Valve management service provides production reliability for maintenance shutdowns at Outokumpu’s steel plant
CHAPTER ONE Decades of cooperation
Cooperation between the Tornio steel plant and Neles began in 1996 under the first service model. “Neles is an important partner for us,” says Aleksi Korteniemi. Over the last three years, the cooperation has deepened through the valve maintenance and management service Neles provides for the Outokumpu plant. The comprehensive service is the first of its kind for Neles as a provider. “This valve management service is a prime example of smooth and effective cooperation,” says Raimo Rovanen, Electrical Supervisor at Outokumpu.
Focusing on environmental responsibility
Sustainability is an extremely important factor for Outokumpu. The company aims to be a leader in sustainable development in its field. “We are paying attention to the environment in all our day-to-day work,” says Korteniemi.
“Our steel plant is a compact unit. We have a mine and a ferrochrome plant nearby, and we can save energy during several process phases. For example, we’ve reduced carbon dioxide emissions by switching to natural gas, and recycled steel account for around 80% of the raw materials we use to make steel,” Korteniemi explains.
CHAPTER TWO Valve maintenance as a turnkey service
At the steel plant, regular shutdowns in particular require a large amount of resources, so their optimal use and allocation are important. Outokumpu selected Neles as the supplier when it set out to further develop its valve maintenance. “We were looking for a turnkey valve maintenance service,” Rovanen says. From this starting point, Outokumpu and Neles began to build a model that made it possible to:
- Reduce the valve inventory value
- Harmonize an extensive product selection
- Reduce capital tied up in valves and their spare parts
“Our initial goal was to reduce the capital tied up in valves and spare parts. We were also seeking harmonization between various valve suppliers, and Neles had an available solution. In addition, we wanted to standardize complex products. We trusted Neles’ expertise in these,” Korteniemi explains.
See the video from the steel plant
CHAPTER THREE Annual shutdowns precisely on schedule – Anticipation is key
In the valve management service, all work is carried out safely and cost effectively, in a controlled manner according to plan. All completed work is reported. This comprehensive service is based on Neles’ strong expertise and experience.
The service includes a cost estimate for the shutdown and a personnel resource estimate for the valves. Neles’ experts review all the valves and plan the work at the plant in advance, two months before the beginning of the shutdown. “We reviewed the valve positions together, checked the valve plates or cards, and prepared a lifting plan. In other words, all the key preparations, as well as a plan for the order in which the valves were to be dismantled, were made well in advance,” says Rovanen. Shutdown planning also takes into account updating the equipment, which makes it possible to determine the time and extent of future maintenance needs more precisely.
All proactive work reduces the amount of work needed during the shutdown, and careful planning enables the work to be carried out safely and efficiently during normal working hours. This also makes it possible to acquire the spare parts in good time. In addition, the exact number of employees needed for the shutdown can be determined. “We did as much as possible in advance,” Rovanen explains.
Neles plays an important role in ensuring successful annual shutdowns. “We’ve stayed on schedule, and the work has been done successfully and safely,” says Rovanen.
Comprehensive logistics optimization and management
The actual maintenance work is carried out at Neles’ Kemi location, and the work also covers third-party products. Any replacement products are offered in accordance with the agreed standard, using either third-party or Neles products. After the shutdown, Neles produces a maintenance report, which Outokumpu enters directly into its own systems.
“The logistics service is extremely important. The valves are provided through Neles’ Kemi warehouse at exactly the right time. This makes our work easier,” Rovanen points out. “We don’t have any extra space at our plant. Complete valves that are brought to the plant are installed immediately. The current shutdown management model is a significant improvement on the previous model,” Rovanen says.
CHAPTER FOUR Production reliability through the valve management service
The valve management service ensures that the right valves are serviced at the right time. This also ensures that the plant has the right valves for the right places, as well as cost control. “The Neles service model has made our work easier. The mutual exchange of information has also improved,” Rovanen says.
“I have only positive things to say about the valve management service. A large number of valves were reviewed during the shutdown, and practically no input was needed from me. The shutdown ran smoothly in the background, and there was no negative feedback. Everyone praised each other. This service saves a lot of working time,” Rovanen explains. “Above all, the maintenance and management service provided by Neles has improved predictability. When things are done proactively and systematically, costs can be kept in check, and cost savings can be achieved,” says Korteniemi.
Although inventory values have decreased, response times have improved. The service level has remained unchanged, even improved. “We cooperate closely. Neles knows our maintenance staff, which enables us to further develop our cooperation.”
Valve life cycles are monitored digitally through equipment diagnostics
Using Neles’ digital positioners, data about valves can be collected, and their need for maintenance can be scheduled. “The overall life-cycle management of valves is important, as is eliminating any unnecessary maintenance,” Rovanen points out.
“We’ve used equipment diagnostics to check maintenance needs in some cases. If a critical valve has not yet presented problems in the customer’s process but its point-to-point measurement results have shown emerging challenges, the valve has been added to the maintenance list. This enables us to optimize maintenance and prevent unnecessary maintenance,” says Aki Pränni, Service Engineer at Neles in Kemi. The goal is the maximal use of the valve package (valve, actuator and controller) in a cost-effective manner. “In these applications, the valve maintenance interval is around four years, meaning that we need to critically interpret the data produced by the Neles™ ND9000 valve controllers. We want to avoid unnecessary shutdowns and keep plant availability as high as possible for Outokumpu,” says Pränni.
CHAPTER FIVE Continuous improvement of cooperation
Outokumpu is pleased with the service provided by Neles. “The service is highly professional and, above all, close by. Our production employees can contact Neles at any time, and we can solve any problems together,” Rovanen says. “Our cooperation runs smoothly, and we trust each other, and Neles’ expertise and short response times,” says Korteniemi.
“There’s no denying that this is easy,” says Rovanen. “If necessary, I can visit Neles to see a valve under maintenance. Thanks to the service, the valve is back at the plant in six hours.” All the spare parts and the necessary tools and equipment are available at Neles’ warehouse.
“Neles has good, reliable products and services close by. All of them have been integrated into a consistent and functional package. We also highly appreciate our joint development work and Neles’ short response times,” says Korteniemi.
Thanks to the close cooperation, mutual learning and trust have continued to grow. Neles is looking for growth opportunities, and Outokumpu is seeking more cost-effective ways of working for its plants.