LafargeHolcim has launched a four-year industrial automation plan called ‘Plants of Tomorrow.’ It includes Industry 4.0 concepts such as automation technologies and robotics, artificial intelligence, predictive maintenance and digital twin technologies for its entire production process. The plan is expected to show 15 – 20 per cent operational efficiency gains. It also claims that the initiative is, “one of the largest roll-outs of Industry 4.0 technologies in the building materials industry.” “Transforming the way we produce cement is one of the focus areas of our digitalisation strategy and the ‘Plants of Tomorrow’ initiative will turn Industry 4.0 into reality at our plants. These innovative solutions make cement production safer, more efficient and environmentally fit,” said Solomon Baumgartner Aviles, Global Head, Cement Manufacturing. The building materials company is presently working on more than 30 pilot projects covering all regions where the company is active. The company’s integrated cement plant at Siggenthal in Switzerland will be a trial site where the integration of all relevant modules will be tested.
One examples of where LafargeHolcim has started the plan include a partnership with Swiss start-up Flyability to use drones to increase the frequency of inspections at plants while simultaneously reducing cost and increasing safety for employees by inspecting confined spaces. The concept is being rolled out to several markets, including Switzerland, France, Germany, the UK, the US, Canada, India and Russia. It is also using a subsidiary, Maqer, to identify technology startups with promising technology. It aims to harness the potential of this through new partnership models with both manufacturing and software companies.
LafargeHolcim has already launched technology to track performance centrally and allocated resources to support the plant network in real time. More than 80 per cent of LafargeHolcim’s cement plants are already connected to its Technical Information System that provides data transparency at plant, country, regional and global level. Some country operations have more than a decade of historic technical data available. Other systems allow the remote control of certain parts of the operations through online condition monitoring systems. Since its implementation in 2006, this system has saved over Euro70m and an additional 3Mt of cement sold through fewer breakdowns.