S Agarwal and NK Tiwary review manpower status and requirements of the cement industry, modes of training, methodology and the NCB's initiatives in providing a skilled technical human resource base, besides upgrading existing manpower skills.
The cement industry in India has undergone a paradigm shift in recent years. It is the second largest producer of cement in the world, after China; its present annual installed capacity is 350 million tonnes and production, about 245 million tonnes. Capacity is expected to reach 600 million tonnes by 2020, considering the consumption growth projection of 9 to 10% per annum. The industry has been putting in place some eco-friendly and cost- efficient measures like introducing energy- efficient machinery and with the largescale use of industrial and other forms of waste as substitute raw materials and fuel. The advantages gained are manifold and have a multiplier effect on performance. In order to keep pace with the changes in cement manufacturing technology, machinery and input materials and tackle new, process- related problems that may arise consequently, continuous efforts are being made to upgrade the knowledge and skills of the men behind the machines.
Manpower status and training needs
Cement consumption is continuing on a good growth trajectory and is expected to remain buoyant, driven by strong activity in infrastructure projects like the dedicated freight corridor, new airports, ports and the real estate segment. The Government of India plans to increase its infrastructure investment to US $ 1 trillion in the Twelfth Five - Year- Plan (2012-17) from the US $ 514 billion spent under the Eleventh Five- Year- Plan (2007-12). To meet the growing demand for cement during the Twelfth Five- Year- Plan period, the production capacity of the Indian cement industry is expected to go up by 150 million tonnes or more. With this sustained growth, the industry is expected reach a capacity of 500 million tonnes or more by the end of the Twelfth Five -Year -Plan, i.e by 2017. This capacity enhancement will be achieved through greenfield plants as well as brownfield expansion, based on modern manufacturing technologies. Increasing emphasis is being placed on sustainable development needs for the operation of cement plants at a high level of efficiency.
The cement industry provides direct employment to approximately 1.4 million persons while also creating indirect employment through process machinery manufacture, raw materials and other sources. It is estimated that one million tonnes of cement production provides employment to around 50,000 persons. The future scenario of the industry demands additional technical manpower at all levels, suitably trained in the operation and management of modern cement plants. However, the availability of trained manpower is one of the major challenges faced by the cement industry presently. There is a big shortfall between availability and demand of trained manpower. Further, technological changes are taking place in every department of cement manufacture at a rapid pace. Consequently, the skills of manpower already employed in existing cement plants, have to be upgraded in areas like the operation of state-of-the-art pyro-processing technologies, utilisation of alternate and unconventional raw materials and fuels, energy conservation, quality control, pollution control and sustainable development.
Generally, in a one- million- tonnes per annum (1 MTPA) modern cement plant, around 400 skilled technical workers are required. Out of this 400, around 150 will be at managerial and supervisory levels. It is estimated that the cement industry will require a total of 43,000 skilled technical workers for about 108 million tonnes of greenfield expansion, 17,000 for about 42 million tonnes of brownfield expansion and 6, 000 for 3000 MW captive power plant operation.
Accordingly, a total of about 66,000 additional technical workers, including 23,000 engineers and supervisors, will be required to attain the targeted capacity additions. In addition, the industry will require about 50,000 unskilled workers; this does not include the replacement demand of personnel that would arise in the plants already in existence.
Cement technology is a very specialised and interdisciplinary study. The contribution of Regional Training Centres of the cement industry, Indian universities and technical institutions in promoting the study of the cement technology has been limited so far. The National Council for Cement and Building Materials (NCB) has been conducting both long- term and short term training courses at entry and post- entry level for more than four decades since 1972. It is the only institute equipped with the necessary expertise, laboratories with state-of-the art equipment and infrastructure to conduct the training courses as per the needs of the industry successfully. In comparison to universities, it has adopted short (), systematic and organised procedures by which to prepare technical manpower for the industry.
NCB caters to the training needs of industry with multiple objectives. The long- term courses, of one to three months duration, in cement manufacturing technology are designed to train entry level fresh engineers and graduates/postgraduates to build a career in the industry. The post graduate diploma in Cement Technology of one year duration equips participants with the necessary skills which include training on cement plant simulators, hands-on-training in laboratories and practical training in cement plants. This formal training is duly recognised by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Government of India. Those eligibile for admission to this post- graduate course are chemical engineers and post- graduates in chemistry. The students, after completing the course, are employed by the cement industry through campus interviews.
From time to time, the NCB designs short- term refresher courses that meet the training needs of the industry. These short- term training programmes are focused on advancements in raw materials evaluation and exploitation technology, operation technology, product redesign, environment and energy conservation measures, statuary regulations, human resource development and any other growth oriented, competitive and economic areas. . Over the years, the cement industry both from India and overseas have been reaping the benefits of these training courses.
