ICR interviews thyssenkrupp's Frank Ruoss

ICR interviews thyssenkrupp's Frank Ruoss
06 July 2018

In the July issue of ICR, equipment specialists throughout the cement sector reflect on their achievements in the past three decades and look to what the cement industry can expect from them going forward. In this interview, ICR speaks with Frank Ruoss, CEO of Cement Technologies, thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions.

ICR What is thyssenkrupp/Polysius’ single most significant achievement?
Frank Ruoss (FR) In the late 1920s our company developed a process called ‘lepol’ which revolutionised conventional cement production. It significantly improved the cement burning process and reduced fuel consumption by roughly one third. That’s probably what you would call a disruptive technology today.

However, for me this is only one example of how innovation has always been the constant factor in our entrepreneurial activities. When developing new products and processes we constantly look to the markets of the future. We are committed to continuously seeking better solutions for our customers, focussing for example on the careful use of raw materials and resources, making cement production more cost-effective, or increasing equipment availability.

Today, we are convinced that the potential of a cement factory clearly lies in optimising the entire production process, rather than in single-plant units or equipment. I believe that this approach is what makes us special and enables us to create real value for our customers. This is also reflected in such major projects as the one we are currently carrying out for Yamama Cement in Saudi Arabia.

ICR What role has the company played in the cement industry’s transformation over the last 30 years? 
FR The cement industry was much more locally structured 30 years ago. The rate of market penetration by global players has increased sharply in recent years. During our history we too have developed into a global network organisation. This was only possible because of the dedicated work of our employees, both past and present, and the loyalty of our customers.

At the same time, the demands we face as an internationally operating plant engineering and manufacturing company have become much more diverse and complex over time. Large-scale plant projects can only be implemented successfully if you have strong local presences, and are closely networked with suppliers and manufacturers across the world. Thanks to our global set-up we are able to develop reliable, long-term solutions together with our customers, with a strong focus on local requirements.

ICR How do you expect the cement industry to evolve over the next 30 years?
FR The world is generally becoming more complex and fast-paced – and this also applies to the cement industry: cement customers are now increasingly demanding different types of cement for very specific applications. They increasingly expect digitised distribution channels and the option to order very small quantities of each product at short notice. Moreover, as the spatial separation of clinker and cement production increases, so will the demand for efficient and environmentally-friendly transport solutions.

In principle, environmental protection will become even more important than it is today. Plant operators have to deal with ever stricter environmental regulations. Especially in the EU, the pressure is currently increasing due to the changes in emissions trading. In the future the key question will be which raw materials and technologies allow cement production in the most efficient and sustainable way. We are here to partner with our customers on this journey.

ICR What role does the company expect to play in the future of the cement industry, particularly in terms of the technologies and services that you provide?
FR It is our job to respond appropriately to changes in the industry. We are ready to meet these challenges and look for new solutions anytime by being close to our customers and their needs. Let me give you three examples of how we are translating them into concrete actions.

Firstly, we are increasingly digitising our operations and will pass this competence on to our customers. For example, we are currently completely digitising our internal project management and our construction site management. Our customers already benefit from our pioneering role in the use of building information modelling (BIM) systems. In the future we will be able to digitally map the entire production process, including the digital control of all energy and resource flows.

Secondly, we will increasingly leverage our ability to combine financing expertise with an in-depth operational understanding of our customers’ needs. We will offer new operator and financing models to give, for example, inexperienced customers the opportunity to enter the cement business. Our customers benefit not only from our plant know-how and our technical expertise but also from our close working relationships with major national and international financial institutions.

Thirdly, we are becoming ever more sustainable by driving towards the development of a green, CO2-free cement plant. In conjunction with other thyssenkrupp units, especially our colleagues in the chemical sector, we are developing solutions for a more sustainable cement industry. For example, take oxyfuel, a process we have developed to effectively separate and use CO2 in cement production.

thyssenkrupp is ready to help shape the cement plant of the future. Sustainability, growth and success, paired with known polysius reliability, are our promises to our customers.

Read more about the special 30th anniversary issue of International Cement Review

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