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Digitalisation paves the way for advanced digital solutions

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Prashant Verma, Co-founder and India Head, Nanoprecise Sci Corp, discusses the exponentially growing importance of technology and IT initiatives in all the processes related to cement production.

Tell us about the role of automation and technology in achieving efficiency in cement plants.
Technology has been playing a crucial role in transforming the operations of cement plants. It has paved the way for data-driven decision-making, which is now a hallmark of modern cement plants. The vast amount of data collected through automation systems is analysed to uncover operational inefficiencies and opportunities for process improvements. This data-driven approach enables plant personnel to optimise production schedules, increase productivity and stay ahead in a competitive market.
Technological evolution has also enabled the implementation of predictive maintenance solutions, which help identify potential equipment failures before they occur. The emergence of predictive maintenance solutions has revolutionised maintenance practices in cement plants. With real-time data from IoT sensors and AI-powered algorithms, these systems can predict faults in equipment well in advance, thereby preventing any unplanned down or catastrophic failure. This proactive approach optimises maintenance schedules, minimises downtime, and ultimately reduces maintenance costs. Moreover, automation and technology help maintenance teams to identify the energy consumption patterns of equipment sets, allowing them to implement energy-saving measures, leading to cost reductions and environmental benefits.

As the production of cement is moving towards Industry 4.0, how are you incorporating digitalisation in cement plants?
Embracing digitalisation is a key focus for a range of cement manufacturers across the country. Nanoprecise has been helping cement manufacturers incorporate state-of-the-art digital technologies to transform traditional cement plants into smart and connected facilities, for more than four years. One of our main efforts involves the deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) devices throughout the plant to monitor the health and performance of equipment in real time. These devices continuously collect data from the machinery, which is then transmitted to the cloud for analysis. The advanced signal processing algorithms parse through this complex machine health data to detect anomalies and predict potential equipment failures. This enables cement manufacturers to anticipate maintenance needs, helping plants optimise maintenance schedules, improve resource allocation, and avoid unplanned downtime.

How do you customise your solutions for each plant?
Customers generally have needs and requirements that are unique, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not meet their specific requirements. We are working with businesses across a wide range of sectors around the world, to deploy customised solutions that help them drive their digital transformation journey.
Customisation is an essential component of Industry 4.0 as each cement plant has unique operating conditions and equipment configurations. Our structured process involves conducting a comprehensive assessment of the plant, gathering real-time data using our ultra-low-power wireless sensors and analysing it using patented cloud-based software that detects even small changes in the machine performance and predicts the remaining useful life of any industrial asset. The solution can be customised to monitor a wide range of equipment including complicated machines like the roller press due to its ability to monitor low and ultra-low-speed applications with ease. It also allows for seamless integrations with various vertical and horizontal stacks. Moreover, the system can also be deployed on cloud or on-premise servers, thereby allowing for a simple plug and play, hassle-free deployment, without worrying about any extra IT infrastructure.

Tell us about AI-based machine productions? How does that help cement plants?
AI-based machine productions involve utilising artificial intelligence algorithms to optimise the cement production process. Through machine learning, AI algorithms can analyse historical production data, sensor readings, and other relevant factors to make accurate predictions and recommendations.
AI algorithms can monitor and analyse vast amounts of data pertaining to various production parameters to maintain consistent product quality. Moreover, by analysing data from various stages of production, AI can also identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks, suggesting optimisations to enhance overall process efficiency. Furthermore, AI can be applied to predict equipment failures and schedule maintenance activities, leading to minimal disruption and downtime. It can also optimise energy consumption by suggesting the most efficient operating conditions for equipment, thereby reducing energy costs and environmental impact.

What is the kind of data collected through automation systems? How does that help with cement operations?
Automated AI-based predictive maintenance solutions consist of 6-in-1 wireless sensors that measure the 6 most important parameters of Tri-Axial Vibration, Acoustics, RPM, Temperature, Humidity and Magnetic Flux. These sensors act as the vigilant eyes and ears of the manufacturing plants, continuously monitoring the vital indicators of the health and performance of machinery. The combination of these six vital parameters equips cement plants with a holistic view of their industrial assets, allowing for data-driven decisions to optimise operations and prevent costly downtime.
The collected data is then transmitted to the cloud through an encrypted and secured network for analysis. The AI analyses complex machine health data to discern subtle patterns, identify anomalies, and even predict potential equipment issues well in advance. This predictive capability is a game-changer for cement operations, as it empowers maintenance teams to take proactive measures before any critical failure occurs. By leveraging the power of automation and AI-driven analytics, the cement industry can reduce maintenance costs, enhance equipment reliability, and achieve higher energy efficiency, ultimately leading to improved productivity
and profitability.

Can costs and production be optimised or enhanced with the digitalisation of cement plants? If yes, how?
Digitalisation paves the way for implementing advanced digital solutions that can help maintenance teams transition from reactive to proactive maintenance strategies. Early detection of equipment issues enables planned maintenance, reducing costly unplanned downtime and minimising repair expenses. The state-of-the-art condition monitoring solutions available in the market, have the potential to revolutionise inventory management due to their predictive capabilities, thereby allowing for optimised resource allocation and reduced wastage of raw materials. This optimisation of inventory levels minimises carrying costs and mitigates the risk of overstocking or stockouts. Moreover, digitalisation allows for better monitoring of equipment’s energy consumption. By identifying the energy consumption patterns of equipment under faulty conditions, cement plants can take corrective actions to reduce energy wastage and carbon footprint, thereby achieving significant cost reductions over time.

