Unless the different ranks of technicians and other staff working in cement plants keep themselves updated with innovations, it will be difficult for them to continue in their jobs. BHASKAR AGATE shares his views.
Cement automation and process control have now considerably advanced, and cement plants have been well-equipped with a number of capital-intensive expert systems. The FLS Advanced process control for the cement industry ensures that cement plants perform better, resulting in increased stability and higher profitability. A few direct and indirect benefits are enumerated below.
Direct Benefits: Up to 8 per higher production; up to 6 per cent lower fuel/energy consumption, up to 30 per cent lower standard deviation of quality, Payback of investment in less than a year (depending on specific applications); Indirect Benefits: Long-term stability ' Reduced equipment wear; minimised downtime and reduced maintenance costs.
Similarly, Siemens offers CEMAT, a process-control system for the cement industry. ABB also uses process control and automation solutions for cement plants.
However, in the current competitive environment, plant managements have been forced to downsise and restructure their technical staff; and also to make them ready to operate the aforesaid costly systems effectively.
When it comes to enhancing competitiveness, the management focus is on the 4 'M's (Men, Materials, Machines and Money). As far as developing technical staff, normally Human Resource Heads of the cement plants or corporates look for a low-cost trainer who can give quality training input to their technical staff. It is well understood that training is an investment that is very much essential to upgrade employees.
In fact, it has been experienced that these technical people who are either rotated within the various sections of the plant during restructuring or directly operate from the Central Control Room (CCR), are seldom exposed to structured input on cement quality and process control measures. Monitoring the number of processes and quality parameters together; and to take verities of operational & process control corrective actions is a challenging task for technical staff, as well quality control staff of the laboratory, but nevertheless, expert systems robots have been provided to them.
The middle and the higher level of management get comparatively better exposure but they do not have these expert systems at their fingertips. Seasoned cement engineers would recall during age old times, cement quality used to be secret and the process function was totally camouflaged or at infancy stage. Perhaps the only higher level of management was knowledge upgradation and they used to keep everything up their sleeves. Now the scenario has changed and everything is available to learn and apply with a touch of finger.
The first line technical staff - including artisans - need to be told in simple language, what important role they play on the shop floor, to impart them sound theoretical and practical understanding of basic knowledge on cement quality and process control activity and its real application in enhancing their skills as well as process effectiveness. This would certainly help the organisations in achieving their goals and objectives in the long run.
Appreciating the stated need, it is better to customise programmes for these categories of technicians to help them as well as the plant management. Some of the key subject initiatives to be covered are as under.
Cement Quality & Process Control
The efficiency of pyro-processing (kiln section) is adjudged by its most important parameter i.e., specific fuel consumption expressed in terms of Kg.cal.per Kg . clinker. Different types of world-class pyro-processing systems that are operating in India are provided with computer-based systems for efficient operation; however, the lack of knowledge, clarity in understanding and poor way of monitoring the process results in lower production at higher cost and higher power consumption as well. This is not acceptable to any organisation in the present era of competitive market.
There are a number of process and operating parameters and equipment in the overall upstream & downstream of a Pyro-processing System including raw material and cement quality, and process parameters which are required to be monitored and optimised for the stable running of a cement plant and its profitability.
In fact, everyone working in cement plant need to be aware of this aspect and develop sensitivity towards these parameters.
Artisans (fitters, welders, HEOs, diesel mechanics, MTOs, testing boys, testers) and 1st line supervisors of cements plant have got the necessary skill, but because of thr circumstances, they are required to be relocated during restructuring; however, it is essential to upgrade them with basic cement technology and bring to their attention what role an individual artisan plays in their respective skill while performing maintenance jobs and also in turn maintaining cement quality and process efficiency at its peak operational level with the process control parameters.
Besides the above, the following initiatives are also useful for cement technical staff:
In various sections of a cement plant, a lot of data is normally generated and analysed so that technical staff are equipped with the analytical tools. To meet this objective analytical tools like Juran Quality Improvement Tools are learnt through:
b)Juran Triology and Introduction to Problem solving.
With this, technical staff can present their findings before the management while problem solving.
The initiatives indicated abroad should be preferably designed by a well experienced cement engineer who has risen up from the ranks. This would facilitate in healthy interaction with the 1st line technical staff, and overall better learning and sharing. Participants have to work hard and enjoy hands-on work experience by taking down their own notes manually in exercise books and interacting with the Cement Engineer. On completion of such initiatives the technical groups (TGs) should take up small projects under SGA (Small Group Activity) of TPM (Total Productivity Maintenance) and present these projects before their Chief Executive in a monthly meeting. This will ensure their learning and also enhance the confidence level of individuals from their learning stage to become independent teachers and trainers based on their individual potential.
Out of the Box
The initiatives given below may look to be out of the box thinking, but are certainly useful to fresh technicians, school teachers and social club members of a cement plant.
Soft Skills /Skill building Programme
(a)Confidence building through Personality Development Many cement plants are located in isolated areas where they have not got schools as well as ladies' clubs. The school teachers, and members of ladies clubs also need good quality input in soft skills. This in turn would help them impart education to their children.
All the above initiatives have already been implemented in some of the cement plants in India, and the trend is likely expand, as more cement companies carry out their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).
About the author:
Bhaskar Agate, currently based at Pune, was Dy Gen Manager (Tech) at ACC Ltd. He is presently a professional trainer and technical adviser to AIMIL Ltd (New Delhi), and a Process Expert (GSH) at Chennai for PAT (Perform, Achieve and Trade) Audit.