The major challenge for the technology suppliers has been with technologies, which are sized for higher capacities; but when the plants have to be operated at reduced capacities (due to market conditions), they are expected to maintain the same efficiency parameters.
When we talk of technology, we can divide it in two parts -- one is disruptive technology and the other one is sustaining technology. It will be interesting to go deep into interpreting these words in our context. Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M Christensen coined the term disruptive technology. A disruptive technology is one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry or a ground-breaking product that creates a completely new industry. Sustaining technology relies on incremental improvements to an already established technology. Many examples of disruptive technology can be given but for us those have impacted the industry in particular is personal computers, Internet and mobile phones. Examples of sustaining technology are also many, but in cement industry, they are: preheater pre calciner technology, use of vertical roller mills and advancements in instrumentation, use of waste as fuel are few, waste heat recovery, etc.
One perspective of technology, we would like to highlight is that every successful technology abroad need not get a foothold in India. We have a few limitations with our population and country being very large. Human labour is relatively cheap here compared to other places. In construction, pre cast, pre fab technology had huge success elsewhere but not in India. It is quite interesting to study why pre fab industry could not get acceptance particularly in housing sector. One major factor is the low cost of labour, lack of standardisation and customisation expected by the buyer.
Use of waste in cement kilns is another area where we are far behind. Here also accepting the technology isn’t an issue but the problem lies somewhere else. The policy framework and the rigidity of the bureaucrats found to be the main hurdle in the success of using waste material as kiln fuel. Introduction of GST is likely to bring in some change.
While discussing this with some experts like Jayant Saha, YV Satyamurthy, Ashok Dembla and few others, it was felt that cement industry as on date is far away from disruptive technology. However some developments on controlling pollution, use of alternate fuels and more and more use of energy efficient gadgets will be on rise in the days to come.
According to YV Satyamurthy, the real advancement of technology will be the size of the plant, multi-drive vertical roller mills, and use of robotics in laboratory, modular design of grinding plants, continuous emission monitoring system.
All the experts unanimously agreed that we are far behind and need to pull our socks as far as alternate fuels are concerned. Regarding the use of pet coke, it was felt that ban on cement producers is an overreaction of the problem. There is a big difference when pet coke is used by a foundry and by a cement plant. The gaseous pollutants emitted by a cement plant are measured and controlled whereas in case of foundry such provision does not exist. Ashutosh Saxena of NCCBM is of the opinion that more efforts to be put in towards improving clinker factor so that we are able to conserve the limestone deposits. He further suggests that the challenge before industry is to utilise high capacity plant and operate them efficiently even at lower capacity. “It is a major engineering and technological challenge,” he adds.
Ashok Dembla, who represents KHD and is a technology supplier, claims that he has been providing environment-friendly technologies. His company has been providing equipment, which is the best-in-class for energy efficiency and for protecting environment. He has a proven technology for using municipal solid waste as fuel. Every technology available elsewhere will not be successful in India. The technology needs to be adapted to the local conditions or need to be localised before it is widely used. The localisation of technology is very important step in technology absorption. The multinational companies with open mind and strong desire to adapt only could spread across globe. HK Vithlani of FUCHS says the top management need to listen to customers when any new technology is introduced. Customers’ feedback is crucial and has to be a part of system. Superiority of technology occasionally brings in level of arrogance which has to be avoided.