What are the key skills required by plant personnel to transform them digitally?
Our automated solutions are designed to serve a wide range of end users, irrespective of their technical proficiency or department within the cement plant. The system generates real-time alerts that prompt the user to take necessary action, ensuring seamless and efficient operations. Moreover, our state-of-the-art dashboard and visualisation layer enables end-users and technical experts to view data from multiple dimensions, delivering an intuitive and user-friendly interface. The seamless integration of these features fosters streamlined and optimised operations within the cement plant.

Tell us about the major challenges you face in the execution of technology in cement plants.
Implementation of digital technologies such as predictive and prescriptive maintenance solutions is a challenging process in asset-intensive sectors like cement manufacturing. For instance, cement plants consist of various complex machines and equipment, each with its unique operating parameters and intricacies. Integrating and optimising technology solutions for such diverse machinery requires a deep understanding of the equipment and its operations. These plants operate in harsh and rugged environments, exposing the machines and equipment to extreme temperatures, dust, moisture and vibrations, which necessitates robust solutions that can withstand these conditions. Our solution comprises robust hardware that can monitor such machines, thereby bringing peace of mind to our customers. Our solutions undergo robust testing and validations to ensure their resilience in the rugged plant environment.
Secondly, the introduction of new technology is generally followed by an adoption curve, which is why we provide extensive customer support. We focus on gaining staff acceptance and support as that is vital to the successful implementation of technology solutions. We achieve this by conducting effective training programs that address staff concerns and promote acceptance of the new technology. Moreover, implementing technology solutions in large cement plants can be a time-consuming process. However, with our plug and play solutions, we closely collaborate with teams in these plants to streamline the implementation, allowing for hardware installation in less than five minutes and facilitating seamless integration of digital technology. This expedites the adoption of our solutions, minimising downtime and ensuring a smooth transition.
We ultimately strive to deliver technology solutions that excel in effectiveness and efficiency, ultimately optimising performance, enhancing reliability and fostering sustainable
growth in cement plants.

Kanika Mathur

Concrete

15th Cement EXPO to be held in March 2025 in Hyderabad

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Cement EXPO 2025, which will be held along with the 10th Indian Cement Review Conference and the 8th Indian Cement Review Awards, promises to be bigger, drawing in greater participation, fostering more profound discussions and showcasing the continued evolution of the cement industry.

Mumbai

After the arousing success of the 14th Cement EXPO, which was held on December 14-15, 2023 at Manekshaw Centre along the 9th Indian Cement Review Conference and the 7th Indian Cement Review Awards, the next edition of Cement EXPO will be hosted in March 2025 in Hyderabad. The 15th Cement EXPO promises to be bigger and even more impactful than 2023 edition with more participating companies and larger exhibition area. The 3-in-1 event is organised by FIRST Construction Council (an infrastructure think tank) and Indian Cement Review (ICR).

The 14th Cement EXPO received big thumps up from the industry with over 1,500 senior managers/decision makers visiting the expo. The EXPO was inaugurated by Dr Vibha Dhawan, Director General, TERI; and Ali Emir Adiguzel, Founder and Director, World Cement Association, along with Pratap Padode, Founder, FIRST Construction Council (FCC). Top notch companies from the Indian cement industry’s supply chain presented their latest innovations and offerings in the sprawling two-tiered exhibition space.

The 14th Cement EXPO garnered significant support from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government e-Marketplace (GeM), and the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India (GoI).

The 7th Indian Cement Review Awards presented awards to 11 companies in different categories recognising their contribution to growth and innovation in the industry. While Parth Jindal (Managing Director of JSW Cement) was conferred with the Indian Cement Review – Person of the Year Award 2023, Vinita Singhania (Vice Chairman and Managing Director at JK Lakshmi Cement Ltd) was presented with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

With a theme centred on ‘Driving Sustainability Through Technology’, the 9th Indian Cement Review Conference hosted thought provoking discussions, panel sessions, and presentations, showcasing the industry’s commitment to embracing cutting-edge solutions.

The success and resonance of the 2023 edition has laid the groundwork for the 15th Cement EXPO 2025, which is bound to be bigger, drawing in greater participation, fostering more profound discussions and showcasing the continued evolution of the cement industry.

The EXPO, along with the 10th Indian Cement Review Conference and the 8th Indian Cement Review Awards, will contribute significantly to the ongoing transformation of the cement industry.

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Concrete

Shree Cement breaks ground at two sites

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Shree Cement has recently commenced the construction of two new 3.5Mt/yr cement plants in Etah and Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, as per news reports. This development is in line with the company’s memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Uttar Pradesh government, signed in February 2023. With the aim of achieving 9Mt/yr in installed capacity by February 2026, the company plans to invest an estimated US$241 million. Currently, Shree Cement operates a 2Mt/yr integrated cement plant in Bulandshahr.

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Concrete

JK Lakshmi Cement records hike in profits

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JK Lakshmi Cement announced a significant increase in standalone net profit, which jumped by 69 per cent to Rs.124.06 Crores in the Oct-Dec 2023 quarter. The company achieved a 7 per cent increase in standalone net sales and reported a clinker capacity utilisation of 105 per cent and cement capacity utilisation of 79 per cent in the same quarter. The company attributed its improved profitability to higher volume, better product and sales mix, and a reduction in fuel costs.
In terms of sustainability initiatives, the company is implementing projects to enhance its TSR and WHR capacity, as well as sourcing solar power to increase the share of renewable energy at its Durg Cement Plant. Additionally, the company’s subsidiary, Udaipur Cement Works Ltd (UCWL), successfully commissioned its second clinker line and is expected to commission its cement grinding capacity expansion soon.
The company is also undertaking expansion projects, including increasing clinker capacity and establishing cement grinding units at various locations, with a proposed investment of Rs.2,500 crores. Funding for this project is proposed to be through term loans from banks and internal accruals. The company also announced an interim dividend of 40 per cent.

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