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Building Material Plants Day held in Frankfurt

Published by , Editorial Assistant
World Cement,

The fourth Building Material Plants Day was held in Frankfurt from 7 March 2019 to 8 March 2019. Big Data was the burning issue and the building material plants sector is also affected by increasing digitalisation. This encompasses the collection, evaluation, and use of data. The question was considered: “how will companies deal with this in the future?”

“We have to destroy the extant in a creative manner,” said Johann Soder, Board Member and Chief Operating Officer at SEW Eurodrive. He believes that digitalisation requires a radical rethink. Using SEW as an example, Soder showed how production will look in the future. According to his example, it will be modular, flexible, and agile. It will interact with people and enable intelligent cooperation between humans and technology. In the future, orders will find their own way to production, which is the ultimate meaning of the ‘smart factory 4.0.’ Although they will be more qualified than they are currently, there will still be people in production. However, work will be done differently, people will train differently, and different working and employment models will be developed. Soder suggests that a holistic approach is required, with speed being the decisive competitive advantage.

Soder suggested that production will consist of flexible and modular applications that are changeable, adaptable, and which also integrate logistics processes – the key word being agility. He stated that collected data forms the basis for improving processes. Automation technology connects the real world with the digital world, as demonstrated by the assistance systems that will be used to support people in the future. In order for this to work, standardised interfaces are a necessity.

“Young people want to swipe, not enter numbers on a computer,” said Soder. Organised in a modular manner, the digital factory enables an ideal status to be planned. Data is then collected and evaluated in real processes and improved with the ideal state as a target. Soder noted that this is how management will be organised in the future, with factories being planned and tested virtually before they are built.

Purpose-orientated data analysis

Big Data also means that this data is not only collected, but is also analysed in a targeted manner. Dr Markus Schoisswohl from SYN2TEC explained that producers must ask themselves which processes can be improved and what data is required to do this. What do individual factors mean and what information do they provide? Data must be evaluated in such a manner that measures can be derived from them. One method that can help is measuring separate processes and collecting as much data as possible – even unstructured data. This would enable errors, the cause of which would otherwise remain undetermined, to be discovered and corrected.

The upswing has still not reached all areas

At the beginning of the conference Sebastian Popp, Deputy Managing Director of the trade association, provided clarity on the current economic situation.

The main issue is the heterogeneity of the sector; in 2018, both incoming orders and turnover recorded negative values. This is mainly thought to be due to the cement plant engineering sector, which remains in a market that is characterised by overcapacities. If cement plant engineering was removed from the calculations, the incoming orders of German building material plant manufacturers in 2018 would have been 17% higher than the previous year, with turnover 16% higher.

Asia continues to display the strongest economic growth. South America also recorded growth, due to the recovery of the raw materials markets, resulting in the international mining market also developing more positively.

For cement production, the largest growth is expected in Asia, with China managing the issue of overcapacities better. For the past two years, the Chinese government has applied measures with the goal of throttling back production. Over the next five years, the country’s production will fall below 50% of global production, while the utilisation of production capacities will simultaneously increase from 82% to 95%.

The recovery for plant manufacturers is forecast to continue throughout 2019, even if risks, such as international trade policies, remain incalculable. The construction and mining customer industries continue to find themselves on a growth course, an aspect that also benefits the suppliers.

No change in sight in US trade policies

On the eve of the event, a different, yet still burning issue was on the agenda: the trade policies and increasing protectionism of the US. It was suggested that, even with the presidential election campaign looming, the approach will not change significantly. It was discussed that, in his first term as President, Donald Trump began on an anti-free trade, anti-migration, and anti-Washington platform. It is expected that US trade policy will remain protectionist and that the upcoming election campaign will not bring about a significant change in its stance.

Dr Laura von Daniels from the German Institute for International Security and Affairs in Berlin explained the current approach of the Trump administration and was reportedly unable to assuage the participants’ fears that the US plans to introduce tariffs on vehicle imports in the summer. According to von Daniels, the US government’s approach in this regard is currently a well-kept secret.

It was posited that, in order to face the US from a position of strength, the EU must present a uniform approach and cannot get wrapped up in internal disagreements. Both parties have a joint interest in forming a counterbalance to China, which is thought to be in itself reason enough to ensure negotiations are completed successfully.

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European cement news Cement news 2018