The Indian cement industry will achieve a capacity close to 600 million tonne by 2022, says a conservative estimate given by the Cement Manufacturers´ Association. In its journey towards this goal, one of the major challenges the industry is going to face will be the availability of trained manpower for productive, competitive and safe production of cement. As per the estimates worked out by the erstwhile Planning Commission on the basis of data available to them, a total of 43,000 skilled technical manpower will be required for about 108 million tonne of greenfield expansion. With these figures, one can easily work out the numbers required for additional 270 million tonne of capacity enhancement from where we are today. Further, the upgradation that is taking place in pre-processing technologies, utilisation of alternate fuels and raw materials, and online quality monitoring is putting further pressure on skill and knowledge gaps.
How are we going to address this issue? In the public sector, we have only one institute - NCCBM - operating from three centres doing a reasonably good job for a long time. But is it able to tackle the enormity of the challenge? It will have to use new methods, modern training tools and roll out more number of simulator-based programs, adopt to e- learning to deal with the ´numbers´ challenge. We may also need the active support of multinational players like VDZ Research Institute or large corporates like FL Smidth which can offer a wide range of simulator based training programmes, computer-based learnings and can reach out to help the industry as a stakeholder. It will also need a cultural change among the management and the workforce; one will have to move from single stream of skills to multiple skills and become more versatile. It is easily possible to combine an instrument mechanic and electrician under one common group. Similarly a fitter, millwright and welder can be combined together to enhance the productivity at shopfloor level. In the private sector, we have a good number of cement producers like ACC and Ambuja equipping their own manpower on a limited scale through their home grown institutes.
Nowadays, waste management in our country is a hot topic of discussion at every industrial forum. Increase in industrial output, rapid urbanisation and changes in lifestyles are the main drivers for increase in waste generation. The menace has to be tackled on war footing to avoid further damage to the environment. At present, the easy but unsustainable solutions are dumping grounds (landfill) and burning (incinerators). In this context, it is worthwhile to see the progress made by some of the smaller countries like Poland in Eastern Europe. In order to comply with the EU Directive related to waste management, the Polish Ministry of Environment has been able to reduce the amount of municipal waste going into landfills to 50 per cent in 2013 and targeting to further bring down to 35 per cent by 2020 with respect to the baseline numbers of 2008. How can this be done?
Cement kilns provide an easy and cost-effective solution for disposal of waste materials, which no other industry can match. In the local cement business, it all started with the entry of few multinational companies from Europe with a pioneering attempt to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels used. Today, it has gone much beyond just saving fuels as the principle of sustainable development has been accepted as a central policy. However, the approach of government departments for waste management has been less than progressive.
The roadmap prepared for Indian cement industry by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development´s Cement Sustainability Initiative (WBCSD CSI) expects the replacement of fossil fuels by just 5 per cent till 2020. On the other hand, developed countries like Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have already reached the numbers between 60 to 80 per cent of fuel substitution. These targets are not difficult to achieve over time, if the required policy support is extended by the regulators and the existing system framework is made more conducive to movement and usage of hazardous wastes.
Chairman, Editorial Advisory Board