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A step into the future, today

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Interaction withPramesh Arya, Executive Director, Marketing, Dalmia Cement Bharat Ltd.

The lockdown announced by the Government to respond to the threat of a pandemic was a once in lifetime experience for India as a country. The Cement industry, taking cautious steps, responded to it using new age digital technologies. Here is a real story from Dalmia Cement, through an interview with Pramesh Arya, Executive Director- Marketing.

Vikas: When you restarted operations in April after the first phase of lockdown, what were the challenges you had to overcome and how did you manage?
Pramesh:
On the manufacturing front, as you can imagine, there was an issue of getting manpower because like many other industries, we work with a significant number of contractual workers, who had started migrating by then. That became one challenge to start full scale operations.

Another challenge was on the logistics side. The underlying reasons are all the same but manifested differently in different areas. The trucks were available but drivers weren’t around. Then, while our transportation partners were willing to work with us, there was the issue of inter-state movement of materials. In certain areas, local people were trying to deny entry to everyone, not just trucks carrying cement but everyone who was an outsider. There was this apprehension, that we don’t want any risk of infection even if it is with good intent of ensuring our world keeps running. Similarly, in our warehousing and Godown operations, there were manpower issues.

Fortunately, our close relationship with our vendors and contractors helped us get priority treatment from them within the limitations that existed. It’s at times like these, when your relationship with your vendors and suppliers and contractors gets tested. It’s heartening to say we, together with our entire network of partners, were able to resolve most, if not all challenges that came our way on a day to day basis.

For our sales and Technical Services teams, movement in the market was obviously restricted. We quickly moved to a virtual connect program right from the beginning of the lockdown, and it is still in action today. Wherever a little bit of on-ground connect is possible locally – within the markets that were in green zones, our teams are in the field to work with our dealers while taking all precautions – masks, social distancing etc.

Vikas: – Were you able to foresee these issues, during February-March, or did they come as a shock?
Pramesh:
– From the end of February but surely early March onwards, the signs were there- there were news reports from across the globe, on the way it has evolved in most countries. Everybody had this hope that India will escape mostly unscathed, like we did during H1N1. At the same time, there was always this likelihood we may have the same kind of scaling up of infections like in most countries. As a company, we wanted to ensure our business continuity plans were in place, and we started activating them at appropriate intervals.

Fortunately, Dalmia Cement has been on a major digital transformation journey across the company for the past few years – in many cases, before our industry itself started moving in this direction. During the lockdown, this preparation over the years helped tremendously.

Vikas: – How did you take care of the dealers because there must have been materials stuck either en route, or at your plants in silos or maybe in your warehouses? How was it taken care of, to protect everybody’s interests? Payments and cash flow must have become issues as well. So, how was this situation being handled?
Pramesh: –
On stock movement, we followed government guidelines, and for the first few days, our network quietened down. As and when local conditions changed, we took actions that met both business and safety needs. On the stock in the market, given the fast movement of cement across the network, dealers in this industry keep limited stocks in terms of inventory. In rural areas, beyond the first few days, as it was clear that Covid19 wasn’t present, markets picked up even as the lockdown was in effect, with construction work resuming. In May, even government projects resumed work- they had to complete certain jobs before the monsoons, including important local municipal projects etc. So whatever stock the dealers were holding got liquidated quickly, and we had fresh demand from dealers. How we overcame this was that we did most of our sales and supplies directly to the sites. We switched more or less to 100 percent direct delivery. Even the dealer community appreciated that being done from the company’s side. For challenges such as these, our strong technology and logistics backbone helped.

On the collection side, yes, there was a challenge. As a company, we practice healthy fiscal practices, keeping both our and dealers’ interest in mind, and there isn’t a lot of credit floating in the market at any time. During the lockdown, unique challenges emerged. Dealers in small towns wanted to make payments, but there was no one to collect the cheque. In smaller towns, it’s still not all digital, and we worked on logistics on how to get the cheque sent to the bank. Again, as a company we have worked hard on ensuring digital payment adoption is at a high level, so these challenges were far and few between.

Vikas: – We have been hearing a lot about the social responsibility work executed by Dalmia Bharat Group in such kinds of situations and particularly, taking care of your stakeholders. Will you be able to say something on that? Pramesh: – The Dalmia Bharat Group has always been into nation building. We actively partner towards such issues at the national to the grassroots levels. As an organization, we contributed Rs. 25 crores to the PM-CARES Fund. Our employees also generously raised over Rs. 1.6 crores through one-day salary donations. Separately, in many different states, we contributed to CM funds; and donations to selected non-government organisations which were working at the grassroots were also enabled.

