"Indian cement makers are highly tech-savvy"

"Indian cement makers are highly tech-savvy"

- Sunil Potdar, Managing Director, Schenck Process Solutions India Pvt Ltd

What are some of the new solutions that you are offering to the cement industry at this point in time?
Schenck Process has been known to the industry more as a weighing and feeding equipment supplier all along, but there are a variety of other solutions that we offer. One of the key deliverables that is relevant in the current context is our alternate fuel solution. We have very successfully installed and handed over a very large alternative fuel feeding system to Lafarge at its Chittorgarh plant. In addition, we have alternative fuel feeding system working at ACC as well as Ambuja's plants. We do see a lot of potential for that in India as conventional fuel becomes scarce. Three years ago, we acquired a company called ModuPower in Norway that is now an integral part of Schenck Process.
 
The technology that we offer through ModuPower actually helps bring down particulate emission levels of electrostatic precipitators significantly without the need for adding additional screens or collection equipment. We brought this technology to India in 2016 and it has been very successfully implemented in the Indian cement sector, particularly in cooler ESP applications where dust emissions are significant.
Do you perceive any paradigm shifts or disruptions happening in cement sector that is otherwise considered to be a traditional old economy industry?
Although no major technological change has happened at the heart of the pyro process, a significant effort has gone create collaborations between technology suppliers like us and end users to cut down on consumption of fuel and power as well as reduce emission levels. The Indian industry has embraced all such global technologies to bring about these changes. So, the process might not have changed, but the efficiencies that have been brought about are very significant compared to what used to be the trend 30 years ago.
Another very innovative concept that we have introduced in the country is just-in-time blending. What this means is that when you have cement grinding using fly ash, slag, etc., there is typically separate blending equipment to blend and store cement. Our multi-core system actually undertakes the blending in a very uniform way, online. You do not need a separate blender, so to speak, and the blended cement can go directly into transportation vessels, without provisioning for separate storage silos. This is done very efficiently compared to what was being done in previous times with a separate blender, which used to consume lot of power.
How receptive have Indian cement manufacturers been to all these technological innovations?
Majority of Indian cement manufacturing is privately owned. Compared to a lot of other countries, Indian cement manufacturers have a strong urge to implement the latest technology.
What is your near and medium-term outlook for India's cement sector?
Investments in greenfield projects will be done very cautiously, but expansion or modernisation of existing plants will happen. A lot depends on how the government spends on construction of infrastructure projects such as interlinking of rivers, high-speed railway, etc. In general, 2015-16 was very subdued in terms of concrete. We are seeing some green shoots of investments coming into the cement industry in India, which is a positive sign.
Since the housing sector continues to be sluggish do you think infrastructure projects will suffice to drive growth?
Definitely! Housing is again almost 40 to 50 per cent of cement consumption. A couple of decades ago if you travelled to a rural part of the country, dwellings were all mud huts. Today you can see the transformation. I think as the rural economy picks up, housing too will get a further boost. In urban India, it will probably be more towards low-cost or super-luxury housing. At the same time, smart city projects are also coming up. These three will be the drivers according to us. There won't be significant peaks or rallies, but a steady growth in the housing sector. It is the infrastructure sector that will provide these peaks and the current investment in the cement sector is happening in anticipation of that. Even if you consider a two-year gestation period for capacity to rise, people want to be there when the peak happens.
- Manish Pant

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