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Conveying on Growth Drivers



Indian Cement Review held its first ever "Round Table Discussion" on 10th June, participated by eminent personalities from cement and its related industries. The key topics of discussion were huge capacity build-up amidst weakening demand, inadequate logistics and manpower, demand drivers, machinery supplies and export potential. While a number of projects, under various stages of implementation, would add about 175 million tonne over the next 4-5 years, another 300 million tonne of capacity are being discussed and planned by various companies. Even if one-fourth of these are implemented, the country would see cement capacity ramp up to 550-600 million tonne by 2015-2016 from the current 290 million tonne. That’s roughly 60-75 million tonne addition per annum. The highest annual addition of 40 million tonne was seen back in 2008.Participants opined that the capacity addition of 60-75 million a year was unprecedented and given the adverse factors – like issues in land acquisition, mining lease, inadequate limestone resources, many of these projects may get stalled. At the most the industry may add another 100 million tonne taking the total capacity to 395 million tonne by 2015. Even at this level, the participants felt that availability of skilled workers would be a major issue while, the logistics, particularly, Railways should upgrade and expand its infrastructure. On the export front, the prospects appear bleak as there is dearth of demand within the Indian subcontinent and cement export is not a lucrative business.The Round Table Discussion concluded on a consensus that issues like mining lease and land acquisition were acting as serious impediments in capacity expansion, use of waterways should be implemented to streamline logistic operations and costs and cement industry should take efforts to attract right talent and provide adequate training for workers.The current issue covers an in depth analysis of cement material handling equipment industry in India. The industry with an annual business of Rs 2,000 crore, is poised for the significant growth in coming years as a total investment worth Rs 85,000 crore is being envisaged in cement capacity building over next 4-5 years. Assuming about 15 to 20 per cent of this total investment is apportioned for material handling equipments, the additional business generated will be in the tune of Rs 12,750 crore to Rs 17,000 crore or Rs 2,500 crore per annum on an average, that’s twice of its current size.

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WIKA defines ‘future ready’ business strategy




The company commemorates 75 years as a leading manufacturer worldwide.

WIKA Alexander Wiegand SE & Co. KG, Germany, a global market leader in pressure and temperature, measurement technology introduced future-ready business strategy through ‘Smart in Sensing’ branding, thus commemorating its 75 years as a leading manufacturer worldwide. WIKA has been committed to quality products since 1946.

Transformation to ‘Smart in Sensing’ comes after nearly 20 years of business where WIKA Group established itself as ‘Part of your Business’ reflecting reliable partnership that creates trust through anticipation and solving customers’ problems.

Gaurav Bawa, Sr Vice President, WIKA India said, “The social megatrends are characterised by 3D’s such as digitalisation, decarbonisation and demographic change, which are altering our lives. WIKA is ideally positioned to master these challenges while accompanying customers, partners, and employees through difficult times, reliably and securely. We leverage our extensive sensing technology portfolio that stands out from the competition and makes industrial processes safer, more efficient, and sustainable.”

The success of WIKA is based on outstanding competence in sensing technology, but also on having the right entrepreneurial instinct. The manufacturing giant uses all the senses – based on know-how, experience, and a healthy dose of intuition and imagination – to distinguish the relevant levers. Information is not only intelligently collected and merged, but also put into context to create smart, competitive, and future-proof solutions. This enables customers to keep pace with megatrends and global change and creates sustainable added value for themselves and society.

“Our unique experience and know-how make sensing technology smarter, and sustainable and add more value – ready for the future: Smart in sensing. Thus, our new tagline is meant to describe and imbibe the next decade of industrialisation—Smart and Responsible.” Bawa added.

WIKA covers the entire value chain, from the installation of the sensors, measuring instruments, and gateways to the secure connection to the cloud or the local data server as well as the configuration of the customer application and customer training. In this way, WIKA supports digital transformation across industries. WIKA measuring instruments are competent and showcase their strengths for all industries – whether in harsh external conditions, aggressive media, hazardous areas, and sterile processes.

