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Raising the bar: Innovative management in cement manufacturing (pt.5)

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 final instalment of an article by Dr S B Hegde. The fourth part can be found here.

Tech transformation

The digital transformation of cement manufacturing is revolutionising the industry, driving operational efficiency, sustainability, and competitiveness.

Digital transformation in cement manufacturing

IoT-enabled plants:

IoT-enabled plants leverage sensor technologies, connectivity, and data analytics to create smart, interconnected manufacturing environments. By embedding sensors in equipment, machinery, and processes, cement companies can capture real-time data on production metrics, energy consumption, and equipment performance, enabling proactive decision-making and process optimisation.

Remote monitoring:

Remote monitoring solutions enable real-time visibility and control over cement plant operations from anywhere in the world. Through remote access to plant data, dashboards, and analytics platforms, operators and managers can monitor key performance indicators, diagnose issues, and initiate corrective actions without being physically present on-site, thereby improving responsiveness and operational agility.

Benefits of tech transformation

Real-time data analytics:

Real-time data analytics empower cement companies to gain actionable insights into production processes, resource utilisation, and performance metrics. By analysing real-time data streams, companies can identify inefficiencies, optimise production parameters, and reduce energy consumption, leading to cost savings, productivity gains, and environmental sustainability.

Ambuja Cements, a leading cement manufacturer in India, implemented real-time data analytics solutions to optimise its kiln operations. By analysing temperature, pressure, and airflow data in real-time, Ambuja Cements optimised combustion processes, reduced fuel consumption, and enhanced kiln efficiency, resulting in significant cost savings and carbon emissions reduction.

Predictive maintenance:

Predictive maintenance leverages machine learning algorithms and sensor data to predict equipment failures before they occur, enabling proactive maintenance interventions and minimising downtime. By monitoring equipment health parameters and identifying early warning signs of potential failures, cement companies can schedule maintenance activities, prevent unplanned shutdowns, and prolong asset lifespan, thereby improving reliability and operational uptime.

ACC Limited implemented predictive maintenance solutions to optimise its grinding mills' performance. By analysing vibration, temperature, and lubrication data from sensors installed on critical equipment components, ACC Limited detected abnormal patterns indicative of impending failures. Proactive maintenance interventions, such as bearing replacements and lubrication adjustments, prevented equipment breakdowns, minimised production disruptions, and extended machinery life cycles.

Remote troubleshooting:

Remote troubleshooting capabilities enable experts to diagnose and resolve equipment issues remotely, reducing the need for onsite interventions and minimising downtime. Through remote access to plant systems, diagnostic tools, and collaboration platforms, technicians can troubleshoot equipment malfunctions, implement software updates, and provide guidance to onsite personnel, accelerating issue resolution and restoring operations swiftly.

UltraTech Cement deployed remote troubleshooting solutions to support its plant operations across multiple locations. By enabling remote access to plant control systems and equipment interfaces, UltraTech Cement's engineering team could diagnose and resolve software glitches, configuration errors, and process deviations remotely, minimising production disruptions and optimising uptime.

Sustainability

The cement industry is undergoing a profound shift towards sustainability, driven by growing environmental awareness, regulatory pressures, and stakeholder expectations. Cement manufacturers are increasingly adopting eco-friendly practices and innovative technologies to minimise their environmental footprint and promote sustainable development.

Growing emphasis on sustainability

Environmental impact:

Cement production is inherently resource-intensive and contributes significantly to carbon emissions, with the industry accounting for approximately 8% of global CO2 emissions. The environmental impact of cement manufacturing extends beyond carbon emissions to include resource depletion, biodiversity loss, and air and water pollution, necessitating urgent action to mitigate its ecological footprint.

Regulatory mandates:

Stringent environmental regulations and sustainability targets imposed by governments and international bodies compel cement manufacturers to adopt sustainable practices and reduce their environmental impact. Regulatory measures such as carbon pricing, emissions trading schemes, and pollution control standards incentivise companies to invest in cleaner technologies and embrace circular economy principles.