While we supported governments, it was important our stakeholders could rely on us for help. Our technical services teams quickly moved to identify groups or communities of labour who were stranded, because the lockdown came suddenly. Across the country, we put together supply chains to help them with rations and other needed items. Where construction was still on, we worked on matching available manpower with active sites. This was done at a micro level, matching projects and labours at say, the taluka level in every state we are present in. And almost every single officer has such wonderful stories to tell.

We quickly moved to engage the contractors’ community on Do’s and Don’ts at construction sites through Whatsapp. We organized webinars with doctors from chosen local hospitals so they could ask all that question about Covid19, including for dealers and their families.

For our dealers, we launched a program called ‘Dalmia Cares: Stay Home Stay Safe’ – we rolled out over 20 different activities over the course of the lockdown. Every other day, we had different activities to keep them engaged and entertained, to keep them in a positive spirit, including their family members.

Vikas: So, this was done digitally?
Pramesh:
Wherever it was possible, fully digitally. For dealers, we run a platform called Dalmia Delight, which is used for loyalty and recognition programs. For all our other communities, our teams were in touch using Phone, Whatsapp and on ground help as it was required, keeping social distancing norms in mind.

Vikas: We will now come to the brand. When we talk of Dalmia, the mother brand- how do you look at building Dalmia as a brand and what are the attributes of the brand you feel people would like to remember it for?

Pramesh: As a brand, we have a legacy of 80 years. People around the country have placed their trust in us over generations. Last year, we built on this legacy, and launched a new brand positioning and identity, which positions the mother brand as Dalmia Cement ‘Future Today’.

As a brand, we are innovators and pioneers while being focussed on sustainability. Throughout the history of our organisation, we have been first to market with multiple products – we were the first company to launch oil well cement, railway sleeper cement and fast setting air strip cement.

As a company, our roots in sustainability are very deep. The CBP recognizes us as the world’s greenest cement company. Our CEO and MD, Mr. Mahendra Singhi, is a strong advocate of sustainability. He has represented India and our company on various global forums, including WEF, the global climate summit among others. And all this R&D, product launches have been possible only through technology.

As a brand, we want consumers to remember us for building next generation cement products; offering best in class, technology led service experience, and being able to choose the ‘greenest’ cement they can buy to build a home for life.

Vikas: – When we talk about the brand, even the packaging of cement becomes very important. The industry has been launching new packaging constantly. What’s your take on that?
Pramesh:
Packaging has a functional role and a branding role. We launched BOPP packaging for our premium product, Dalmia DSP, many years ago, which is moisture resistant, tear resistant and improves the performance of the product because it keeps cement fresh for longer.

I think the important part in packaging, talking about going beyond, is the performance of packaging. So there what matters is the consistency of quality, your entire vendor network, the flexibility and stability of supplies. So that’s another strength we have, we are able to ensure that all the plants get the right amount of packaging with the right quality all the time. Because as a brand, you get tested with every bag in the market, if a bag tears, the brand takes the damage. So, it’s important to sustain that quality day after day, batch after batch and in every location.

We are always on the lookout for modern packaging techniques and engage with packaging companies around the world to find best in class alternatives for consumers.

Vikas: In the retail market in fact packaging becomes very important- it should appeal to a buyer otherwise cement as such is a mundane and routine product.

Pramesh: – While cement has traditionally been a low involvement product, today, not just in cement but across all categories in that context, it’s an opportunity. If we go back to the narrative we are presenting with Dalmia Cement Future Today, we have given a completely new identity to the bag with the same thinking – in this category, the bag is your first manifestation of the brand identity and a big one.

Our new bags are very vibrant looking, with standard colour codes and a focus on enticing the customer. When our bag is displayed at the dealers’ counter, we want it to inspire confidence in the consumer from the get-go.

Vikas: What can be done to improve the per capita consumption of cement in the country? If you compare to other countries, we’re at very, very lowest stage, ~250 kgs per capita?
Pramesh: Cement consumption is governed by two things, the housing sector and infrastructure. Being a rapidly developing country, we have a long way to go on both. Across the country in our villages, there is a lot of conversion happening from kuccha to pukka houses. We are also seeing increases in the average size of the dwellings and basic penetration of housing itself. The government is doing a lot with the PM Awaas Yojana among other programs. At the same time, at the upper end, in terms of multi-story apartment complexes, it is a long way to go. The main challenges we need to resolve are access to adequate land banks, further roll out of affordable housing, and a sustainable real estate industry based on global norms.

