Indian Cement Review recently organised a round table discussion to get a peek into the insights from cement industry experts on ways to accelerate the sector's growth.
The Indian cement industry is the second largest cement industry in the world, with a current installed capacity of 330 mmta. It is a significant contributor to the country's GDP and is also known to be highly energy efficient. Though quite mature, the industry has several avenues for further development. With this in mind, Indian Cement Review recently had a round table discussion with leaders in the cement industry to understand the pain points of the sector and to identify new opportunities to be tapped. The panel saw participation from leading cement manufacturers, users and consultants.
The discussion was moderated by Sumit Banerjee, former VC, Reliance Cements. The objective of the discussion was to identify areas in the cement sector that need immediate attention to allow the sector to operate in a sustainable manner. Since the panel members were selected from various streams and segments of the sector, the discussion uncovered several key points that are critical to the industry.
SV Joshi mentioned that today awareness about the impact of industry on environment is increasing among the manufacturers and more companies are looking towards energy-efficient and green manufacturing processes. It is time where successful technologies related to alternative fuels must be aggressively popularised and the requisite know-how must be shared. He also mentioned that lack of infrastructural growth and the convoluted taxation and regulatory system are areas of concern for the industry.
Ajay Hans concurred with Joshi's point while adding that land acquisition regulations too, need to be more industry friendly since dealing with such regulatory obstacles is a big hassle while setting up new projects.
Ajit Apte too spoke about the difficulties in project implementation and technology validation. He said the government must offer funds to help develop new technologies. This, he said, will entice cement manufacturers try out new technologies without unnecessary hesitation due to fear of project failures.
KN Rao said that there is an urgent requirement to educate the industry about the new PAT targets. He feels that currently the industry is not geared sufficiently enough to face the regulatory compliance challenges that it will be presented with very soon.
Speaking about eco-friendly initiatives and sustainable energy generation, he said the industry needed to be primed on new approaches to pre-processing of alternative fuel resources. He also said that several top players are experimenting with gasification of municipal waste to provide for fuel gas and he saw immense scope in knowledge sharing on this area. Rao also mentioned that it is about time that industry started looking seriously for newer materials as cement substitutes or even substitutes for raw materials used in manufactured cement.
Dr Bapat concurred with him, saying that resource shortage is indeed a very big challenge for the cement sector. He said that we are acutely short of important raw materials such as limestone that will not last for more than 40 years.
Vivek Taneja stressed the policy issues surrounding regulations pertaining to energy efficiency and wondered if steps could be taken to allow inter-tradeability of REC to obtain relaxations in PAT compliance.
Chetan Raikar brought out another neglected area in the industry with regards to the structural assessment of plant. Plants must be regularly assessed for their structural reliability. Timely action can lead to considerable savings in the long run. He also mentioned that we must come out and openly discuss failure stories as openly as we share our success stories. We can learn a lot from each others' mistakes.
Atul Khosla said another neglected and less talked about area in the cement sector is safety and we must help spread awareness about this function in the industry.
Another area that must be looked at is use of specialty chemicals said NC Mavani. Today various specialty chemicals are available in the market that could be used to tweak the property of the final product.
Speaking on skill shortage, S Bhattacharya said that the dearth of talented engineers is affecting the performance of industry. The industry is spending considerable efforts in training the newbies to bring them up to the level required by the industry. Skill shortage is a big challenge.
Ashwin Raykundalia, said that we must look at other industries such as pharma and retail sector and absorb good practices from them. This will give a fresh perspective and bring innovative solutions to the table. We can learn from experts in other fields who are facing similar challenges.
The group discussed several other challenges and new opportunities for the cement industry. Including the build-operate-and- transfer model, outsourcing of logistic functions, waste heat recovery for energy management, innovative financing models, feasibility of inland water transport, special purpose water transport, special purpose railway wagons, green cement and use of recycled aggregates etc.
The insights and points made were noted by Pratap Padode, MD, ASAPP Media and Editor-in-Chief for Indian Cement Review. Team ICR will be taking the discussion to the next level by organising a conference on some of the critical areas mentioned by the industry experts. Now with a better understanding of the current demands of the sector, we are inviting a team of professionals to share their knowledge at the Sustainability of the Indian Cement Industry, conference scheduled to be held in Mumbai on 21 March 2014.
THE ROUND TABLE PANEL
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