Refining Elkem's Follow-Up Processes with Advanced Data Analytics

Appsilon introduced the "elkemVerse" - a suite of specialized R packages that streamlined Elkem's data application development

About the Project

Elkem, a leading global manufacturer of silicon-based materials, uses Posit Connect to follow-up processes across multiple production sites. The company looked for an efficient way to refine its development pipeline and processes to increase efficiency leading to a more stable, scalable and person-independent system.

The client’s challenge of managing significant technical debt within their deeply integrated elkemRSC package posed ongoing stability concerns and necessitated better version control. 

The project transformed Elkem's complex R package into a set of discrete and specialized sub-packages – the elkemVerse, improving efficiency and simplifying development. Despite technical challenges and a need for backward compatibility during a database migration  the project achieved notable improvements in system efficiency and development process simplification.

Streamlining data application development, improving efficiency and simplifying processes. 

Project Summary: Implementing Innovative Solutions

Appsilon introduced the "elkemVerse" - a suite of specialized R packages that streamlined Elkem's data application development. This included restructuring their central R package into discrete, specialized sub-packages and integrating Appsilon’s Rhino structure for code quality improvement.

This led to optimized data application development, improved efficiency and simplified processeses, as well as safer and more sustainable code management for future development and updates establishing a solid baseline. The code is now more stable, and, most importantly, easily extendable. The core applications are safer with secured connections to the database and improved password management.

Meeting Elkem's Needs

The collaboration focused on overcoming security challenges, technical debt, and infrastructure complexities. Appsilon's approach involved tailoring solutions to Elkem's unique environment, enhancing their existing systems, and facilitating a smooth transition to more efficient workflows.

The client had a development pipeline, process and infrastructure in place, which served several applications for their nine production sites across the globe, which accumulated substantial technical debt over time. Elkem recognized that while their initial in-house solutions were effective, there was room for improvement. This led to a strategic decision to future-proof their approach ensuring the adoption of best practices internally.

Elkem’s Posit Connect server was serving 9 facilities, 22 smelters and around 200 users. It was high time for a significant and strategic overhaul. This was essential to not only modernize their systems but also to meet the evolving needs of their expanding user base and to ensure continued efficiency and innovation in their operations.

Over the course of 2023, Appsilon’s Team was able to achieve several improvements on many fronts for Elkem’s process by fostering a culture of best practices for software development as well as Agile, clearing a significant amount of technical debt, improving existing templates and pipelines, clearing up the infrastructure backlog, and building a framework and family of packages called “elkemVerse”.

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elkemVerse

Appsilon restructured Elkem's feature-rich but complex, singular R package called elkemRSC into discrete, specialized sub-packages, giving rise to the elkemVerse. This improved the code structure, separated nested logic into manageable modules, introduced testing for essential functions of the applications, and removed significant vulnerabilities.

Appsilon also simplified the ever-growing and changing database architecture at Elkem into a unified package with an easy-to-use API, allowing the client’s developers to focus more on creating applications and less on technical complexities such as breaking changes, increasing productivity in the process.

Figure 1. A look into the elkemVerse

Results and Impact

Appsilon enhanced Elkem’s operations by optimizing the client’s teams’ ability to create app templates that developers can quickly adapt for working on rapid prototyping without worrying about the setup details, CI/CD, or the basic structure of the app, thus enabling them to focus on the main functionality.

Comprehensive framework for enterprise-level R/Shiny application development.

Rapid development and implementation of solutions.

Enhanced package maintenance and full test coverage.

Significant improvements in development efficiency and stability.

“We experience the Appsilon developers to be highly competent. They have been very good at understanding our core problems and finding solutions that increase the quality and robustness of our functions and applications step by step.

Appsilon's control, understanding and continuous improvement of our Posit infrastructure leaves us free to focus on domain. As a result we're able to  raise quality of code and business logic simultaneously.”

Andrea Nicolaysen Carlsson — Technology Manager Electrodes at Elkem ASA

As strategic partners, we delivered:

Key tech stacks: R/Shiny, Rhino, Plumber API, DBI, Aveva Insight, Azure DevOps, Posit Connect, and SQL Server Management Studio, Microsoft Teams.

9

9 specialized R packages including elkemApp, elkemAPI, and elkemDashboard.

4

Conversion of 4 applications to Rhino: chargeCollapse, ProcessMap, SOLA, and standardApp.

3

3 Azure DevOps Pipeline Templates for APIs, R packages, and applications.

10

10 hex stickers for R package branding.

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Damian Rodziewicz
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