Vikas: Like other cement companies, Dalmia Cement has been associated with cricket. For every major event in the cricketing world, many cement companies associate with them for promotions. In what way does it really help in brand building?
Pramesh: –
As a brand, we want to be present in meaningful ways where our consumers are. It’s a good medium for us to reach the consumer in a format which they enjoy. And secondly, it allows for high reach, high frequency, and high engagement – all goals we solve for while planning our media strategy.

In our case, we don’t simply buy airtime – we create properties and partnerships. In the last few years, we have associated with major ICC tournaments and Team India’s away tours. Each of these associations, we have created a full-fledged property – on ground presence, dealer campaigns and tours and digital promotions.

Vikas: – Any other message from your side to the audience and readers?
Pramesh:
There are two things I’d like to express. One, strong, strategic investments in digitisation across all parts of the business, and an increases focus on digital marketing. In general, it is true for any industry that digital is here to stay and with Covid19, it’s only getting stronger.

During the lockdown, we have already worked out a virtual PJP, which is a virtual market visit and contact program for our Sales and Technical Services teams. So, they are connecting with trade and contractors and other stakeholders virtually – not just a phone call, but a systematic program to ensure tracking, conversions and customer delight. In a short span of time, we were able to shift the frontline teams from physical in-market movement to a robust virtual way of continuing business operations.

Secondly, with the launch of Future Today, we are turning to digital marketing as an integral part of our ‘go to market’ as a brand. From the moment the customer searches for cement, to the time he is ready to go to the cement dealership, we are investing in all parts of his journey using the digital medium.

In the past year, we’ve done an innovation with Alexa, where the home builder can ask Alexa questions about construction and get professional responses from Dalmia Cement. All customers need to do is say, "Alexa, Ask Dalmia" and it will answer their construction queries with resources from Dalmia Technical Experts.

Vikas: Very innovative!

Pramesh: Absolutely! We’ve just made a beginning – this will of course get richer and deeper as we progress. We are investing in building digital properties across the board. As an industry, we are laggards when it comes to digital adoption. Dalmia Cement wants to lead this journey, and bring consumers the future, today!

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Economy & Market

Indian cement industry applauds budget FY25 for focusing on decarbonisation

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The Cement Manufacturers Association (CMA) has applauded focus on infrastructure development and decarbonisation in union budget FY25.

New Delhi, July 24, 2024

The Cement Manufacturers’ Association (CMA) – the apex body of large cement manufacturers in India that represents almost 75 per cent of the country’s total installed cement capacity – has welcomed the Union Budget 2024-25 presented by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman yesterday. According to CMA, the budget presents a commendable vision for India’s economic growth, with a strong emphasis on infrastructure development, employment generation and energy security.

Commenting on the budget, Neeraj Akhoury, President, Cement Manufacturers’ Association (CMA) and Managing Director, Shree Cement Limited, stated, “Against the backdrop of global uncertainties and inflation, the Union Budget 2024-25 is transformative and forward looking with an eye on fiscal consolidation. The announcement of Rs 11 lakh crore capital expenditure signifies the Government’s commitment to modernising India’s infrastructure through various significant projects and allocations, which will undoubtedly drive demand for cement and other building materials. These initiatives collectively illustrate the budget’s comprehensive and strategic approach to bolstering India’s infrastructure across various sectors.”

He added, “The cement industry is in alignment with the Government of India’s net zero goals. The transition roadmap for ‘hard to abate’ industries to move from the ‘Perform, Achieve and Trade’ mode to the ‘Indian Carbon Market’ mode is a welcome step. The roadmap will further boost India’s energy infrastructure and encourage renewable energy adoption. Overall, this Budget is a win-win for both the economy and the environment, and the cement industry is poised to play a pivotal role in the nation’s development journey.”

