concept and system architecture facilitates integration of distributed processes and provides the required scalability and standardised interfaces for integration of information and control systems used in the industry.

The implemented solutions were tested in two industrial scale tests: in a steel and in a copper plant. The test cases validated the requirements and the developed solutions. The quantitative results provided good evidence that these approaches can enable to achieve the objectives and provide considerable economic benefits when the solutions have been developed to the TRL 9 level. There is also real commitment in the companies to continue development to commercial solutions."