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Supply chain excellence in India – Part 2

World Cement,

Read ‘Supply chain excellence in India – Part 1’ here.


Plants in India have scope for improvement in traffic flow within their premises – this is very important to improve vehicle productivity. These efforts also focus on eliminating reversing and other hazards, thereby substantially improving safety.

Ambuja Cements is constantly evaluating its footprint by reconsidering site design. Both people and vehicles move through the plants; when operations are expanded Ambuja will arrange the site layout so that, where feasible, vehicles are not required to reverse. These evaluations also aim to augment capacity, which is a key factor to success.

Manual handling of cement bags with hooks is another matter of concern in the Indian cement industry. Manual handling has two disadvantages. On the one hand there is a delay as manual handling takes time and on the other hand, the use of hooks results in holes in the cement bags. A huge amount of cement leaks out of each of the bags during transportation.

Vehicle productivity in India is the lowest in the world as a lot of time is lost in loading and unloading, compared to developed countries where vehicle productivity is much higher. However, ACL is working towards reducing all vehicular delays.

India has the largest rail network in the world and caters to various industries. Around 10 000 trains run commercially on a daily basis. Therefore, opting for rail transportation offers some advantages to cement manufacturers. However, there are a number of problems that need to be addressed. For example, improving the mechanisation of loading operations would help to improve the turnaround time of trains and increase the efficiency of rail transportation as a means of moving cement.

Ambuja’s Rabriyawas plant at night.

Addressing issues

Rising costs are a major issue for the cement industry supply chain. At Ambuja, an emphasis is being placed on improving efficiency, lowering costs and connecting to customers. The company is constantly revamping its plants to improve efficiency and enhance safety. When the opportunity arises to revamp a plant, Ambuja will contact vendors that have previously been used by Holcim worldwide in order to bring the latest equipment and methods to India and enhance production capability and efficiency.

Some of the focus areas include connecting with customers so that the right amount of cement is transported, getting the right contracts with transporters and improving rail loading.

Technologies at work

New technologies have been contributing a great deal to improving supply chain efficiency for cement manufacturers, especially in the area of transportation.

A radio frequency identification (RFID) system helps to improve visibility at every stage of plant operations, right from the truck parking stage in the yard to final exit. It has also helped to reduce turnaround time for trucks, improve vehicle utilisation and eliminate congestion at the gate of the plant.

Ambuja Bhavani ship at Panvel port.

Other technologies, such as GPS, web/mobile application and optimisers, are also being employed to improve logistics efficiency and safety. GPS has helped to provide real-time information about the movement of trucks carrying cement. This information is valuable for improving delivery timelines to customers.

Furthermore, Ambuja has been focusing on transport and vehicular safety. The company has implemented a programme to address this issue in a very serious manner. As mentioned aboved, GPS technology has been adopted to enhance customer service and fleet efficiency. It also improves the company’s safety performance as there are a number of ways it can indicate whether drivers are behaving in a safe and responsible way. Every driver has a report and these reports are analysed, helping to improve safety scores. This technology has been widely used by Holcim and across India, and at present Ambuja considers it to be the best available technology.

Written by Jacques van Niekerk, Ambuja Cements, India. This is an abridged version of the full article, which appeared in the June 2014 issue of World Cement. Subscribers can view the full article by logging in.

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