Importance of adopting eco-friendly practices

Environmental stewardship:

Embracing sustainability is not just a corporate responsibility but also a strategic imperative for cement manufacturers to safeguard the planet for future generations. By minimising resource consumption, reducing emissions, and conserving natural habitats, companies can mitigate environmental risks, enhance their brand reputation, and foster goodwill among stakeholders.

Long-term viability:

Sustainability is essential for the long-term viability and resilience of the cement industry in a rapidly changing world. By embracing sustainable practices, companies can future-proof their operations, mitigate regulatory risks, and tap into emerging market opportunities driven by the transition to a low-carbon economy and green infrastructure development.

Examples of sustainability innovations:

Biophilic design principles:

Biophilic design integrates natural elements, patterns, and materials into built environments to enhance occupant well-being and connection with nature. In the cement industry, biophilic design principles are applied to facility planning, architecture, and landscaping to create eco-friendly and aesthetically pleasing spaces that promote biodiversity, improve air quality, and mitigate urban heat island effects.

Heidelberg Materials incorporates biophilic design elements into its cement plants and office buildings to enhance sustainability and employee well-being. The company integrates green roofs, living walls, and natural ventilation systems into its facilities to reduce energy consumption, enhance thermal comfort, and create harmonious work environments that inspire creativity and productivity.

Carbon-neutral production processes:

Carbon-neutral production processes aim to eliminate or offset carbon emissions associated with cement manufacturing, thereby reducing the industry's carbon footprint. Cement companies adopt various strategies, such as AF utilisation, energy efficiency improvements, and carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) technologies, to achieve carbon neutrality and contribute to climate change mitigation efforts.

Holcim is committed to achieving carbon neutrality across its operations by 2050. The company invests in renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, to reduce fossil fuel dependency and lower carbon emissions. Additionally, Holcim explores innovative carbon capture technologies, such as direct air capture and mineralisation, to capture CO2 emissions from cement production processes and convert them into valuable products, such as aggregates and building materials.

Impact of sustainability innovations

Environmental benefits:

Sustainability innovations in the cement industry yield significant environmental benefits, including reduced carbon emissions, conservation of natural resources, and preservation of ecosystems. By adopting biophilic design principles and carbon-neutral production processes, companies minimise their environmental footprint and contribute to climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and ecosystem restoration.

Economic value:

Sustainability innovations create economic value for cement manufacturers by enhancing operational efficiency, reducing costs, and unlocking new revenue streams. Companies that embrace eco-friendly practices benefit from lower energy and resource costs, improved brand reputation, and access to green financing opportunities, driving long-term profitability and shareholder value.

Conclusions

The cement industry stands at a pivotal juncture, poised to embrace innovation and sustainability as guiding principles for future growth and success. This article has highlighted the power of management practices in reshaping the industry landscape and driving positive change.

From strategic vision and market agility to operational excellence, human capital revolution, and sustainability innovation, each facet of cement manufacturing presents unique opportunities for advancement. By harnessing the latest technologies, leveraging data-driven insights, and adopting eco-friendly practices, cement companies can not only enhance their operational efficiency and productivity but also reduce their environmental footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Looking ahead, it is imperative for industry leaders and stakeholders to embrace a forward-thinking approach, fostering a culture of collaboration, and continuous improvement. By staying abreast of emerging trends, embracing change, and investing in cutting-edge solutions, organisations can position themselves as pioneers in the evolving landscape of cement manufacturing.

Let us seize this moment to unleash our collective creativity, drive, and ingenuity, as we embark on a journey towards sustainable, resilient, and visionary excellence. Together, let's shape a future where innovation thrives, sustainability reigns, and success knows no bounds. The time for innovation in cement manufacturing is now.

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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Read the article online at: https://www.worldcement.com/the-americas/07062024/raising-the-bar-innovative-management-in-cement-manufacturing-pt5/

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