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Raising the bar: Innovative management in cement manufacturing (pt.4)

Published by , Editorial Assistant
World Cement,

Dr S B Hegde provides an overview of some of the solutions the cement industry has available to face current challenges.

This is the fourth instalment of an article by Dr S B Hegde. The third part can be found here.

Customer-centric solutions

In the competitive landscape of the cement industry, delivering exceptional customer service and fostering strong partnerships are imperative for sustainable growth and market leadership.

Importance of customer service

Building trust and loyalty:

Exceptional customer service builds trust and fosters long-term relationships with clients, enhancing brand reputation and loyalty. By prioritising customer needs and preferences, cement manufacturers can differentiate themselves from competitors and secure repeat business, referrals, and positive word-of-mouth endorsements.

According to a study by Bain & Company, increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can boost profits by 25 – 95%, underscoring the financial impact of customer loyalty.

Enhancing market competitiveness:

In today's dynamic marketplace, customer experience serves as a key differentiator for cement manufacturers seeking to gain a competitive edge. By offering personalised, responsive, and value-added services, companies can attract new customers, retain existing ones, and command premium prices, driving revenue growth and market share expansion.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), companies with high customer satisfaction scores outperform their competitors by 20% in terms of stock market returns, highlighting the link between customer-centricity and financial performance.

Innovative customer-centric solutions

Digital twin Integration

Digital twin technology enables cement manufacturers to create virtual replicas of their production facilities, allowing real-time monitoring, simulation, and optimisation of equipment and processes. By integrating digital twins into their operations, companies gain unprecedented visibility into plant performance, identify potential bottlenecks or inefficiencies, and make data-driven decisions to enhance productivity and quality.

Heidelberg Materials implemented digital twin technology across its global network of cement plants, enabling remote monitoring and control of critical production parameters. By leveraging real-time data analytics and predictive algorithms, the company achieved a 15% increase in production efficiency and a 20% reduction in energy consumption, resulting in significant cost savings and environmental benefits.

Predictive maintenance services:

Predictive maintenance leverages IoT sensors, machine learning algorithms, and advanced analytics to predict equipment failures before they occur, enabling proactive maintenance interventions and minimising unplanned downtime. By offering predictive maintenance services to customers, cement manufacturers can optimise equipment reliability, extend asset lifespan, and reduce maintenance costs, thereby enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Success story:

Cemex launched a predictive maintenance programme called Cemex Go Maintenance. By equipping customer equipment with IoT sensors and implementing predictive analytics algorithms, Cemex delivers proactive maintenance alerts and recommendations to customers, ensuring uninterrupted operations and maximising equipment uptime. As a result, customer satisfaction scores have increased by 25%, and service contract renewals have surged by 30%.

Logistics excellence

In the complex landscape of cement manufacturing, logistics play a critical role in ensuring the seamless movement of raw materials, intermediates, and finished products across vast distances.

Challenges in cement logistics

Fragmented supply chain:

Cement logistics often involve multiple stakeholders, including suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and end-users, leading to a fragmented supply chain with disparate systems and processes. Coordinating logistics operations across various geographies, modes of transportation, and regulatory environments presents logistical challenges such as delays, inefficiencies, and inventory management issues.

Transportation constraints:

Cement is a bulk commodity with high transportation costs and specific handling requirements, posing challenges in transportation logistics. Factors such as road infrastructure limitations, congestion, and regulatory restrictions on vehicle weights and dimensions can impact delivery schedules, increase transit times, and escalate transportation costs, affecting overall supply chain efficiency.

Opportunities in cement logistics

Supply chain optimisation:

Optimising supply chain management is imperative for cement manufacturers to enhance operational efficiency, reduce costs, and meet customer demands effectively. By integrating logistics operations, leveraging technology-enabled solutions, and adopting best practices in inventory management and distribution, companies can streamline their supply chains, minimise lead times, and improve service levels.

Digitalisation and IoT-enabled solutions:

Digital technologies, such as IoT sensors, real-time tracking systems, and predictive analytics, offer unprecedented visibility and control over cement logistics operations. IoT-enabled solutions enable companies to monitor fleet performance, track cargo movements, and optimise route planning in real-time, resulting in improved asset utilisation, fuel efficiency, and delivery reliability.

Smart fleet management systems

Smart fleet management systems leverage GPS tracking, telematics, and fleet optimisation algorithms to manage and monitor vehicle fleets effectively. These systems provide real-time insights into vehicle location, fuel consumption, driver behaviour, and vehicle health, enabling companies to optimise route planning, minimise idle time, and reduce operational costs.

Dalmia Cement, one of India's leading cement manufacturers, implemented a smart fleet management system to optimise its logistics operations. By equipping its fleet of trucks with GPS tracking devices and onboard sensors, Dalmia Cement gained visibility into vehicle movements, fuel consumption, and driver behaviour. The company utilised data analytics to optimise route planning, improve delivery scheduling, and reduce transportation costs, resulting in enhanced operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

IoT-enabled logistics solutions

IoT-enabled logistics solutions utilise sensor technologies, wireless connectivity, and cloud-based platforms to monitor and manage logistics assets and processes in real-time. These solutions offer end-to-end visibility, predictive analytics, and proactive maintenance capabilities, enabling companies to optimise inventory management, reduce stockouts, and enhance supply chain resilience.

ACC Limited, a leading cement manufacturer in India, deployed IoT-enabled logistics solutions to optimise its distribution network and enhance supply chain efficiency. By integrating IoT sensors with its storage facilities, ACC Limited gained visibility into inventory levels, storage conditions, and product quality parameters. The company utilised predictive analytics to forecast demand, optimise inventory replenishment, and minimise stock holding costs, resulting in improved inventory turnover and customer service levels.

The final part of the article will be available 7th June.

About the author

Dr. S B Hegde, currently a Professor at Jain College of Engineering and Technology, Hubli, Karnataka, India and a Visiting Professor at Pennsylvania State University, USA brings over three decades of leadership experience in the cement industry both in India and internationally.

With a remarkable scholarly record including over 198 research papers published in national and international journals, and holding six patents (with four more filed in the USA in 2023), Dr. Hegde's expertise spans Indian and international contexts.

He serves as an expert panel member for some of the reputed international journals, among other prestigious editorial roles, and extends advisory services to multinational cement companies and governmental think tanks.

Notably, Dr. Hegde was honoured with the ‘Global Visionary Award’ in 2020 by the Gujarat Chambers of Commerce and Industry and World Vision for his outstanding leadership and contributions.

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