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Online operation

World Cement,


The internet is booming and plays an indispensable role in global business operations. The manufacturing industry is based on an old, traditional model; however, increasing use of online technology provides plants with an opportunity for further development. To achieve better market performance and development, manufacturing businesses rely on offering their products at competitive prices to target customers. By developing a third-party trading platform via the internet, service providers can manage resources and deliver products to meet customer demands, while enhancing and simplifying the transaction process. For this reason, combining the management of various processes in a cement plant in an online system could benefit the industry as a whole.

Building an electronic procurement platform

In the manufacturing industry, the cost-control process is one of the key aspects of a business management strategy. Procurement generally constitutes the majority of the total production cost, while the practice of reducing purchasing expenses impacts a company’s profit margin. The operational phase in a cement plant involves the purchase of raw materials, equipment spare parts, and other necessary resources. Control of the purchase of supplies through an ERP system can transform the purchasing model to the form of electronic procurement, which is operated through the internet. As the internet is a universal platform for information exchange, a cement plant is able to publish tender enquiries that can reach suppliers internationally. This broadens the procurement process, resulting in fair and open competition between suppliers, while increasing the possibility of acquiring the most suitable and cost effective resources for the plant.

The CNBM UCC plant.

Cloud management and stock optimisation

A cement plant prepares adequate raw materials and develops systems to reserve stock to improve the sustainability of production lines, while maintaining production capacity. Though storing a certain level of stock is in compliance with management strategies, an abundance of stock can result from the inflexibility of a store system design (based on one plant).

Cloud computing technology, which uses a network of remote servers to store, manage, and process data, in plant management systems could become a possible solution to achieve online “cloud management” for manufacturers with full regional coverage. This management system could be shared and accessed by plants in the same region to reduce a single unit’s spending on heavy-equipment and stocks of raw materials, while overseeing the risks of maintenance shutdown.

Creating brands and internet-distribution platforms

The e-commerce boom has resulted in multiple marketing channels, giving cement manufacturers a new trading platform to increase sales volumes, study marketing trends, collect customer feedback and improve their initial production plans. Online marketing offers huge benefits to the cement industry in terms of personalising different brands for network expansion, and provides alternatives for pricing management and regional production planning. This has the potential to bring customers into the realm of “big data”, allowing companies to analyse markets and customer behaviour, while optimising output quality and production efficiency.

Information technology on operational management

From an operational perspective, cement plants possess superior information technology infrastructure, especially those that have implemented ERP software and automated control systems, and reached a higher level of process-oriented management and computerised production. The connection of operational issues, valuable knowledge obtained through the interior IT management system and expert internet diagnostics results in the development of a new system that can obtain more broad and detailed reference data within the cement industry.

Simulation of plant optimisation.

Cement plant optimisation: big data

To reevaluate a plant’s production efficiency, energy savings, emissions reduction, equipment utilisation, technique application and other factors affecting operations, manufacturers choose to optimise their original models for design and production. The traditional method for model optimisation begins with research from an industry association or administration department, merged with collected market feedback. The plant would subsequently develop a draft project for the upgrade requirements in terms of business development and management. In addition, consulting companies would also take part in the process to provide the best possible solution for reevaluating the plant design. However, there are disadvantages to this method, namely that there is no way to accurately assess the performance of each carefully drafted and planned solution for the future optimised plant at the development stage.

In the age of big data, new technology and innovation provides a number of options to minimise such uncertainties – for example, by entering plant data into a specially designed system (run through the internet) and benchmarking energy consumption, maintenance expenses, production cost efficiency, emissions index, and other external criteria against identical sized plants located in similar regions and at similar altitudes. This online method has the potential to obtain data that accurately documents the current plant performance, technique involvement, potential improvement, well-maintained equipment, and the parts that need replacing or optimising. The acquisition of the above data through an open internet platform, with a particular focus on the cement industry, plays a vital role in drafting a remodelling project and identifying the best solution. Using this system, a manufacturer could obtain an online simulation of the cement production line, output capacity and design visualisation ahead of the reconstruction. This helps the company to estimate the plant’s future performance in regional markets, assess the impacts of remodelling and control the process of the plant optimisation.


The online operation of a cement plant can reduce management costs, enhance innovation and promote a competitive market. However, this will require the entire industry, including the administrative members of the cement business, to possess prospective vision for the market. In addition to long-term investment in IT infrastructure, the transformation to online cement plant management impacts the entire supply chain; however, once implemented, this universal system could benefit the industry as a whole.

Written by Zhang Jing, CNBM International Engineering Co., Ltd, China. This is an abridged version of the full article, which appeared in the December 2014 issue of World Cement. Subscribers can view the full article by logging in.

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