ERP for the Cement Industry
Multi-departmental co-ordination and workflow execution are challenges that follow growth.
Subhash Shingote, S Banerjee and Latika Malik
spells out the need for ERP for cement companies to gain competitive advantage.
ERP the acronym of Enterprise Resource Planning is the latest high-end solution for business application provided by IT (Information Technology); it is the automation tool of IT. The main goal of ERP is to provide a cost-effective alternative to current manual procedures or their piecemeal software applications.
Cement plants implementing ERP in the Indian cement industry is ever growing and plants have implemented ERP have gained competitive advantages. This paper discusses the different aspects of ERP for the cement industry and how implementing ERP will help running the industry in a better way.
Challenges to the Cement Industry
Continuous improvements in plant efficiency and strict environment protection measures require ever-closer networking and greater transparency of all available data and information throughout the entire production chain. Since the cement manufacturing process and cement milling in particular are highly energy-intensive processes, rising energy costs are forcing cement manufacturers to adopt more and more cost-saving measures. Unrestricted access to all relevant process data is therefore especially important in the cement industry today. Leveraging information technology and optimising processes can be a key to overcoming these challenges.
ERP solutions for the cement industry
The goal of the optimisation system is to boost quality as well as efficiency of production. To do this, the system supplies the basic automation system controllers already installed in the plant with set point values (so-called 'automatic external' set point values). These are matched to each other and ensure that the ancillary units of the mills, kiln and cooler are functioning at their optimal operating point. ERP consistently endeavours to stabilize process, maintain consistent quality and lower operational costs. Further, it eliminates any loss due to human error and multiple operator behaviour syndromes.
Real-time integration helps to acquire data from a variety of data sources (real-time or otherwise) by suitably implementing the data access methodologies prescribed to them. It also ensures that the data acquisition mechanism is robust and fail-safe following suitable data validation processes. It assimilates the data into one single data basket and processes the same as per the configurations for data as a statistic value, condition based translation or otherwise.
Control and Automation
ERP provides complete control and automation distributed control systems, from crushers to packers for cement industries. ERP developing companies design, configure, engineer, install and commission the control and automation system on a total turnkey basis. Engineering services in automation include system study and analysis, development of control philosophy, system design, making user friendly operating systems, programming, process ID loop tuning, custom interface driver development, documentation, customer training and reports customisation.
Kiln optimizer is a control system for kilns consisting of multivariable predictive controller for normal operating conditions and an expert system for abnormality handling. A dynamic kiln temperature profile over the kiln shell surface reflects the constantly changing coating ring formation and any hotspots caused due to falling of bricks from the brick section. This alerts the control room operator of refractory bricks loss or potential hotspots thus preventing kiln shell damage. It is estimated that the prevention of a single unplanned shutdown would repay the system cost.
Blending Control System
Cement manufacturers world over are challenged by the demand for consistent quality cement. The quality of cement produced depends on the raw materials used and the mixing process of additives. Most of the problems related to the quality of cement arise due to variations in the composition of feed materials.
Benefits of a blending control system include consistent quality raw meal, process stability (especially in kiln), optimal utilisation of raw materials, eliminating the need for human intervention and increasing asset life.
Management Information System
ERP provides consistent data management for seamless control of all production and business processes. Management Information System (MIS) for the cement industry archives data and alerts received from the process control systems and provide these for analyses and evaluation. MIS provides a client/server structure for data display. Users have several possibilities for displaying (viewer), evaluation (reports), analysis (tables, graphics) as well as reports (controlling, statistics). An intranet interface gives access to the data via web-browser, as well as a central accessibility to the reports.
Help Reduce Operating Costs
ERP software attempts to integrate business processes across departments onto a single enterprise-wide information system. The major benefits of ERP are improved coordination across functional departments and increased efficiencies of doing business. The immediate benefit from implementing ERP systems we can expect is reduced operating costs, such as lower inventory control cost, lower production costs, lower marketing costs and lower help desk support costs.
ERP systems offer better accessibility to data so that management can have up-to-the-minute access to information for decision making and managerial control. ERP software helps track actual costs of activities and performs activity based on costing.
Sales and Distribution
The sales and distribution module supports varieties of ways to foster and optimise long term relationships with business partners. It is fully integrated with inventory, manufacturing and accounting to facilitate effective demand and supply chain integration. Some of the important features include dealer network management, order assignment, order processing/approval, sales force automation - web and mobile based, credit control and integration with accounts.
Finance, Accounting and Payroll
The finance and accounting module forms the backbone of ERP. ERP supports comprehensive item management, control various kinds of payments and track daily transactions. It involves user defined chart of accounts printing, trial balance, general and other ledges, profit and loss balance sheet, invoicing, bank reconciliation and payroll.
Business processes and activities are becoming complex - regardless of the size of the company or the industry; multiple teams and divisions are required to operate as a single, cohesive unit. Without an ERP solution, creating multi-departmental coordination and workflow execution can be quite challenging. Especially under the present globalised Indian business environment, it is expected that the whole business system will undergo a major shift. Thus by the implementing of a proficient ERP system, organisations will improve their commitment to the business world and modern management.
(Extracted from the proceedings if the 12th NCB International Seminar on Cement and Building Materials held from 15th to 18th November 2011 at New Delhi.)