Georgia-Pacific went looking for a better way to address equipment and process reliability at more than 100 manufacturing facilities. The solution the company devised not only predicts when problems will occur, it also makes the facilities safer, helps them run more efficiently and creates new opportunities for employees.
The Collaboration and Support Center, or CSC as it’s known, opened in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2018, with a mandate to ensure all Georgia-Pacific’s facilities had as little unplanned downtime as possible. It’s now home to roughly 150 engineers in specialties such as electrical, mechanical, chemical and process control, IT personnel and data scientists.
These employees, along with Georgia-Pacific facilities and subject matter experts, are part of a diverse team that is transforming how the company manages asset and process health. Combining people, data, artificial intelligence, process control and cloud technology, the CSC partners with facilities to proactively address maintenance issues and optimize long-running assets. It harnesses data from more than half a million sensors spread across Georgia-Pacific to make the machines “smart.”
“Instead of spending an estimated 80% of their time identifying the problems, our colleagues in facilities can spend that time proactively addressing the problems,” says Roshan Shah, vice president of CSC operations. “In partnership with our IT colleagues, we’re remotely processing north of four trillion records of data every day and validating them against AI collected from more than 100 facilities.”
Key patterns are pulled from the data using models designed by data scientists in collaboration with subject matter experts to generate prioritized lists of risks or tasks that enable on-site facility teams to fix or run assets differently, optimize manufacturing processes and improve safety — all from as far as 2,500 miles away.
“We’re able to predict what failures are coming so we can go in and prevent them,” says John Champion, director of operations excellence for Georgia-Pacific's OSB/CP business. “It’s a lot easier to make a plan well in advance and have time to set up your precision maintenance tools versus have a failure take you down at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night.”
Over more than 20 years as a vibration analyst at Georgia-Pacific facilities, Joe Sadler has accumulated a tremendous amount of practical knowledge. He can quickly assess when a machine vibration signal is a simple faulty bearing or something that could be more repair-intensive. Today, he’s partnering with data scientists and IT personnel at the CSC, helping build better algorithms.
“Part of my role is to explain what they’re seeing on the math side, so they know what’s actually happening mechanically in the field,” Joe says.
A daily list might include suggestions for how to optimize energy sources or fixing something as simple as a fraying conveyor belt. For example, the CSC team uses AI to stop maintenance issues before they happen at Georgia-Pacific’s cellulose plant in Brunswick, Georgia. The sensors monitor data points, including vibrations, looking for patterns to help predict when equipment may be close to failing. That way, at-risk equipment can be examined and replaced if needed.
Unsurprisingly, optimized, trouble-free facilities run more efficiently. The CSC team has analyzed data out of equipment that help power the manufacturing plants and partnered with facilities to optimize running conditions. These efforts achieved energy efficiencies that are getting noticed. For the third time, Koch has been named an ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year. The award, which recognizes companies that perform at a superior level of energy management, is the Environmental Protection Agency’s highest recognition.
One of the CSC’s greatest contributions is that its work isn’t localized. It is tackling the big problems that affect multiple sites across the company. That vision has led to the CSC helping save Georgia-Pacific more than $150 million since it began.
By reducing the need for things like daily visual checks and manual vibration recordings, this cross-functional effort also is empowering people to move towards more fulfilling work, a big part of Koch’s Principle Based Management™ philosophy, which focuses on creating value through mutual benefit and empowering employees to transform and thrive.
“At Koch, we are empowered and encouraged to discover our strengths,” Roshan says.
That’s a concept he’s more than familiar with. Roshan applied for a position on the decision analytics team at Georgia-Pacific in 2017 — from a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. After just a year with Georgia-Pacific, Roshan's supervisor encouraged him to take on the leadership role with the CSC. The CSC’s mix of technology, engineering and data science capitalizes on Roshan's strengths and passions. He feels fortunate to work for a company that’s willing to take a chance on a new idea and give employees like him the opportunity to realize their potential.
“Now we don't just build formulas. We are part of the team that builds, maintains and constantly improves the math. But more importantly, we are part of the team that owns the results – good and bad. So that's pretty cool,” Roshan says. “From a self-actualization standpoint, I couldn't ask for better. We're impacting productivity, environment, health and safety. This is a dream job.”