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TimePosted 16/07/2019 09:59:33

Targeting digital innovation

This week, LafargeHolcim announced that it is launching its 'Plants of Tomorrow' project. The implementation of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart technology is already having a big impact on the thinking of what can be achieved in the way of cost reductions and efficiency gains for the cement sector. Manufacturing companies have been quick to embrace cloud technology, although controlling the budget spend is often a challenge.

Findings of a Nutanix Enterprise Cloud report recently suggested 56 per cent of manufacturers surveyed are moving to private cloud applications compared to the global average of seven per cent. Cement producers are undoubtedly among these companies that are in the advanced lane of building their own or private cloud networks, beginning with the use of traditional data from their primary IT infrastructure.

Cloud-based analytics
A group of Indian cement companies is determined to be among the early pioneers in the manufacturing sector. Last week, Shree Cement told Express Computer that it has embraced IoT and is already seeing results in the area of logistics. "A cloud-based analytics technology is supporting us in tracking the vehicles and it has reduced manual intervention to a large extent. The turnaround time has decreased, tremendously," said Manoranjan Kumar, Shree Cement CIO. "Earlier it used to take us eight hours to move our delivery order from one place to another, but now the time has been reduced by 50 per cent."

The next plan for Shree Cement is to automate the packaging plant so that shipping teams can obtain clarity of when packages are moved by the conveyor or loaded onto the truck. The company also aims to develop a cloud-based mobile application.

Mobile supporting apps
Mobile apps are a simple way of getting started and making use of Big Data. Indian cement producer Nuvoco begun its smart technology development by working with its dealers and devising a system to see how quickly its new logo and brand were being marketed. As India is such a large country, Nuvoco Cement requested Innofied to build a mobile app to update their 50,000 dealer, sub-dealer and distributors’ GPS locations and to have the information stored, even when there was no access to the Internet by using Realm database. The app stores a dealer's geo-location and allows them to upload images of the store and dimensions of the Nuvoco Cement display.

Big Data at the plant
Bringing Big Data to the cement plant and improving plant performance is going to be a key area for advances in plant efficiency in the next few years. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the exciting technology that will play its part in the machine learning culture of the future.

"One of the use cases for machine learning in our industry is forecasting the downtime and how we can reduce the downtime and increase efficiency. This can be analysed based on the plants' data and by cross-checking with the records of previous data," said Mr Kumar of Shree Cement. "Based on the data collected, the software can predict and inform the maintenance team about number of products and system function failures and depending on the insights, we can improve quality."

Ramco Cement’s General Manager of IT, Mr Muthukrishnan, said last week that, "Technologies such as automation, Cloud, IoT, AI and ML are being used by manufacturers in production, supply chain management as well as in customer and employee experience management. Like most manufacturers, the traditional infrastructure at the core of our data centre operations was too complex."

Keeping pace with the best in Smart technology
There is an enthusiasm for new technology all over the world and keeping in touch with the industry leaders of smart technology will become a priority. Inspiration will come from companies like Siam City Cement in Thailand, where the company's 'Digital Connected Plant Project' went live in 2017 at its Saraburi cement plant (see ICR's June 2019 issue). The pilot plant will support Thailand Industry 4.0 by the end of 2019. Benefits are expected to include:

• increased overall equipment effectiveness of the production line
• reduced risk of plant shutdowns
• significant reductions in maintenance costs
• significant reductions in high inventory costs for keeping spare parts on hand• improved worker safety with real-time locations system and emergency response.

Siam City Cement aims to expand its pervasive network and IoT applications to all its cement plants across the Asia-Pacific region, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

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