Parth Jindal, Vice President, Cement Manufacturers’ Association (CMA) and Managing Director, JSW Cement Limited, said, “The budget indeed paves the way for a robust and resilient economy, fostering growth that is both equitable and sustainable. Its focus on employment, skilling, and urban development is a significant step towards inclusive growth. The Prime Minister’s package, with its emphasis on skilling and employment linked incentives, will not only further enhance workforce capabilities but also generate new job opportunities within the cement sector. As the cement industry is transitioning and adapting to newer technologies, India needs a workforce that is skilled and equipped. The allocation of Rs 1.48 lakh crore for education, employment, and skilling initiatives stands to have a huge impact on creating a skilled workforce that can contribute effectively to the cement industry. The cement industry is a major contributor to employment generation in India. The cement industry welcomes the budget’s strategic initiatives and is committed to supporting these efforts through innovation and sustainable practices.”

 

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Concrete

Towards an expanding horizon

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The Indian cement industry, among the world’s largest, plays a pivotal role in national infrastructure and economic growth. Driven by robust demand, it continues to expand. ICR delves into the mergers and acquisitions currently underway with major cement players, in a bid to lead capacity expansion.

The Indian cement industry is one of the largest in the world, playing a crucial role in the nation’s infrastructure and economic development. Over the past few years, production has steadily increased, driven by robust demand from both urban and rural areas. Major infrastructure projects, housing developments, and government initiatives like ‘Housing for All’ and ‘Smart Cities’ have significantly boosted cement consumption.

The industry is characterised by a diverse range of players, from large multinational corporations to small local manufacturers, all contributing to a highly competitive market. Consumption trends indicate a strong preference for blended cements due to their environmental benefits and cost-effectiveness.

As the economy continues to grow, the demand for cement is expected to rise, supported by ongoing infrastructure development and urbanisation. This upward trajectory positions the Indian cement industry as a key driver of growth in the construction sector, with a focus on sustainable and innovative practices to meet future challenges.
According to the Infomerics Ratings report dated March 2023, the size of the global cement market reached US$ 363.4 billion in 2022, and it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.4 per cent during 2023 – 2028 to reach US$ 498.23 billion by 2028. The cement industry was expected to add 21.2 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of manufacturing capacity in the year 2022-23. During the period, projects worth US$ 71.8 billion were expected to get commissioned. This would have been the fourth successive year, wherein the industry added more than 20 mtpa of manufacturing capacity. Between 2019-20 and 2021-22, the industry added a total of 81.1 mtpa of manufacturing capacity. The capacity utilisation of cement industries decreased from 66.2 per cent in 2018-19 to 60.3 per cent in 2021-22. There was contraction in demand and production during the pandemic.

India’s commitment to development
Infrastructure development in India is a major driver of cement demand. The government’s focus on initiatives like ‘Bharatmala’ and ‘Sagarmala’ for road and port development, along with rapid expansion in railways and airports, has significantly boosted the cement industry. Policies such as the ‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana’ aim to provide affordable housing, further increasing cement consumption.
Urbanisation is accelerating in India, leading to a surge in real estate development. With a growing middle class and rising urban populations, demand for residential and commercial spaces is expanding rapidly. This urban growth is a key factor driving cement consumption, as cities expand and modernise their infrastructure to accommodate new residents and businesses.
According to Invest India, the government has committed an allocation of 3.3 per cent of GDP to the infrastructure sector in the fiscal year 2024, with particular focus on the transport and logistics segments. Roads and Highways account for the highest share, followed by Railways and Urban Public Transport. The government has set ambitious targets for the transport sector, including development of a 2 lakh-km national highway network by 2025 and expanding airports to 220. Additionally, plans include operationalising 23 waterways by 2030 and developing 35 Multi-Modal Logistics Parks (MMLPs). The total budgetary outlay for infrastructure-related ministries increased from around Rs.3.7 lakh cr in FY23 to Rs.5 lakh cr in FY24, offering investment prospects for the private sector across various transport sub-segments.
India’s cement industry also has strong export potential, with several manufacturers targeting international markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The competitive pricing and quality of Indian cement make it attractive globally, contributing to increased export volumes. As global construction activities pick up, particularly in developing regions, Indian cement manufacturers are well-positioned to meet international demand, further supporting industry growth.

