AI-based operator assistance system wins European Paper Recycling Award 2023

press release /

Increasing sustainability in the paper recycling cycle and counteracting the shortage of skilled workers: In the BMWK joint project "KIBAPap", the Fraunhofer IVV and its project partners are developing a self-learning assistance system for machine operators that makes a significant contribution to reducing resource requirements in the highly complex process of paper production from waste paper. In addition, it enables the sustainable safeguarding of experience in the company and thus offers an answer to the challenges of the shortage of skilled workers. On February 19, 2024, the "KIBAPap" research project was presented with the European Paper Recycling Award 2023 for innovative technologies and R&D in Brussels.

Winner of the European Paper Recycling Award 2023
© Thibault Belvaux
Award ceremony of the European Paper Recycling Awards on February 9, 2024 in the European Parliament Brussels.
AI-based assistance system for paper machine operators - joint project KIBAPap
© LEIPA Group GmbH I Fraunhofer IVV
AI-based assistance system for paper machine operators - joint project KIBAPap

With this award, the European Paper Recycling Council (EPRC) recognizes forward-looking projects that contribute to achieving the ambitious goal of the European Declaration on Paper Recycling. This aims to achieve a waste paper recycling rate of 76% by 2030.

At the award ceremony, Andrea Orallo, Chairman of the EPRC (European Paper Recycling Council), emphasized the importance of the research results for achieving the goals of the European Declaration on Paper Recycling:

“These projects are trying to push the boundaries of what we know is possible in recycling, both from a technological standpoint and from the point of view of the wider socio-economic systems in which recycling actors operate.”

Strengthening the sustainability of the circular economy for paper

However, the paper production process is still resource intensive. The fluctuating quality of waste paper in particular has a significant impact on resource consumption. The aim of the project is therefore to significantly reduce water and energy consumption by proactively adapting production parameters to the actual quality of the raw material and digitalizing the recycling cycle. For the project partner Leipa, for example, the process experts assume a reduction in energy requirements of up to 5%, which would correspond to around 108,000 MWh of energy for an annual production volume of around 1 million tons.

Optimization of paper production by data networking

The novelty of the technology solution is the cross-company networking and use of process data from the individual stages of the value chain, which has never existed in this form before. This makes it possible to holistically record the impact chains of the paper production value-added cycle, describe them across processes and derive targeted optimization approaches from them.

Needs-based support for machine operators in day-to-day production

The data from the various production systems (e.g. process control system or machine control) converge in the operator assistance system, where they are bundled and presented in a task-oriented manner. At the same time, the system enables digital storage of "production knowledge".

Trained on "historical" data, the system recognizes whether the machine operator needs to intervene in the current situation and generates suitable solutions for the situation from which the operator can choose. This enables the operator to build up experience and a deeper understanding of the process, react more quickly and in a more targeted manner to malfunctions and rectify them sustainably.

For the company, this means that the knowledge gained through the assistance system is shared within the workforce and is retained within the company even when employees leave.

Project partners

Consultingtalents AG, LEIPA Group GmbH, Hochschule München, ITA der RWTH Aachen, Lehrstuhl für International Production Engineering and Management, Institut für Produktionstechnik der Universität Siegen, PROPAKMA GmbH, Veolia Umweltservice GmbH.


Dr. Lukas Oehm
Group Leader Digitalization and Assistance
Fraunhofer IVV, Dresden

Phone +49 351 43614-50

Last modified: