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Looking ahead: a conversation with Frank Ruoss

Published by , Editorial Assistant
World Cement,

World Cement (WC): Can you provide a brief history and overview of thyssenkrupp and Polysius, and where the cement business fits within the company as a whole?

Frank Ruoss (FR): Back in 1859, the German locksmith Gottfried Polysius laid the foundation for almost 160 years of expertise in cement plant technology. Today, as part of thyssenkrupp, we offer cement manufacturers everything from one source – including everything from single machines to complete cement plants to comprehensive services, as well as state-of-the-art production processes. thyssenkrupp is a diversified industrial group with more than 158 000 employees worldwide. Diversified means: we are a strong group of businesses that share a common core – outstanding engineering. Together we add to each other’s knowledge and capabilities. With growing environmental awareness, this engineering expertise provides our customers with an important competitive edge. Close cooperation with other business units, for example our chemical plant engineering units, helps us to deal with future questions and challenges that increasingly go beyond traditional industry boundaries. We see this, for example, from the wide-ranging discussions about the reduction of CO2 or nitrogen.

WC: Just recently, you have reintroduced the name “Polysius” as a new family brand. Can you explain what this means?

FR: The name “Polysius” is very well known in the cement industry. It has been associated with the design of reliable technologies and innovative cement production processes for decades and is therefore an important asset for us. That is why we decided to reintroduce the name, which now functions as a family brand for our products and services for our customers within the cement industry.
Reliability and innovation have been and will continue to be guiding values of our daily work. We maintain long-standing, often even decades-long partnerships with our customers. In a sense, reliability is therefore in our company’s DNA. Technical reliability is important for us and therefore also for our products. Our portfolio is characterised by a large variety and extensive customisability.
An even more important aspect is reliability through partnership. On request, we stay by our customer’s side as engineers, trainer, and consultants throughout the entire life cycle of a plant. We support them with maintenance and repair work, with our spare parts, with our service centers and field services, and with asset management. Plant operators can be confident that we will not rest until their plant is up and running as requested. We take responsibility for our products and services. In this way we make long plant operating times possible and reduce the total cost of ownership.
This brings me to our second guiding value: innovation. We combine technological experience with innovative strength in order to offer the cement industry innovative, future-oriented, and sustainable solutions, for example through consistent digitalisation.

WC: How do you expect the cement industry to evolve over the next years and what challenges will it face?

FR: Our world is generally becoming more complex and fast-paced – and this also applies to the cement industry. Cement manufacturers increasingly require process technology to produce different types of cement for very specific applications. Moreover, as the spatial separation of clinker and cement production increases, so will the demand for efficient and environmentally friendly transport solutions.
In general, environmentally friendly production methods will remain a top priority and we are very active in this area. More and more cement end users expect digitised distribution channels and the possibility to order very small quantities of each product at short notice.

WC: What is thyssenkrupp doing to tackle these challenges?

FR: Reliability, flexibility, and the ability to develop tailored solutions for and with our customers – this is what our customers around the world can expect from us. We are here to partner with our customers on their journey to become more digital and sustainable. Let me give you some examples of especially efficient solutions we developed recently.
The sepol separator is our tried-and-tested “intelligent decision-maker” within the grinding system. It contributes to achieving the highest quality in the ground material. The sepol technology as such is not new; it has proven itself in more than 1000 plants around the world. But now we were able to once again significantly improve the sepol separator’s performance by equipping it with adjustable curved guide vanes and swirl breakers. These technical changes increase the throughput of the grinding plant with no extra energy expenditure. The cement plant operator can improve grinding and separating efficiency, reduce energy costs and ultimately reduce the cost per ton of cement.
Another important aspect of innovation is automation. Through further automation and plant efficiency, the quality and health and safety level can be significantly increased in many process steps of raw material preparation, clinker, and cement production. We have a very broad portfolio in the areas of quality monitoring and control systems, factory automation, and plant control.
One current example of a technical innovation along these lines is our automated storage system. It can be rightfully called a technical breakthrough, as it is the first-ever fully automated system for storing the bulk materials required in cement production lines. It reduces the occupational health and safety risks for the operating personnel while enhancing logistical efficiency. The automated storage system has proven itself in practice since mid-2017, namely in a cement plant in Halimoru in Turkey.
Yet, there is more to preparing for the challenges of the future than just the technical aspect. Moreover, we will increasingly leverage our ability to combine financing expertise with an in-depth operational understanding of our customers’ needs. In other words, we will offer new operator and financing models to give, for example, inexperienced customers the opportunity to enter the cement business. Our customers benefit not only from our plant know-how and our technical expertise but also from our close working relationships with major national and international financial institutions.

WC: As you mentioned, digitalisation and environmental protection are two of the major themes in the industry at the moment. How is thyssenkrupp engaging with these in its products and services for the cement industry?

FR: It is our job to respond appropriately to these major themes in the industry and we are ready to meet these challenges. Digitalisation is going to transform the way we will work in the future. We ourselves are becoming more and more digital and will pass this competence on to our customers. For example, we are currently completely digitising our internal project management and our construction site management. Our customers already benefit from the use of building information modeling (BIM) systems. BIM digitally maps a building over its entire life cycle. It brings together all building data, plans, and status reports relevant to the respective project phase in an intelligent data cloud, which all project participants can access in real time. In the near future, BIM will significantly shorten construction time and accelerate commissioning – to the investor’s benefit.
Our company plays a pioneering role in the application of BIM in cement plant construction. We are making intensive use of it in two EPC projects for the Cruz Azul group in Mexico. The two clinker production lines have a total capacity of 20 000 t per day of clinker. In the future, we will be able to digitally map the entire production process including digital control of all energy and resource flows.
When it comes to environmental protection, we are already working to make sustainable cement production become reality. We are also considering very specifically how we can make cement plants greener, how to construct an emission-free, water-free, digital, and smart cement plant. We are thinking about how the cement plant of the future will look, what it must be able to do, and what it should refrain from doing. We want to continue to offer cement manufacturers the best technologies and are convinced that the future belongs to sustainable, intelligent solutions.
The fact that we are part of a diversified industrial group gives us an important advantage in this regard: thyssenkrupp integrates a broad range of technological know-how. We have access to great expertise in the construction of chemical plants. In close collaboration with our colleagues in the chemical sector, we are developing solutions for a more sustainable cement industry. Take for example our Oxyfuel method, a process we have developed to effectively separate and utilise CO2 in cement production.The burning process of clinker production is driven with pure oxygen, so that no more nitrogen enters the burning process, resulting in a highly concentrated CO2 that is captured before it enters the atmosphere. The climate killer thus forms the basis for the production of fuels, plastics, and fertilisers, for example. Another advantage of our Oxyfuel technology is that the necessary equipment can be retrofitted in existing cement plants.

WC: To conclude, how would you describe thyssenkrupp’s role within the cement industry going forward?

FR: thyssenkrupp’s global organisation comprises skills and experiences that go far beyond the traditional cement business. On this basis, we will continue our almost 160-year tradition and tackle future industrial and social challenges like digitalisation and environmental protection for the benefit of the cement industry.

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European cement news Cement news 2018