Photo: Aker BioMarine

People at the center of digitization

Analogous, repetitive tasks stole time from Aker BioMarine employees and slowed down their production of krill oil. Automation of processes and a comprehensive data platform in the cloud became the solution that both freed up time and enabled a more environmentally friendly production.

Aker BioMarine is a Norwegian fish and biotechnology company that develops and sells krill-based ingredients for dietary supplements. Krill, which is unknown to many, is an important source of omega-3, fat and protein, which has a major health benefit. The capture and production of krill, on the other hand, is a more complicated process. Before Jane Doe can buy omega-3 capsules in the store, the krill will be picked up from the sea in Antarctica, refined in the production factory in the USA, and distributed to the global market. In other words, the process requires good control and an overview of the value chain, something the employees at Aker BioMarine have struggled with until now.

– Analogous processes and little available data have meant that employees have spent a lot of time maintaining operations, instead of having the freedom to be creative and look for more effective solutions. With regard to digitisation initiatives, we never aim to create increased value directly, but to make it easier for employees to make better decisions, says Ole Thoresen, director of digitalisation at Aker BioMarine.

To assist Aker BioMarine in providing the necessary overview to employees and freeing up their time, Computas was invited in.

– Our main task was to simplify and make the operating data of Aker BioMarine available. This in itself is a challenging task, as it does not just have to be gathered and structured. It should also be understandable and applicable to their employees, says Angeliqa Axelsson, who has worked as a consultant from Computas at Aker BioMarine since the start of the project. She also adds:

– When this is done, the data goes from being almost inaccessible to the employees, to giving them added value in their working day and for their work tasks. Such projects are very rewarding to work with.

Streamlines data via space

As the most important parts of the value chain for the development of krill-based ingredients are the boats that catch the krill and the factory that refines it, it was natural for Computas and Aker BioMarine to start there.

– In December 2018, the collaboration started by collecting and structuring data from sensors that were placed on the krill vessels. In practice, the vessels function as production facilities with fishing nets on each side. We extracted all kinds of information, such as location, cargo and machine data, to how much fuel is left in the tank, says Axelsson’s colleague and architect in the Computas team, Anders Elton.

He set up a cloud-based data warehouse so that all information could be gathered in one place. Since it was data taken from the Arctic Circle, the information was streamlined 36,000 meters above sea level, via a satellite, and directly to the cloud and the digital platform only five seconds later.

– Real-time information about operation and catch is essential for the captain and the rest of the crew on board the boat. Not only while out at sea, but also before leaving the dock. If you combine this with historical data we also store, they can now more precisely calculate where the krill are before they arrive at the catchment area. Not only does this make fishing more efficient, it is also good for the environment not to drive further than you have to, says Ole Thoresen, who emphasizes that krill fishing is strictly regulated and that Aker BioMarine’s boats also actively contribute to research on the penguin population and the general ecosystem of Antarctica.

Facilitates human growth

It took only a few months after the project with the boats was started before Aker BioMarine ordered a new assignment from Computas. The Houston plant could also benefit from clearer operational data. This is where the krill finally arrive and the krill is refined into, among other things, omega3 oil.

– We quickly saw the value of the work on the boats and the benefits of using it in the factory in Houston as well. The work here had for a long time consisted of analogue and repetitive tasks where employees had to physically go to each meter and read on a screen. In addition to being cumbersome, collecting historical data was complicated. In production environments, historical data is just as important as real-time data, says the director of digitization at Aker BioMarine.

In other words, there was great potential for freeing up valuable time for the employees. The factory underwent a similar digital transformation as the krill vessels. Information from critical points was streamlined to the cloud and data platform, where Computas had set up a dashboard that made all the data accessible and easy to understand for everyone from the production managers and factory management to the maintenance staff and finance department.

– Now that all production data is automatically collected in one place, you only spend a few seconds to get the same overview that you previously spent several hours on. Employees in the factory thus get a better basis for decision-making and can make decisions faster, while at the same time freeing up a lot of time to focus on optimizing production. This type of human-oriented digitization is the real added value of such a project, says Thoresen.

Easy choice

It was no coincidence that Computas assisted in these projects, and it was important to find a supplier with the right expertise and relevant certifications.

– We were familiar with Computas from before via the work they have done for Aker Solutions. Their knowledge and skills around our challenges, combined with the Google Cloud expertise, made the choice easy, says Thoresen.

He also emphasizes how important it was for Computas to become «part of» Aker BioMarine.

– One of the most important things in this type of complex project is to get the consultants to work as a team, and understand our attitudes and values. Simply become part of Aker BioMarine. Computas has succeeded in this, both in terms of the project in isolation, and the company as a whole, the director of digitization concludes.

Technologies we used

  • Google Cloud
  • Google Cloud Storage
  • Google BigQuery
  • Google Data Lab
  • Cloud Composer
  • Cognite Data Fusion

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