Cement manufacturing is a continuous process and a few quality-related jobs are also carried out on a 24x7 basis. Robotic labs are making a huge contribution to this field.
The Indian cement industry is more than 100 years old, but has seen major tech¡nological changes over the past 25 years. The advancements in quality control and testing laboratories started about a decade ago. A few latest plants set up by industry leaders like Dalmia Bharat, Wonder, JK and Bharathi Cement even have robotic laboratories.
It is interesting to note what really modern labs bring to the table as far as cement quality is concerned. Given the area of a typical cement plant and the far-flung locations of these facilities, the adverse conditions really make it convenient to use mechanical means for sample collections. The job, which is routine and mundane in nature, can better be carried out through robots and that is how robotic labs have entered the cement arena. The jobs which are carried out by robots are sample collections and preparations.
The other reason why robotic labs are gaining popularity is the time spent on analysis and the availability of results. Even if the process demands any corrections, the earlier the intervention, the better. Robotic labs for manufacturing plants can help reduction in routine mundane hard work, and lowering of labour inputs. They ensure fast, accurate and reliable analysis. These facilities reduce the variance in lab results, and assist in correct and precise sample collection. It is observed that the collection of correct and representative samples is very important, because many conclusions will be drawn based on the analysis. With robotic labs, one can definitely depend on the sample accuracy.
In our present issue, we have covered articles from thyssenkrupp and FLSmidth giving the details of the robotic labs set up by these companies. Some of these systems are already in use in the recently commissioned plants and are benefiting the plants in controlling the process parameters very effectively compared to those set-ups which do not have the robotic systems. Both FLSmidth and thyssenkrupp have come out with their own software packages to be used in the laboratory.
Monitoring cement quality means generation of huge data which needs to be collated and analysed. It is humanly impossible to go through the entire data, therefore these software packages have to be user-friendly and have to customised to a few specific plant requirements.
Another important player in this domain is ABB Ltd. It has a number of installations across the globe of robotic labs. Its solution for Laboratory Information Management (LIMS) is quite popular. Some of the benefits which ABB claims are higher manpower efficiency due to standard work flows that are easily shared across sites. Again, these labs help in the sharing of information with mines, processes and even sales and distribution outlets, along with quality control units.
Ultimately, the advent of robotic labs is improving quality, boosting overall productivity and helping in better control of various production processes. In the years to come, such labs will become a common feature of a cement plant.