Though Indian cement manufacturers are adopting automation in certain pockets in their manufacturing process, soon adopting the comprehensive and latest Industrie 4.0 technologies is the way forward.
Cement plants with round the clock operations are also well spread out at different locations, making it difficult for manually monitoring various parameters and adjusting process parameters on a real-time basis. Already several routine jobs are being automated to improve efficiencies and to avoid human errors, by adopting various monitoring equipment and automation for improving process efficiency. Use of robotics in the process industries and laboratories is also seen in the Indian manufacturing sector.
Real-time evaluation of samples is a challenge in the cement industry with the size of plants being large, any delay in corrective action involves quality issues with a very large volume of production. Considering the manpower cost v/s automation cost, always automation may turn out to be a cost effective option, which even the industry is opting for.
Digital transformation has become the buzzword for industrial plants across the world, with industries well on the way towards adopting Industrie 4.0, and trying to improve their competitive standing. This applies to all sectors of industry with rapidly changing market demands in which products have to be manufactured ever more quickly, flexibly and in diminishing quantities. Further integration of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and edge computing into plant portfolio is making it even more exciting.
Industry-specific applications ranging from automation and Edge devices using artificial intelligence in applications such as machine tools, production machinery and process plants, and going up to integrated networking concepts from factory floors to corporate offices are available to process driven industries like cement. Depending on user requirements, the integration and flexibility of the system allows for analysis of data at the field level or in the cloud.
FLSmidth, a leading supplier of complete control and automation solution(s) in the Indian Subcontinent, said that it is very optimistic of this business in the coming years taking cue from uptick in the cement market and with new projects being announced.
FLSmidth offers two industry leading product suites-ECS (Expert Control System) and QCX (Quality Control using XRay)-to the cement industry for their control and automation needs for production and quality. It provides integrated digital solutions for plant production control, process control, process optimisation, quality control, laboratory management, enterprise management information system along with smart instrumentation for cement plants.
FLSmidth's optimisation product, ECS/ProcessExpert, can be installed in any cement plant, regardless of who has supplied its control system and regardless of who has supplied the plant and machinery, for optimising raw mill grinding system, kiln-cooler-coal mill system and cement mill grinding system, the company said in response to a query.
ECS/ProcessExpert can optimise various plant configurations based on combinations of roller press, ball mill, vertical roller mill, inline/separate line calciners, single/twin/three tower pre-heater systems, vent/vent less coolers, etc., FLSmidth added.
"We have a suite of quality control products, bundled as a quality solution for cement plants, under QCX portfolio. Our QCX/Pile, QCX/BlendExpert, QCX/Autoprep, QCX/Robolab, etc., ensure measurement and control of quality of intermediate and final products at various stages, like at the stock pile, raw meal, clinker and cement," FLSmidth said.
Therefore, our ECS and QCX product suites perfectly complement each other to give highest productivity (by ECS) at the consistent quality (by QCX) for our customers, adds FLSmidth.
In line with its "Make in India" commitment FLSmidth manufactures Gas Analysis System and Machine Control Systems at its Arakonam factory. "We have developed a number of Indian vendors for sourcing control panels manufactured to meet our standards. All system engineering, programming and system integration are done by highly trained and experienced engineers in our Chennai offices. We also have a 24x7 support digital system in Chennai to provide instant assistance to our customers," FLSmidth said.
The future is digital and digitalisation. Automation being the "intelligent" component of digitalisation, requires thrust attention for its growth. "Government policies should drive productivity (efficiency, lowering operating costs, enhance sustainability of natural resources etc.), which can be harnessed by digitalisation. Companies must be incentivised to train its staff on technologies like AI, machine learning and robotics," FLSmidth suggested.
After-sales service is an important factor for success of any manufacturer or service provider. Discussing their after sale service function, FLSmidth said "We have a dedicated service execution team that perform all required on-site activities for setting up a control and automation system. Besides this, we have a dedicated 24x7 service support system manned by experts to provide instant assistance over a digital infrastructure. We also execute PLA (PlantLine Agreement) to fulfil uptime and updation of control systems." The cement companies, however, have to constantly keep a watch on new vistas opening up on the technology front.
- B.S. SRINIVASALU REDDY