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Data platform enables information-based development

Insta provided Loimua, which is a supplier of comprehensive energy solutions, with a Microsoft Azure based data platform. It enables you to flexibly combine data that is generated by various systems, such as time series data from automation systems. The platform is powered by a data repository modeled by Insta that enables adding different types of data sources, as needed. This results in a holistic solution that is wholly owned by the customer. The solution enables the customer to manage their data streams themselves as well as to further develop the platform according to the needs of reporting, analytics, or other areas.

Loimua provides energy solutions in various geographical regions in Finland. The company is the second-largest private vendor of district heating, and it is an industry pioneer that invests in carbon neutral heat production and energy efficiency in its own operations. Insta developed a scalable data platform for Loimua. The solution is based on Microsoft Azure services and tailored for the customer’s needs. The platform was designed to meet the challenges posed by the energy sector’s changed operating environment and diversified range of services.

The energy sector faces various environmental requirements, regulations, and demands of efficiency, eco-friendliness, and sustainability, which are increasingly driving the sector’s operations from the one-way transmission of energy toward a networked energy recycling system. Energy production utilizes waste heat from industry in various ways that keep developing.

– Our role has moved away from the one-way provision of district heating and now, in a way, we contribute to maintaining the energy recycling system. The big picture involves many different actors with different needs. From the perspective of controlling the district heating network, the role is drastically different from what it used to be. For Loimua, this was one driver for starting the data platform project. With the data platform, we are able to put all of the information from various sources in one place and control the overall system however we want, says Loimua’s Technical Director Juha Puolakka.

– Like other energy companies, Loimua’s service range has grown. In addition to property-specific solutions, it now includes various monitoring services. Loimua’s central control room also enables monitoring and operating other organizations’ facilities. These kinds of services set quite high requirements for real-time data transfer, data processing, and reporting, and the data platform helps us clarify the big picture, explain Juha Puolakka and Loimua’s Head of Information Technology Kimmo Keronen.

The customer can control the platform’s data streams

Industrial data platforms are increasingly important in business development. Intelligent platforms collect raw data, store and analyze it in the cloud, and adapt it to support decision-making, visualization, and reporting. Data enables boosting efficiency, automating functions, and conducting smarter maintenance operations. Not only does data enable making timely, informed decisions, it also directs the user’s attention to anomalies, thereby enabling a faster response to them.

Insta delivered to Loimua a data platform that comprises a management interface, a functionality that provides central control room operators with an up-to-date situational picture, and a Power BI-based dashboard, from where end users can see production report information, among other things. The control room operator can see an overview of the situational picture, which combines data from various sources and updates at a delay of approximately five seconds, or they can examine historical data at a granularity of up to one second.

The platform provides a way to flexibly collect time series data from automation systems and for a specified period, and the customer can define the ways of using this data. The data can be imported into the operator’s view, stored for historical data analysis with the aim of building advanced analytics models, for instance, or taken to the data repository. OPC UA-based data can be combined with MES and ERP-type data in order to establish a data-based management overview, which allows for creating various dashboards and reports by utilizing Power BI.

A platform implemented by Insta but owned by Loimua

Mr. Keronen explains that the platform’s architecture and technology choices were carefully thought out so that they would be as future-proof as possible. The implementation stage involved building the actual Azure platform, commissioning the components and technologies, and carrying out other basic tasks focusing on the platform. By integrating the platform with Loimua’s production control systems and other relevant systems, it was possible to establish a situational picture for the central control room and other local actors.

– We first made a strategic plan for the development and a long-term vision of what we want to achieve. After working on the roadmap with Insta, we started to prepare for the actual implementation focusing on the production systems and situational picture display in fall 2021, Mr. Keronen adds.

Kimmo Keronen says that the goals for the first phase have now been reached and the development will proceed with the second phase that concentrates on the data repository and reporting side as well as the integration of the data with the data platform. The third phase is tentatively scheduled to begin in the summer of next year. Discussions and planning concerning other business needs will take place while the project is ongoing.

Loimua owns the data platform, and the company is entitled to develop the system further with any partner that it wants.

– Loimua specifically having the ownership of the data platform was one of the leading ideas. We wanted to build a platform that we can control, maintain, and manage ourselves as well as to be able to include competent partners to implement various functionalities at different stages, Juha Puolakka says.

– The plan is to explore the data platform’s more intelligent tools that support business operations more extensively. Combining various types of data would enable optimizing efficiency in many areas related to the network and production and perhaps to find new solutions in domains such as maintenance or condition monitoring that would provide tangible benefits, e.g., through better efficiency, Mr. Keronen envisions.

Smooth and agile collaboration

This is not the first time that Loimua and Insta closely worked together on automation solutions. For Kimmo Keronen, this is a major advantage in terms of the current project.

– Especially in the first phase of the data platform project, the work was related to the remote monitoring and automation systems that Insta had supplied earlier. We have had to look into many things, and it is an immense advantage that Insta’s individual units are able to communicate and share information, Mr. Keronen sums up.

Mr. Keronen and Mr. Puolakka say that Insta was easy to work with.

– We feel that the collaboration was done in good spirit. Everything was taken care of as agreed upon, and the needed changes were quickly addressed. Insta has extensive expertise in this field and the project has competent people working on it. Similarly, the project model that we used for the data platform was informative and agile, they add.

Further information

Pekka Savolainen

Harri Vuolle