‘Smart in Sensing’ along with a roadmap of continuous optimisation, market development, and customer orientation, with an uncompromising approach to quality, and environmental protection leverages the manufacturing system to the next level. WIKA reaffirmed their commitment to manufacturing with a positive impact on the environment. It hopes to lead the way toward embracing clean manufacturing and weaving a story around business and sustainability.

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Using AI to Achieve Operational Excellence




Artificial Intelligence (Al) and Machine Learning (Ml) offer definite advantages in enhancing operational excellence of cement plants.
Dr SB Hegde, Professor, Jain University and Visiting Professor, Pennsylvania State University, USA, writes about the expanding and accelerating use of AI in the cement sector in a bid to reduce operating expenses while increasing yield, enhancing quality and lowering emissions.

The three main factors driving cement producers’ adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are as follows:
computing power connected devices algorithms

In its daily operations, the cement industry faces a variety of difficulties related to profitability, cost control, quality versus throughput, emissions and environmental sustainability. Cement manufacturers can overcome these challenges thanks to the many benefits that AI offers. The game-changing technology that many cement producers have been waiting for is the ability to perform sophisticated data analytics and intelligent optimisation supported by AI. Artificial Intelligence is like a formula that achieves goals in new situations. The formula adapts to change rather than remain a static algorithm.

Cement manufacturers can achieve key performance indicators for operational excellence, connected workers, connected processes, and sustainability. Here are a few typical applications of AI in the manufacture of cement.

The following are the value drivers in a cement plant where AI and Machine Learning (ML) will be of great help and they are as follows:SustainabilityProcess performanceAsset performanceConnected workforceOperational excellence.


ML, a subset of AI, is the principle that a machine can learn without human intervention, developing its own algorithm to improve the performance of a specific task. ML can only solve problems formulated for it. Not every optimisation method it learns from data makes sense in real life or delivers tangible benefits.

Deep Learning is a more sophisticated version of ML used to perform more complex tasks or to produce data needed for decision-making. It uses multi-layered neural networks for a more powerful way to filter and process information. Neural Networks is a set of algorithms loosely modelled on the way the human brain processes information.Ai and Sustainability
AI will be essential in achieving environmental sustainability goals, not just in terms of reducing emissions but also in terms of energy management and optimisation. As a result, operating costs and profit margins will immediately improve, and new business models for high-tech, low-CO2 cements will be possible. Cement plants are constantly working to stay within the daily SO2 emission limits and the hydrate consumption that goes along with them. They have a lot of process limitations to balance. Due to complex dynamics and the variability of feed and fuel sources, manual operators using PID control tend to keep ‘safe distances’ from process constraints, which reduces plant profitability.

Continuous Process Improvement

For plants to operate more profitably, traditional advanced process control (APC) solutions successfully address processes like clinker-to-cement ratio reduction, fuel switching and thermal efficiency. They include:
Increase feed by over 3 tph while reducing specific energy by 20 kcal/kgDeliver overall productivity increases of 4 per cent with better and more consistent cement quality.

Tying analytics and APC together will enable re-modelling and tuning in an automated way and optimising additional variables. Many technology suppliers are also working on utilising data collected through cement information management systems to address challenges that have not yet been tackled such as cement quality prediction.

Traditionally, cement strength is assessed after 28 days, which is obviously too late to make adjustments. As a result, plants frequently ‘over deliver’ on product specifications. On the day of sampling, technology providers are using ML and data-driven soft sensors to forecast 28-day strength, enabling quick process adjustments.

Setting new Blaines targets each day is required for this. Additionally, it means that cement plants will be able to sell more products with the proper specifications.

Asset Performance Management

Utilising AI for asset performance management (APM) is a significant improvement in how the maintenance and reliability team works with other departments. Depending on shifting production objectives, AI makes sure assets are available at the time and performance level required by the operations. Because complex systems interact in unexpected ways and are constantly changing, it is challenging to predict how assets will react and respond to different factors (like age or operating condition). Problems are frequently invisible to the human eye. AI/ML models can be continuously trained with pertinent datasets in order to provide precise target parameter predictions in close to real-time and to avoid failures. These datasets demonstrate in-depth knowledge of asset behaviour as well as cement processes.

