What does efficiency look like at cement plant’s loading bay?
The expansion of Indian cement industry over the last two decades has been remarkable and the prospects for demand and growth are exceptional. While the industry is focusing on modernisation and sustainability; one area that needs a bit more focus is the packing, loading and dispatch operations. Many plants still operate a semi or even wholly manual packing and loading process and the use of non-laminated HDPE bags is widespread.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. The technology exists to totally modernise the packing, loading and dispatch process. It is already being used in factories around the world. Automation is giving cement plants an opportunity to eliminate bottlenecks in the loading bay. Increase the throughput in the packing plant and, in short, get more high-quality product out to customers. That is the potential of an efficient cement dispatch unit.
FLSmidth has been operating in India for a very long time. We know the market very well and we have had a lot of success here, but we’ve also faced some challenges. The biggest of these is the lack of uniformity among empty bag manufacturers and the variation in truck dimensions. Automated truck loaders are typically designed to work within the scope of the dimensions provided by manufacturers, but they rely on those dimensions staying within the established range.
We are big believers in building solutions – not products. Providing great technology is not enough. It has to work for you, now. So having talked with our Indian cement plant customers, we set about developing a more flexible automatic truck loading equipment.
Indian trucks are a thing of beauty – not homogeny. Lengths range from 6 to 14 m. Internal widths vary from 2 to 2.5 m. Some have high fixed lateral sides that cannot be removed. All of this poses an interesting challenge to automated truck loading. Add to that the fact that customers wish to keep the same straight bag loading pattern used with manual loading to avoid extra unloading costs. And then the difficulties that come with the (currently extensive) use of HDPE non-laminated bags, which do not typically work so well with automated loading machines as the more internationally used paper and WPP glued valve bags.
Increasing efficiency in packaging and loading operations
In practice, an efficient dispatch operation comprises:
A degree of automation that allows you to significantly optimise human intervention and create a safer and more productive working conditions.
Optimisation of every piece of equipment in terms of output, weighing accuracy and reliability, reducing both the downtime required for maintenance and the number of spare parts needed.
Reduced dust emissions and a cleaner working environment and bag quality.
Optimum bag handling to ensure product is protected.
Ability to satisfy market demand, both in terms of quantity and the preferred means of delivery – i.e. truck or rail – with flexibility built in.
Best possible configuration of the loading plant and packing area for the utmost safety, productivity and flexibility.
Intelligent bag loading technology
Using the traditional top bag-loading principle, the CARICATECH™ forms the bag layer above the truck and then transfers the layer onto the truck platform. What differentiates the CARICATECH™ is that bag layers are formed on a special roller bed and then picked up and positioned on the truck by forks. With the CARICATECH SB model, the loading pattern is adjusted to the truck dimensions automatically to match with manual loading pattern.
Setting loading parameters is easy and intuitive. It is possible to make changes to the loading parameters in real time. But the biggest benefit is the diversity of automatic loading capabilities. It’s possible to handle different bag sizes, pattern configurations (interlocked or not, Fig 1), and loading modes (flat and/or pyramidal loading) with a different number of bags per layer, layer by layer, completely automatically.
The CARICATECH™ model for loading interlocked or straight bag layers has already been implemented, where loading bay space is limited and therefore needs to be highly efficient to avoid a bottleneck. This design version can handle up to 3300 bags per hour and is flexible enough to cope with a range of bag types and truck dimensions in use. The loading operation is now completely automated and is controlled remotely with cameras and monitors to supervise, avoiding the need to put an operator in a high-risk condition.
This technology has the ability to revolutionise truck loading in India, enabling higher capacities and faster loading operations than ever before. Moreover, the CARICATECH™ is future-proof and will be equally efficient – in fact, more efficient – if the market moves away from HDPE non-laminated bags.
For more details:
Ashish Kumar Srivastava