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Yara's digitalisation is improving fertiliser quality

Raw material mixer and operator of wheel loader sits in wheelhouse displaying the tablet for use in mixing raw material

Super-satisfied: “I would never go back to how it was before,” says super-satisfied Rune Skagsoset, nicknamed "kalikjører" (potassium driver), with the tablet he now uses to control the right quality of raw materials for Yara Porsgrunn’s fertiliser factories at Herøya.

In the course of just a few months, a tablet in the wheel loader has eliminated incorrect deliveries of raw materials for fertiliser production, while “potassium driver” Rune Skagsoset and his colleagues at Yara Porsgrunn have achieved a new and better working day.

Since Rune Skagsoset and the rest of the team started using tablets in their wheel loaders, the raw materials team has been able to positively influence both the fertiliser quality and their own working day. Now, they use a specially adapted dashboard to control the delivery of one million tonnes of raw materials in the right quality to Yara Porsgrunn’s three turnkey fertiliser factories.

Eliminating errors

The statistics clearly show that, within just a few months, incorrect deliveries of raw materials have been eliminated. 

“I don't think there have been any incorrect loads or misunderstandings since we implemented the tablet solution in April,” Rune explains. "And when there are no incorrect deliveries, the fertiliser quality improves. Previously, we spent a lot of time finding out why errors occurred. Now, I can quickly spot quality errors, make adjustments and spend less time on troubleshooting. The raw material we use is expensive and is shipped a long way by sea to Herøya, so it also makes good financial sense that we can use the right raw materials in fertiliser production every time."  

Rune's Norwegian nickname “kalikjører” (potassium driver) is inspired by the raw material used for fertiliser, which mainly consists of different types of potassium salts.

Digital pilots are the pioneers

Rune and the rest of the raw materials team worked closely with IT and automation collegues at Yara to adapt the information displayed on the dashboard to ensure efficient and error-free transfer of raw materials from ship to turnkey fertiliser factory.

four men on a wheel loader

Digital pilots: Operators on raw materials are together with the IT and automation team in Yara Porsgrunn digital pilots, first out on the track to use tablets adapted to raw materials in fertilizer production. From left, Dag Pettersen (process data), Rune Skagsoset, (operator) and Håkon Wærstad (technical manager) at the back, and Jan Bjørtuft (project manager/automation) at the front.

The IT and automation team are the supplier. “When Rune says jump, we jump and execute,” says “IT developer” Dag Pettersen, with a twinkle in his eye. "We use a PIM (Process Information Management) system, but this is the first time we've built up screens via dashboards, so there have been a few small challenges. The screens are now working very well, and it's really easy to add additional functions and change interfaces. The system has buttons, graphs and value displays added as a complete package to the PIM system delivered by Porsgrunn firm Bazefield. "It's really easy to adapt just by pressing buttons and values on the screen," explains Pettersen.

New work routines

Rune Skagsoset also uses his tablet to manage his own working day in the wheel loader.

operator pointing at tablet screen

"It gives me an overview, and I also get real-time information directly from the production system, and can see where and which raw materials I need to load. I can quite simply plan my day better. Also my lunch break," Rune laughs. “Planning and communication are the most important benefits.”

Dependent

“You soon start to depend on the tablet in the wheel loader,” says Rune. "I couldn't imagine going back to how it used to be, that was much too cumbersome. Another benefit with the new system is that if the tablet isn't working, we can log in by mobile phone." 

four men concrete factory buildings background

Great IT team: "I think they've been really smart, Jan, Dag and Håkon in the IT department. We've communicated really well. They listened to us, the drivers, so it worked very well. The other five raw materials operators are also very pleased," says Rune.

Producing fertiliser is a bit like baking a cake

Rune's job is to supply raw materials to the mineral fertiliser factories.

“Producing fertiliser is a bit like baking a cake,” says Rune. He explains that the main raw material for fertiliser is many different salts, including potassium chloride, potassium sulphate and kieserite, as well as several additives, such as borax, ferrous sulphate, sodium sulphate, MgO and dolomite.  

"We source raw materials from mounds delivered in bulk, and dose to ensure sufficient volumes in production. Everything needs to be planned carefully. Sometimes we need to mix several substances together, as the factories have different needs."

Raw material recipes

"The right mix of raw materials is your responsibility?"

"Yes. I get a recipe from the factory stipulating the required volume in tonnes, or the number of buckets. We mix the right raw materials for the right fertiliser quality."

"It’s important to be careful to dose the right type of raw materials when you work for a company that produces the world’s best fertiliser qualities and delivers the widest range of fertiliser qualities from Porsgrunn." 

wheel loader in industrial setting

The "Church": Here, Rune is driving a wheel loader between Yara’s turnkey fertiliser factory 4 and the raw materials depot called “Kjerka” (the Church) (building to the right with the pointed roof). Raw materials in loose weight are unloaded from the ship and transported by conveyor belt into the Church. Here, Rune mixes different types of raw materials, according to the recipe, and transfers them by the bucketful into the fertiliser plant.

1 million tonnes of salts 

“Our consumption is around one million tonnes of salts,” says Rune. "This means quite a few hours, maybe 2,000, spent in the wheel loader in the course of a year."

More tablets

The plan is for more teams to use tablets with customised dashboards in the fertiliser production at Yara Porsgrunn. 

“This solution is good for users who handle large volumes,” says Håkon Wærstad, technical manager. He explains that they are planning equivalent systems in two loaders.

two persons sitting on top of wheel loader

From the left, “kalikjører” Rune Skagsoset and Håkon Wærstad, technical manager, Yara Porsgrunn.

Investment savings

"What is the cost benefit of implementing dashboard systems?"

“We haven't calculated this in fine detail, but I'm confident that eliminating delivery errors, and enabling Rune and his colleagues to have a better working day that they can plan themselves, will cover the investment,” says Wærstad.

"The initial investment was around half a million kroner," he says.

Enabling more, and affordable solutions

At the outset, Wærstad and the IT team at Yara first considered using WiFi, and then 5G, but the solution now used is 4G. 

"4G opens up more solutions. And doesn't cost half a million. There is also the cost of a tablet, approx. NOK 6-7,000, and configuration and equipment for installation in a vehicle or loader. I think NOK 50,000 would cover this," says Wærstad.

Three men in working clothes and white helmets in a streeet in the industrial park

Test team Herøya: Yara Porsgrunn's test team will carry out a large number of tests on the use of 5G networks for logistics and loading operations in Herøya Industrial Park over the next couple of years. Left: Håkon Wærstad, Technical Manager, Arve Haavik, IT Security Expert and Stig Myrland, Head of Process Data, Yara. Photo: Ole Bjørn Ulsnæs

Wærstad and the IT team at Porsgrunn are also involved in the EU’s “5G Solutions” flagship project, in which Yara will use Telenor’s 5G network to undertake a number of tests of equipment in logistics operations at Herøya.

Spin-off

"This project is not part of the EU project, but a spin-off from this strategy. It’s obvious that when we get 5G, the speed will be completely different. Then we can run video if we want to, and have cameras integrated into the system."

“Which is good!” says Rune enthusiastically. "There are some cameras that we would like to have up over time.

See also:

Digital Productiona separate unit at Yara, is working to accelerate the digitalisation of the entire production system. Using digital solutions will help achieve the vision of supplying food to more people in a sustainable way all over the world, Yara writes on the website.

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