Cement industry shifting gears
In recent years, the cement sector has gone through rapid changes. Could you share with us some of the developments that have happened in process control or automation in cement plants!
The cement industry in general is facing several challenges. An important challenge is related to the environmental impact of the cement production. Governments are imposing measures on the cement industry to reduce the ecological footprint. The result is that cement producers need to:
Many cement producers have already taken actions and have made serious improvements. Automation and digitalisation play an important role in these improvements, as many solutions wouldn't be possible without them.
In addition, rapid changes are currently visible in the cement market. The competition is getting tougher and the quality requirements are becoming stricter. Cement producers need to adapt to their requirements as well as their customers" requirements, which means that the prices need to be competitive and the production must be able to quickly change from one cement type to another. Automation and digitalisation are the only way to achieve this.
Most major players have rolled out their global modernisation plans for the coming years and India is no exception.
Could you touch upon the challenges of cement plants automation when compared with other segments in India?
When it comes to adopting new technologies, the cement industry has been very conservative. However, due to the challenges the industry is currently facing, the cement producers are catching up as quickly as possible. Some can even stand proudly alongside other industries when it comes to innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence.
A big challenge, however, is recruitment of right people. However, change is just around the corner. Once the cement plants are equipped with modern, clean, air-conditioned control rooms integrated in the plant's IT infrastructure, with the possibility of remote access and the use of apps on tablets and smart phones, the young generation will be more attracted to the industry.
The lack of skilled people in the plants can be partly compensated for by allowing experts to access the system from a remote location. This means that the plant must be connected to the IT network and that's where cyber security becomes a crucial issue. As long as the plant is disconnected from the outside world, all is pretty safe. However, as soon as the plant is connected to external sources, the plant managers and workers would have to master Windows updates, security patches, virus scanners, etc. Currently, this knowledge is hard to find in many plants.
Siemens is a global player. What sort of product innovations has taken place in the cement industry over the last few years?
The innovation started 45 years ago with the introduction of CEMAT, the automation system for the cement industry. Numerous innovative features were introduced over the years and one of the latest new tools that we integrated in CEMAT is the Scalable Production Control (SPC), as part of the Minerals Standard (MinAS) rolled out for the cement industry.
SPC is a recipe manager, integrated in CEMAT. There is no need to buy additional hardware or software. It allows cement producers to define their different recipes for all types of cement. It makes the operator's life a lot easier. Today, a lot of cement plants do this manually. When the operator needs to change the type of cement, he will manually put all the settings to new values that he obtained from a list or an Excel table. With SPC, all the operator needs to do is to select the correct type of cement from the list in CEMAT and the automation does the rest. It looks for the right raw material from the right storage place, calculates the right routing, calculates the right set points of the weigh feeders and selects the correct routing to the right storage silo. If necessary, it adds additional time before changing from the old to the new recipe to allow the belts to run empty.
How does integration of various processes work in the cement industry?
A lot of innovations are not always noticeable at a first glance. For example, over the last number of years our automation software and hardware have been fully optimised for Profinet communication. Profinet is the ideal industrial communication standard for digitalisation because it combines the advantages of standard Ethernet with Profibus. It allows flexible architectures with a high data rate while having real-time communication with detailed diagnostics and high availability.
The Remote I/O lines SIMATIC ET 200SP and SIMATIC ET 200SP HA now have standard Profinet communication.
To integrate standard field devices into the Profinet network, Siemens launched the SIMATIC CFU (Compact Field Unit). It automatically recognises and initialises the connected field devices. What used to take 30 minutes, now takes less than one. That's Plug & Produce. The SIMATIC CFU combines a digital field bus with traditional I/Os. This substantially reduces the footprint of the entire I/O system. The device also reduces the risk of errors in operation and makes plant expansion or modernisation easier while, at the same time, reducing the costs of the hardware FAT.
Digitalisation and modern automation put higher demands on the capability of the controller.
The CPU 410-5H is currently the fastest and most powerful controller in the market. The performance is scaled according to the number of process objects. This enables a single hardware and firmware platform to cover all deployment scenarios, application sizes and performance ranges. From grinding stations to complete integrated cement production plants, the same controller is fully scalable to suit every need.
The CPU 410 is an essential component of the proven SIMATIC PCS 7 process control system. In the product certification according to IEC 62443-4-1 and 62443-3-3, T+£V S+£D tested and confirmed the security functions implemented in the SIMATIC PCS 7 process control system.
- LIZA V