Anticipated growth spurt
Indian cement manufacturers are actively expanding their production capacities to meet growing domestic and international demand. Major players like UltraTech Cement, Adani Group and Shree Cement have announced significant investment plans to increase their manufacturing capabilities. This expansion is driven by factors such as robust infrastructure development, government initiatives, and rising urbanisation.
These companies are strategically enhancing capacity through both greenfield and brownfield projects, focusing on regions with high demand and logistical advantages. Innovations in technology and sustainability are also key priorities, as manufacturers aim to reduce environmental impact while increasing efficiency. This wave of capacity expansion positions the Indian cement industry to cater to future demand surges, maintaining its competitive edge in both domestic and global markets.
According to the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), the Indian cement industry had an installed cement capacity of 600 million tonnes and production of 391 million tonnes of cement in 2022-23. The Crisil Market Intelligence report mentions that to cash in on rising demand from infrastructure and housing sectors, the cement industry is on course to add capacity by 150-160 million tonnes from FY25 to FY28. It also states that the industry has added capacity by 119 million tonnes (MT) per annum to reach a total of 595 MT.
The Indian cement industry is witnessing two major acquisitions in the current times. UltraTech, India’s largest cement player owned by the Aditya Birla Group, has announced that its board has approved picking up a 23 per cent non-controlling stake in India Cements in a deal valued at around Rs.1,885 crore.
While the conglomerate Adani Group has grown its capacity from almost nothing to a total of 75 mtpa in three years, positioning itself as the second-largest player in the industry. The latest growth move is the buyout of Hyderabad-based Penna Cement Industries for Rs.10,420 crore. Currently, Penna Cement has a total capacity of 10 mtpa and another 4 mtpa is under construction. Once the deal is closed, the total capacity of the Adani Group’s cement business will expand to 85 mtpa. The group aims to achieve a production capacity of 140 mtpa by 2028, while market leader UltraTech Cement has set its sights on reaching a capacity of 200 mtpa.
“This landmark acquisition is a significant step forward in Ambuja Cements’ accelerating growth journey,” said Ajay Kapur, CEO and Whole Time Director, Ambuja Cements. “By acquiring PCIL, Ambuja is poised to expand its market presence in south India and reinforce its position as a pan-India leader in the cement industry. PCIL’s strategic location and sufficient limestone reserves provide an opportunity to increase cement capacity through debottlenecking and additional investment. Importantly, the bulk cement terminals (BCTs) will prove to be a gamechanger by giving access to the eastern and southern parts of peninsular India, apart from an entry to Sri Lanka, through the sea route. Our aim is to make PCIL highly competitive on cost and productivity and improve its operating performance.”
Other cement organisations in India also have major manufacturing capacity expansion plans. Shree Cement in February 2024 announced plans for capacity development in Uttar Pradesh (UP) which outlines the development of two cement factories: one in Etah and another in Prayagraj. Both projects are expected to cost approximately `2,000 crore and increase UP’s capacity to produce cement by almost 7 mtpa over the course of the following 24 months. One of Shree Cement’s current projects is a 3.5 mtpa facility in Etah, which is expected to start up in the upcoming year. Prayagraj is planning another 3.5 mtpa facility at the same time. Nearly 17 acres of land in Etah have already been purchased by Shree Cement, and building is under construction.
“New investments made in cement production facilities automatically come with the latest technological advancements that can enhance efficiency, minimise environmental impacts, and improve the quality of cement. This leads to construction practices that are more durable and sustainable. JSW, for instance, has initiated research on the integration of supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) like fly ash, slag, calcined clay and more. These materials not only improve the durability and strength of cement but also contribute towards reduction of carbon footprint of the cement industry. In order to meet energy demands sustainably, we must look at better industry practices such as usage of waste heat recovery systems, high-efficiency coolers and preheaters, and transition towards clean energy sources like solar or wind power,” states Jigyasa Kishore, Vice President – Enterprise Sales and Solutions, Moglix.
JK Cement in June 2024 announced the commissioning of a new grinding unit at its Prayagraj plant in Uttar Pradesh. The Prayagraj plant is a 2 mtpa clinker grinding unit project, which will increase the overall capacity of the organisation from the present 22 to 24 mtpa. This strategic move allows the company to efficiently cater to the burgeoning demand for cement across east Uttar Pradesh.
Dr Raghavpat Singhania, Managing Director, JK Cement, said, “We are thrilled to launch the new grinding unit at Prayagraj, which marks a significant milestone in our expansion strategy. As India accelerates its infrastructure development to sustain robust economic growth, we are continually scaling our capacities to cater to escalating demands from the infrastructure, housing and construction sectors. Our commitment to quality, innovation, and contributing to socio-economic development remains unwavering. We anticipate that these endeavours will not only foster our growth but also actively contribute to the overall development of the region and the nation.”
Dalmia Bharat’s cement manufacturing capacity as of May 2024 stood at 45.6 million tonnes. In the coming year, they plan to add 2.4 million tonnes in Assam and 0.5 million tonnes in Bihar. They are also in the process of acquiring cement assets from Jaiprakash Associates, which will add 9.4 million tonnes to their capacity and mark their entry into the Central region. They are currently focusing on completing ongoing projects and integrating assets like Jaypee Cement. Recently, they invested
`240 crore to expand their plant in Ariyalur, Tamil Nadu, and will add another million tonnes in Kadapa.
Commenting on the company’s expansion plans, Puneet Dalmia, Managing Director and CEO, Dalmia Bharat, said, “We continue to focus on strategic capital expenditure, maximising on the region and growth prospects and further enhancing our market position in the South. Driven by robust infrastructure development, housing and investments, we anticipate cement demand to rise. This increased capacity will facilitate the growing demand in the Southern region.”
Manufacturers are targeting specific regions that offer strategic advantages, such as proximity to raw materials, growing markets, and improved infrastructure connectivity. This regional focus helps in tapping into localised demand and reducing logistical complexities.
Kiran Patil, Managing Director, Wonder Cement, says, “We aim to increase our capacity within the next five years by establishing new plants in strategic locations across the region. These plans align well with the government’s industrial and infrastructure policies, such as the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) and the push for affordable housing. These initiatives are driving demand for construction materials, and we are committed to supporting
these efforts by ensuring a steady supply of high-quality cement.”
“At Wonder Cement, we are committed to significantly expanding our production capacity to meet the growing demands of the Indian market and to contribute to the nation’s infrastructure development. Our expansion strategy is carefully aligned with the government’s industrial and infrastructure policies to ensure that our growth supports national priorities,” he adds.
The capacity expansions are set to increase the competitiveness of the Indian cement industry, with enhanced supply chains and improved market reach. This growth not only meets domestic needs but also strengthens the potential for exports, as Indian cement becomes more competitive in terms of quality and pricing on the global stage.
Overall, the expansion of manufacturing capacity by Indian cement organisations is a critical response to the dynamic market conditions, ensuring that the industry is well-prepared to support India’s developmental aspirations and maintain its competitive positioning internationally.

