We are not only a supplier, but also a partner
The BEUMER Group has established a Center of Competence for the cement industry in order to provide optimal systems and installations. Andre Tissen, Director, Center of Competence: Cement, at BEUMER Group in Beckum, speaks on the unit´s operations and the challenges that lie ahead for his organisation.
Tell us more about your tasks and the goals that you have set yourself.
As the head of the Center of Competence (CoC) for the cement business, a centre with global responsibility, I am responsible for developing this business segment. This includes optimising and expanding the range of products we offer, as well as supporting the individual group companies. Because only by coopera-¡ting with our international group companies can we offer comprehensive support to our customers and expand into new markets.
Can you give an example on how customers can benefit from the CoC?
We have experts in the cement industry with extensive knowhow, who are located all over the world. The CoC helps us to bundle their knowledge and make it accessible to the individual group companies. This will benefit customers in the United States, as well as users in the Philippines or in Germany. The CoC allows us to offer global support. The customer will have access to a competent expert, 24 hours a day.
You mentioned the continuous development of products. What are you working on at the moment and what does the current situation look like?
We continue to optimise all of our machines and systems. One of the trends is that more and more clients want to receive their systems in a turnkey state. They want the systems to come from one single source that means not only individual machines, but a combination of several machines, a complete system where the individual components are perfectly compatible. This means that automation will become increasingly important. BEUMER Group is very well positioned, which is a big advantage for us. Our sortation and distribution systems have a high degree of automation and are successfully used in distribution centres world-wide. We are one of the global leaders in this business segment. Experiences gained in one sector can often be used and transferred to another.
BEUMER Group provides the customer with complete turnkey packaging lines. We design, install and commission the machines and systems, and, if necessary, integrate the products of subcontractors. Our customers entrust us with the complete responsibility. In addition, there are changing types of problems; cement manufacturers, for example, are using more and more secondary fuels, such as tyres and household waste. Our systems constitute the appropriate conveying solutions for this kind of material.
What does the Chinese market for your solutions for the cement industry look like?
China remains an important market for us. It has calmed down a little though, because the clinker capacities in China are reaching their saturation limit. There are two major general contractors in China that are currently building about 70 per cent of new clinker production lines world-wide. Those companies sell their products to more than 20 countries, with a main focus on the Middle East, Africa and Asia. For several years now, they are relying on different BEUMER Group systems such as apron conveyors, bucket elevators and palletisers.
Where are the current growth markets for the cement industry?
The core regions for us are currently Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia. One interesting customer in Africa, for example, is the cement manufacturer Dangote Cement PLC. It is a worthwhile investment here, even for small companies, because the demand for cement is continuously rising due to the persistent construction activity in many parts of Africa. The demand for large-scale plants is particularly high. The US market is getting more and more interesting as well because it is becoming more stable. We still believe the Russian market shows great promise. We are expecting a strong demand as soon as the political situation has stabilised. Our Russian group company is represented in almost every region of Russia and the states of the former Soviet Union.
Despite the political events of the last few months, we want to continue our successful cooperation with the Russian partners based on mutual trust.
What does the market situation look like in Germany?
There is a lot more going on now, here in Germany, than in previous years. There are mostly modernisation projects of existing cement plants. There is, for example, a strong demand for conveying systems for alternative fuels.
Which are the most requested BEUMER products in the cement industry at the moment?
There are our bucket elevators, filling systems, palletisers and the high capacity packaging system, BEUMER stretch hood. We sell it to companies in all industries, but particularly to the building material industry, where it is used to package palletised bags filled with cement, mortar, limestone and gypsum. Our innovative BEUMER fillpac® is in high demand too. It´s an efficient and optimised filling technology. Our bulk loading heads are often used to load bulk materials quickly and without dust. They are designed with a double-wall system, separating the material inlet and the dedusting unit. Our loading and palletising systems, for example, can automatically load bags of bulk material directly on to the trucks. This is a very efficient option which would otherwise require several workers. This is particularly interesting for emerging market nations, where the transhipment of bagged bulk goods is increasing and labour costs are climbing. We offer our curved belt conveyors as troughed belt conveyors and pipe conveyors that can transport different types of bulk material over long distances and through oftentimes rough terrain.
Tell us something about the competitive situation in the cement industry; do you compete with many global companies?
Our main competitors are predominantly from Germany and our neighbouring European countries. If we want to keep our leadership position, our systems and machines always have to be one generation ahead of our competitors. This is the standard we have set for ourselves. One of our unique selling points is definitely that BEUMER Group is one of the few companies that covers the entire portfolio, from the quarry to the palletised and packaged cement bag.
How do you stay up-to-date with the customer´s needs in order to remain competitive in the future?
Our employees from our branches world-wide keep their fingers on the industry pulse. They are permanently in touch with the customers. This is how we can react quickly to emerging trends. We also hold regular workshops with the leading cement manufacturers. One of the advantages of being a global company is that we can react to regional differences. Automation is one of the topics that is very important to our European users to remain competitive. It plays a smaller role in other countries and regions. Our employees know the local particularities and will find the most suitable solution.
How has the demand pattern changed over the years?
More and more customers want the worry-free package. This can be the deciding factor for keeping the competitive edge. Our customers expect us to assume the responsibility for the entire project and, upon completion, just "hand over the key", so to speak. Comprehensive customer service becomes increasingly important. During machine downtimes, customers expect us to respond quickly. The service agreements are individually tailored to the customer´s needs. They can range from only maintenance and inspection to a long-term placement of our service personnel on site. The ´Residential Service´ includes technical support, preventive maintenance and inspection, emergency plans, system and process analyses and optimisation as well as spare parts and facility management. The relationship with the customer becomes more and more important. I like to compare it to a good friendship that is based on mutual trust. We are not only a supplier, but also a partner. A good relationship, in my opinion, is based on giving and taking. The two partners should be able to maintain an open dialogue.
How do you handle systems from third parties?
We support our customers in all matters, even with the repair of third-party systems. We also modify and modernise systems from our competitors.
Is the purchase price more important to customers than the long-term costs?
The cement market is in a harsh situation due to the global crises. This is why many customers are basing their decisions on price. We are trying to counteract this trend by offering sustainable solutions to our customers, so that they can reduce their costs in the long term. We want to be able to offer our products at a better price while maintaining the same quality. One major advantage for our customers GCö our systems and machines come in a modular system. So depending on their individual requirements, they can add modules to extend our basic version.
Raising the bar
BEUMER supplies world´s highest bucket elevator to Indian cement manufacturer ACC Ltd., part of the Lafarge-Holcim Group, with a capacity of 13,000 tonnes per day at its Wadi factory in Karnataka, has placed an order with the BEUMER Group for a high-performance belt bucket elevator, type ´HGBW-HC´, and measuring 1250 x 175.3 m. With a distance between centres of 175.3 meters, this is currently the highest bucket elevator in the world.
ACC´s decision is the result of the reliable performance of the bucket elevators supplied by BEUMER Group to the same client in the past with heights of 174 m and 171m. The enormous size of this system enables a flow rate of around 600 tonnes per hour to be achieved, ensured by high-quality steel wire belts of particularly high strength.