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How do we thrive in this digital age?


We need to be a step ahead!

Fernando Carroquino, Industrial Director at SAICA Paper, outlines his views and vision in discussion with Frank Opletal, Chief Technology Officer, Voith Paper.

Frank Opletal, Chief Technology Officer, Voith Paper and Fernando Carroquino, Industrial Director at SAICA Paper

Frank Opletal: Industry 4.0, Internet of Things, Big Data – they are all hyped as part of digital transformation. What does digitization mean to you?

Fernando Carroquino: We hear these buzzwords a lot. For me, digitization is not about complicating things, but about simplifying them and supporting lean management. It will help us disregard irrelevant data, so we can focus on what really matters.

So digital tools will help us make better decisions based on human intellect?

Exactly. We need computers to deal with small, everyday problems. But we need people to work on improvements. Digitization is not a means to replace people. It is a tool to empower them.

Viewed this way, digitization is a great benefit, for people and companies. Where do you see the challenges?

In predictive analysis. Now, quality control is at the end of the production line. This is too late, and it is not the way forward. Before you take a sample from the parent roll, you should already know the paper quality. We need to be always a step ahead.

Imagine a cockpit with the relevant maximum and minimum parameters for a smoother production. This cockpit will also flag up an imminent paper break – and will also tell you what to correct immediately to prevent it. This is totally different from swimming in thousands of parameters of data.

How do you inspire people to open their minds to new ways?

My team inspires me. They are always looking at ways to make improvements.


SAICA was founded in 1943 in  Zaragoza, Spain. Its Paper Division operates four mills in Spain, France and UK, with seven paper machines.

2.4m tons

Today, the company is a leader in manufacturing corrugated paper products, with an annual production capacity of 2.4 million tons.


I totally agree. A just-intime predictive model is essential in helping to improve runability. Turning to services and maintenance: what do you expect in this area?

At the moment, preventive maintenance is based only on historical knowledge. Better data and systems will tell us that there are variables that will result in cost savings. In the future, I see us implementing remote preventive maintenance, with access and communication between all sites from one location. Of course, we share information now, but it is not immediate, or simple. Managers need to be able to copy and implement efficiency measures instantly. Standardization of processes is an important part of digitization.

Won’t this require a new way of working?

Absolutely. The concept of “my knowledge is my treasure” belongs in the past. Now, we are talking about putting our knowledge into a cloud and sharing all the information internally between our production lines. For this, you need to have a very open mind. If we put all our knowledge into the cloud, however, security will be a key issue.

At Voith, we fully recognize that data access has to be safeguarded to the highest level. That is the technology side. But how do you inspire people to be open to this?

Actually, my team inspires me. They are always looking at ways to make improvements. It is our company philosophy to value our people, to trust the people to do the work they are qualified to do. At home, these same people are using technology every day. They are a step ahead. Give them the tools to try things out. At SAICA, we don’t micromanage. We have always understood the importance of handing over responsibility, and that failure is essential for progress. Error is part of progress – we do not punish it.

That is a great culture, and one that resonates with our approach, too. Finally, what would you see as a game-changing technological breakthrough?

This is maybe a dream, but I would like an exact virtual replica of SAICA machines for trial purposes. Imagine if Voith could supply us with the data for a particular felt, we could input this into our virtual machine, and monitor what happens. Reducing risks, saving costs, increasing speed. It is a dream.