AI-enabled APM is the most economical

method for extending the life of older and newer assets and determining the best time for scheduled maintenance turnarounds (one of the biggest costs in cement plants). Cement plants may be able to operate more efficiently and with remote management thanks to predictive asset models. Operating a cement plant with three shifts of just three people would be possible at the time of writing, which is during the global COVID-19 pandemic. The remote teams working from their homes would have complete access to data that would inform them of the condition of all the assets in the plant if they used an APM solution powered by predictive asset models.

Connected Workforce as a Change Catalyst

By analysing how operators interact with control systems and how quickly they react to alarms, AI will increase workforce productivity. AI is able to learn which priority alarms call for quicker responses. The visibility of these alarms will then be improved by filtering and rationalising them to enhance performance.

The use of mobile technologies, smart glasses and human-centric control rooms will increase the industry’s appeal to the next generation of engineers. By enabling more people to access low-code/no-code solutions, enabling them to capture ‘tribal knowledge’ on a common platform, innovate, and produce better results, technology can aid cement manufacturers in the development of their employees’ AI capabilities.

Secret to Operational Excellence is Visibility

Companies can optimise production and find the best operating points to increase margins by transferring knowledge and process methodology from higher performing to lower performing facilities.

Future modular and prefabricated construction will require less cement, so AI will be crucial in restructuring operations to maintain profitability as cement demand declines. AI helps with better supply chain management planning by analysing previous procurement methods.

Enabling autonomous operation
Without a doubt, the digital revolution in the cement industry is driven by more and better data, which is collected directly from connected machinery, processes, soft sensor models and other systems.

The degree to which equipment, processes, plant operators and corporate management are connected by digital and automation technologies is unprecedented. The concept of an autonomous plant will eventually become a reality thanks to advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence.

Prospects for the Future

1. AI will collect data from a wider range of sources, such as sophisticated sensors, instruments, historians and databases. Even though data from 20 years ago may not be available, there will be more data available so that AI algorithms can advance.
2. As AI implementation becomes simpler, more cement producers will use AI to meet sustainability goals. Since manual setpoint adjustments alone are not sufficient to achieve those goals. The use of AI will help the cement industry become more reputable and reduce its carbon footprint.
3. Based on outside disturbances, unit area models will continuously retrain themselves. With increased confidence as a result of autonomous operations, cement companies will feel more at ease with having fewer human operators in a plant.
4. AI will help them become autonomous themselves. Core areas like operational excellence, process performance and asset performance will continue to provide value.

Dr SB Hegde is currently a visiting professor at Pennsylvania State University in the United States of America and a professor at Jain University in Karnataka, India. He had held ‘Leadership Positions’ in significant and top cement businesses both in India and abroad. He has more than 154 research papers that have been published in both national and international journals. Dr Hegde was also the recipient of the Global Visionary Award.

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Digitisation is very significant in today’s times




Swapnil Shah, Founder and CEO, Freight Tiger, emphasises the need to digitise logistics processes for better management and optimum productivity.

What is the role of digitalisation in optimising the distribution and logistics
of cement?

Digitalisation plays a huge role. It has a massive impact and almost every customer we work with today has a chief digital officer. Digitisation is very significant in today’s times. Companies are also investing in dedicated digital teams and it is happening across all industries. Industry leaders are not only hiring digital experts for their operations but are also involved with the same for their business. This is about digitalisation only from an impact involvement point of view.
Looking into the details of what digitisation means, there are a whole lot of things that are happening today. To share a few examples,

  • It allows the ability to have visibility into every delivery in terms of location, ETA, etc. Customers are consuming it for their own use, within their company, and they want to give that visibility to their end customer, too. So, the most basic use of digitalisation is bringing visibility for every order to customers and helping them plan better.
  • Being digital allows companies to track their footprint, get data analytics, understand issues with their services and analyse their costs. This helps them make many distribution decisions based on location data, average transit times, lead distance and more.
  • Often cement deliveries get diverted and this is a huge problem that most service providers are trying to resolve. With digitalisation and use of technology, cement makers can keep a track of their actual end user and understand their issues and try to work on them.