Rise in cement exports
India’s cement industry gained momentum with the government’s big infrastructure push for development projects. Amid global uncertainties caused by the recessionary situation in the US and EU economies, the global demand for cement has been subdued, and accordingly the cement export from India significantly decreased in half of a decade.
As per Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCI&S), India exports Portland cement, aluminous cement, slag cement, super sulphate cement and hydraulics cements to other countries. India exports most of its concrete cement to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the UAE. Currently, India comes after Spain, Germany, Italy and China in the list of global cement exporters.
According to a report by SeAir Exim Solutions, India’s cement exports declined from 33,73,000 metric tonnes in 2015-16 to 11,66,000 metric tonnes in 2021-22. Cement shipments have significantly decreased in recent years. Overall, India’s cement export future depends on balancing domestic demand, global economic conditions and the industry’s ability to seize growth prospects.

The current Indian cement export scenario (2023-24) is as follows:

Cement Export Data Details
Total cement export from India 211K
Global Rank 1
Cement exporters in India 6498
Number of Indian buyers 16,150

The Infomerics Ratings report states that the cement import by India also significantly declined from 17,69,000 tonnes in 2017-18 to 7,52,000 tonnes in 2019-20 due to the pandemic. With the recovery in domestic demand, imports by India gained traction from 7,52,000 tonnes in 2019-20 to 8,16,000 tonnes in 2021-22. In 2021-22, India imported cement largely from UAE (395.1 thousand tonnes), Bangladesh (130.7 thousand tonnes), Bhutan (196.4 thousand tonnes) and Oman (41.2 thousand tonnes).

Risks and challenges
Expanding cement manufacturing capacities in India presents several risks and challenges:

  • Regulatory and environmental compliance: Navigating stringent environmental regulations can be complex and costly. Manufacturers must ensure compliance with pollution control norms, which can delay projects and increase operational costs.
  • Raw material availability: Securing consistent and cost-effective supplies of limestone and other raw materials is crucial. Fluctuations in availability or price can impact production and profitability.
  • Logistical challenges: Efficient transportation and distribution of cement are critical. Infrastructure bottlenecks and high logistics costs can affect supply chain efficiency and market reach.
  • Market saturation and competition: Rapid capacity expansion can lead to oversupply in the market, pressuring prices and margins. Intense competition among manufacturers further complicates market dynamics.
  • Economic and policy uncertainty: Fluctuations in economic conditions and changes in government policies related to construction and infrastructure can affect demand, influencing investment returns and strategic planning.