The selection of appropriate training methodology for specific learning objectives is very challenging task. NCB has focused on learning objectives like knowledge acquisition, problem solving and methodology like lectures, case studies, video films, programmed instructions, etc. An appropriate selection of training objectives and tools make the NCB's training programmes highly acceptable and a value- adding activity.
Simulator based training: The new greenfield projects coming up will be based on high capacity kilns, state-of-the-art technology including computerised operating and control systems. To operate such plants efficiently, the operators need simulator- based training. The Ballabgarh and Hyderabad units of NCB now have versatile state-of-the art computer operated simulator trainers for imparting hands-on-training in the operation of modern pyro-processing and grinding systems. NCCBM conducts simulator- based training programmes at regular intervals in its annual calendar.
Simulator training imparts real- time training to cement professionals for operating modern cement plants. A state-of-the-art advanced simulator trainer has been installed at the Hyderabad unit of NCB that offers a sophisticated platform to cement plant personnel to train for the efficient operation of a modern cement plant. This versatile simulator trainer provides operating experience and an insight into the dynamic behaviour of the plant equipment as well as exposure to the modern control systems without disturbing or interfering with the real plant's operation. The wide range of operational training options offered on this simulator include starting-up of the plant from cold conditions, handling a variety of emergency situations and operational disturbances of grinding systems based on vertical roller mills, roller presses and ball mills for raw materials, coal and cement grinding as well as pyro-processing systems based on separate line calciner (SLC)/inline calciner (ILC) kiln with 4/5/6 stage preheater and conventional/modern grate cooler.
Development of cement technologists
Cement companies have been deputing their engineers and science graduates, recruited through campus interviews from technical and academic institutions, to NCB for special orientation training programmes of 6 to 8 weeks` duration to provide them with comprehensive knowledge in different areas of cement manufacturing technology, and related management functions. The grooming of personnel in such an integrated way prepares them effectively for a career in the industry. Training is imparted through classroom interactive sessions, group discussions, simulator, industrial tours and projects. Fig. 3 shows a group photograph of Graduate Engineering Trainees of a cement company who have recently finished an orientation programme of two months` duration on cement manufacturing technology at NCB. Fig. 4 depicts a lecture session during their training programme.
On-site training programmes
NCB, at the specific request of the organizations, conducts customised training programmes at the sponsor's site. This gives sponsors the benefits of man-hours and travelling expenses saved, and a maximum number of employees getting training without affecting the productivity of the plant. A number of such training programmes have been organised at the sites of different cement, concrete, construction and other related organisations in India and overseas at cement companies` sites in Kuwait and Qatar.
Among popular training programmes organised at the sponsor's sites are Orientation of Marketing Executives, Optimisation of Pyro-processing and Kiln Operation, Sampling Techniques, Quality Control and Quality Assurance in concrete construction, Construction Practices for Petrol Pumps, Skill Development of Masons, etc. Fig. 5 shows a hands-on-practice session of a training programme for sample technicians at a site while Fig. 6 shows a lecture session at another on-site programme conducted for marketing executives.
Training of senior executives
Some of the cement companies both in India and overseas recognise the need for change in the working culture to make the organisation more effective and customer oriented. Towards this, they recruit senior professionals from other industries. A number of orientation training programmes have been successfully organised for senior professionals at NCB to update them with the latest cement manufacturing technology. It is evident from the feedback of the industry that NCB's training of senior executives was very effective and has brought about a tremendous change in the working environment of their organisations.
These programmes are part of specialised training and designed to suit the specific requirements of individual participants in the areas of physical/chemical/mineralogical testing of cement and concrete, including calibration laboratories. They are practice oriented, where the participants practice in the laboratory right from Day One in a bid to master the relevant techniques/methods of analysis. The objective of these programmes is that the participant, after completing the training, is expected to perform independently at the organizational level.
The high growth rate of the cement industry necessitates the availability of required skills and knowledge. In order to meet the requirement of trained manpower, the industry can recruit fresh engineers and graduates/postgraduates in science and depute them for training to the NCB. Further, it is of paramount importance to equip the existing workforce with requisite skills and updated knowledge to face the challenges of an ever-changing environment due to modernisation of technology and the emphasis on automation and conservation of national resources. NCB has expertise in specialised training and is equipped with the necessary expertise, resources and facilities. Backed by more than four decades of HRD experience, NCB will continue to render HRD support for upgrading the competence of the Indian cement and construction industry
The authors have drawn upon published/unpublished papers/reports of the NCB on the subject. This paper is being published with the permission of Director General, NCB.
National Council for Cement and Building Materials, New Delhi, India.