How can your system make a difference in managing cost efficiency for the cement industry?
We essentially give transportation management software and a visibility platform. Transportation management software is changing rapidly today. Freight Tiger builds a unifying platform as a connective tissue among all IT platforms, stakeholders and vendors. That is the first role we play. We help our customers manage order to delivery timelines in a very tight manner.
Often there are minor issues, like distances not being correct for which freight is paid and sometimes there is backloading at cement plants. In these cases, Freight Tiger allows customers to make sure the distances are correct. If diversions or backloading happens, it gives visibility into it. That’s a unique solution that we provide.
Measurement of performance is another area where we play a role. In terms of performance of distribution footprint, optimised lead time, per kilometre rate, lead distance, free trade routes etc. Freight Tiger allows you to understand service quality and its competitive edge over the market in terms of the delivery SLAs. We allow companies to measure and influence all of this in their operations.

Tell us about 360-degree management of freight operations for the cement industry through your platform.
On the one hand, you are sourcing raw material, and on the other, you are making all these deliveries either through your distribution footprint or directly from the plant. So, a 360-degree approach means the total cost of raw material sourcing logistics, the whole cost end-to-end, day-to-day distribution, percentage of deliveries directly serviced through plants versus through a series of distribution layers.

How do you connect the Freight ecosystem for the cement industry with your platform?
Freight Tiger is a technology- and a product-first company. We are a neutral party to all that happens in our customers’ environment.
What I mean by neutral is we do not play the role of an aggregator or a logistics service provider. We have no conflict with the existing logistics service providers that the cement company uses. We integrate telematics vendors. We have done close to 200 telematics company integrations, so we stay neutral. We believe that collaboration and neutrality will take us in the industry a lot farther than just trying to remove someone from the value system.
These two are very pivotal when you think about Freight Tiger as a player in this ecosystem.

What are the key pain points in the logistics of cement. How can you help resolve the same?
First and foremost, there is inefficiency and waiting during loading or unloading of the material at the plants. Transit times also are not monitored well. So, part of the inefficiency is because people have to wait due to space constraints or other reasons.
Secondly, cement organisations often have to service their customers in a relatively tighter delivery window. That is a pain point that involves making day-to-day decisions about choosing the right way to service the customers at an optimum cost, without compromising the quality of product or service.
Another major pain point is that cement organisations do not know where their product is unloading. This means that they do not know their end consumer. This is a unique problem in the cement industry because deliveries get diverted. Participants in the ecosystem may divert the deliveries based on requirements. So, knowing the exact unloading location and knowing the end customer is a massive gap in the cement industry.
Digitising proof of delivery and freight invoicing is something we’ve never seen before. Not only for the cement companies, but everyone who works in the value chain – the trucker, the logistics provider, the transporter – each one of them can benefit from this and that would be a big step to remove paper trails and make them into digital records. When we think about EPOD and digital freight invoicing that you do at the end of the day ensures all stakeholders are benefited from it. Cement companies have contracts with logistics providers or transporters or they sometimes hire fleet owners and trucks from the market, if they do not have their own. Any solution or change ultimately needs to impact everyone in the ecosystem. EPOD and digital freight invoicing achieves just that by easing the operations for everyone.

How do you foresee the changing face of logistics for the Indian cement industry?
It is my understanding that as a cement manufacturer, I would like to know my customer or where my product is exactly getting unloaded, instead of directionally knowing where the product is headed to. Another important factor is sustainability, whereas as a manufacturer or distributor the target would be to have the same or more deliveries by travelling less, optimising and reducing empty miles.
Cement companies are also moving towards alternative fuel vehicles, electric vehicles for some part of their delivery. I see that as a big change. And overall, analytics and how some sort of machine learning AI can help me make better decisions day to day. That is also on everyone’s mind. And, I think it is going to transform how people make decisions going forward. Those are the few things I will say are quite important as we look at the future.

Kanika Mathur

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