Addressing these challenges requires careful planning, strategic investment, and a focus on sustainability to ensure long-term growth and competitiveness in the industry.

Conclusion
The Indian cement industry stands at a pivotal point, driven by robust infrastructure development, urbanisation, and strategic government initiatives. As manufacturers expand their capacities through significant investments in both greenfield and brownfield projects, they are positioning themselves to meet growing domestic and international demand. However, this growth trajectory is not without challenges, including regulatory hurdles, raw material availability, logistical issues and market competition.
To navigate these complexities, companies are focusing on sustainability, innovation, and strategic regional investments, ensuring they remain competitive and responsive to dynamic market conditions. As the industry continues to evolve, its ability to adapt and capitalise on emerging opportunities will be crucial in maintaining its role as a key driver of India’s economic development and infrastructure growth. With a commitment to quality and environmental responsibility, the Indian cement industry is well-equipped to support the nation’s aspirations and achieve long-term success on the global stage.

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Concrete

Advancing Industrial Efficiency

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Gears, drives, and motors are essential for efficient cement production, and advancements in materials, design and technology enhance their performance. ICR discusses regular maintenance and smart manufacturing practices, including AI and IoT integration, which ensure optimal operation, reduced downtime and extended lifespan.

In the cement industry, gears, drives and motors play crucial roles in ensuring the efficient operation of machinery and equipment essential for cement production. These components are integral to various processes, including the extraction, crushing, grinding, and transportation of raw materials, as well as the production and packaging of the final cement product.
Gears are mechanical components that transmit torque and rotation from one part of a machine to another. In cement plants, gears are used in a variety of applications, such as in rotary kilns, ball mills, and crushers. They help in reducing the speed and increasing the torque to achieve the desired output for specific machinery. The types of gears commonly used include helical, bevel, and spur gears, each chosen for its specific advantages in terms of strength, efficiency, and suitability for particular tasks.
According to a market research report by IMARC, the global gear manufacturing market size reached US$ 80.0 billion in 2023. Looking forward, IMARC Group expects the market to reach US$ 131.4 billion by 2032, exhibiting a growth rate (CAGR) of 5.5 per cent during 2024-2032.
Drives refer to the mechanisms that provide the necessary power to operate various machines. In the cement industry, drive systems can be mechanical, hydraulic, or electrical. Mechanical drives, such as belt and gear drives, are often used for their simplicity and reliability. Hydraulic drives offer precise control and are used in applications where variable speed and torque are required. Electrical drives, which include variable frequency drives (VFDs), are increasingly popular for their energy efficiency and ability to provide precise speed control. Drives ensure that machinery operates at the optimal speed and torque, enhancing productivity and reducing wear and tear.
Motors are the heart of the drive systems, converting electrical energy into mechanical motion. In cement plants, motors power various machines, such as conveyors, crushers, mills, and fans. The selection of motors—whether AC, DC, synchronous, or asynchronous—depends on the specific requirements of the application, including the need for variable speed control, starting torque, and energy efficiency. Motors must be robust and reliable to withstand the harsh operating conditions typical in cement production environments.
The integration of gears, drives, and motors in the cement industry is essential for maintaining continuous and efficient operations. These components work together to ensure that machinery runs smoothly, minimising downtime and maximising output. Moreover, advancements in technology have led to the development of more efficient and durable gears, drives, and motors, contributing to the overall sustainability and cost-effectiveness of cement manufacturing processes. Their proper selection, maintenance and operation are critical to the productivity and longevity of cement plants.

