- Jagdish Chandra Toshniwal,Managing Director, Wonder Cement Ltd
You are one of the first few cement manufacturers to opt for lab automation. What are the latest offerings from lab automation suppliers?
This technology has matured over the years. The lab automation suppliers are moving their data over to cloud and perform analytics on the quality data by relating it to process data (such data can be opened up for end-users of our product).
Suppliers today offer a range of fully automatic solutions from Robot-free to Multi-Robot systems and also in phased manner to spread the investment over a few years. The latest offering is use of cobots or collaborative robots in laboratory automation, allowing a common shared space for both humans and machines as well as give a lot of flexibility to support future growth.
Further, their offering now includes connectivity with hot meal samplers and recently they have introduced concept of mobile POLAB.
What is the cost and/or quality benefits that can the customer can expect as a return on their investment?
Cost without analysers: Rs 80-120 million depending on plant size (analysers cost another Rs 30-40 million). At Wonder Cement, the cost incurred is approximately 200 million (includes one CBA and two XRF for managing two lines of operation).
ROI: Approximately three years, considering indirect benefits from increased productivity and efficiency, better lining life of kiln, optimised use of additives, reduced kiln stoppages, reduced clinker factor. Over and above, production of quality products consistently, reflects in better image in the market which gives leverage for enhancing sales.
Is productivity a major benefit for clients?
Absolutely, by monitoring quality of final products as well as intermediate raw meal or kiln feed, we stabilise the process leading to better productivity and to be more specific, capability of bringing down standard deviation of this system, leading to better throughput and production of consistent quality product.
All this is possible through this advanced on time sample collection and consistent sample preparation system for accurate x-ray analysis and particle size analysis. Being there is transparency of all the quality data so that even if any deviation is there it is taken care proactively by concern.
Availability of large data in the history of system is being utilised for analysis, helping us to maintain best achievement and also to improve further. A stable quality ensures a stable kiln operation with less thermal shocks and thereby gives longer refractory life.
How seamless is the integration provided by your system, between laboratory and power control?
In today's open hi-tech digital world, it is indeed seamless. Chemistry of raw materials are constantly and automatically monitored (without any human hand and intervention).
The integration between the laboratory and power control is flawless which allows us to control the quality of raw mix, clinker as well as Particle size distribution of cement products. Under this operation, change in desired mix, prompts the advanced quality control software POLAB® AQCnet software to re-calculate the raw mix finally through AQC net. The new mix information is sent to plant control system, which controls the material weigh- feeders. This happens is close-loop and is reconfirmed after the next sample is analysed.Loop control of separator between lab & Milling system power could be optimised as well.
What is the cycle time for delivery and installation of such a lab automation system from concept to commissioning in a Greenfield situation?
Depending on the scope, it takes 6 to 10 months to conceptualise and install a new
robotic laboratory automation system. But, for a greenfield cement plant, this can be done in parallel to the main plant and machinery ordering, which anyway has a timeframe of 12-18 months of concept-to-market.
Do you think it will be beneficial to opt for renovation/ retrofit of existing plants?
Yes, it will help us to identify problems and to take prompt action on variation of quality parameters and thereby one can improve their plants productivity and quality in consistent manner.
What is the growth outlook for the Indian cement industry?
The growth outlook looks positive for the Indian cement and concrete industry as the government has major development and re-structural plans. Thereby, we are escalating our capacity from 8 MTA to 12 MTA by April 2019. We are going to start a cement grinding unit, having capacity 2 MTPA at Dhule by month end and also coming up with another grinding unit in MP near Ratlam in near future.