Advancements and technology
Recent advancements in gear, drive, and motor technology have significantly enhanced the efficiency, reliability, and functionality of these critical components in the cement industry. These technological developments are largely driven by the principles of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing, which emphasise automation, data exchange, and the integration of cyber-physical systems. Advancements coupled with the transformative impact of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing, have revolutionised the cement industry. These innovations have led to more efficient, reliable and sustainable operations, positioning the industry for continued growth and competitiveness in the digital age.
“Advancements in gear technology have significantly enhanced the efficiency and performance of cement manufacturing processes at Wonder Cement. Modern gears, crafted from high-strength alloys and featuring advanced surface treatments, offer superior durability and wear resistance. This results in reduced friction and energy loss, allowing for more efficient power transmission. Precision engineering and innovative designs enable gears to handle higher loads with greater reliability, minimising downtime and maintenance costs. By integrating these state-of-the-art gear systems, Wonder Cement achieves optimal operational performance, ensuring that our production lines run smoothly and efficiently,” says Piyush Joshi, Associate Vice President – Systems and Technical Cell, Wonder Cement.
“The improved efficiency not only lowers energy consumption but also contributes to a more sustainable manufacturing process, aligning with our commitment to environmental stewardship and operational excellence. The incorporation of advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), represents a significant innovation in the cement industry. At Wonder Cement, these state-of-the-art tools have been instrumental in optimising operations, reducing energy consumption and enhancing overall productivity,” he adds.
Gears have seen improvements in materials and design. The use of advanced materials, such as high-performance alloys and composite materials, has resulted in gears that are stronger, lighter and more resistant to wear and corrosion. Precision manufacturing techniques, including computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), have enabled the production of gears with tighter tolerances and better surface finishes, reducing friction and improving efficiency. Additionally, innovative lubrication solutions and surface treatments have extended the lifespan of gears, reducing maintenance needs and downtime.
Drives have benefited from the integration of digital technologies. Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) and intelligent drive systems now offer enhanced control and flexibility, allowing for precise speed and torque adjustments to match the operational demands of cement production processes. These advanced drives are equipped with sensors and connectivity features that enable real-time monitoring and diagnostics, facilitating predictive maintenance and reducing the risk of unexpected failures. The adoption of energy-efficient drives has also contributed to significant energy savings and reduced carbon emissions.
Motors have evolved with advancements in design, materials, and control technologies. High-efficiency motors, such as permanent magnet synchronous motors (PMSMs) and brushless DC motors (BLDCs), offer superior performance and energy efficiency compared to traditional induction motors. Innovations in motor control, including the use of sophisticated algorithms and power electronics, have improved the precision and responsiveness of motor operations. Furthermore, smart motors equipped with IoT (Internet of Things) capabilities can communicate with central control systems, providing valuable data for optimising performance and maintenance schedules.
Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing have profoundly impacted gears, drives, and motors by introducing connectivity, automation, and data analytics into the manufacturing environment. Smart sensors and IoT devices embedded in these components enable continuous monitoring of their operational status, allowing for real-time data collection and analysis. This data-driven approach facilitates predictive maintenance, where potential issues are identified and addressed before they lead to equipment failure, thereby enhancing reliability and reducing downtime.
The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms further enhances the capabilities of smart manufacturing systems. These technologies can analyse vast amounts of data to identify patterns and optimise processes, leading to improved efficiency and productivity. For instance, AI-driven optimisation can adjust motor speeds and gear ratios in real-time to match varying loads and operational conditions, ensuring optimal performance and energy usage.

Common issues and troubleshooting
Maintaining gears, drives, and motors is essential for efficient cement plant operations, reducing downtime and extending equipment lifespan. Regular maintenance practices prevent failures and ensure reliability.
Gears require regular inspection and lubrication to avoid wear and tear. Common issues include surface wear, misalignment, and overheating. Proper alignment during installation and regular checks can prevent these problems. Using high-quality materials and maintaining a clean environment mitigates pitting and corrosion.
Drives need regular maintenance to ensure efficient operation. Mechanical drives can suffer from belt and chain wear, which requires inspection and replacement. Hydraulic drives may have leaks; tightening fittings and replacing seals can prevent this. Electrical drives can face motor burnout or VFD failure, prevented by proper wiring and avoiding overloads. Addressing excessive vibration and noise through balancing and alignment checks is also crucial.
Motors are vital to drive systems and require diligent maintenance. Bearing failures, overheating, and electrical faults are common issues. Regular lubrication, adequate cooling, and electrical inspections can prevent these problems. Vibration and noise often indicate misalignment or bearing issues, which can be detected and addressed through vibration analysis.
Troubleshooting techniques involve systematic inspection and analysis. Visual inspections, vibration analysis, thermography, lubrication analysis, and electrical testing are effective methods. Implementing a proactive maintenance strategy with regular inspections, timely lubrication, and condition monitoring enhances the reliability and longevity of gears, drives, and motors in the cement industry.

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