Innovation in Action

20 Ideas to Improve Plant Productivity and Profitability

A cement plant is a work in progress. Companies are always looking for big ideas and small tweaks to keep the operation running smoothly. At the end of the day, as always, it is an exercise in increasing productivity and improving profitability. Here are 20 ideas to consider.

1. Plant Actualization

Thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions is one of the few full-range suppliers for the cement industry – from individual machines, all the way up to complete plants. The company also has solutions for the modernization of existing systems. They have unique expertise in the field of process engineering. In accordance with customer-specific requirements, they can develop innovative machinery, technologies and processes to create intelligent production lines.

From the planning process, to construction, to the commissioning of plants, the company’s clients have a single contact person. This accelerates procedures, prevents conflicts of interests, and ensures fast and trouble-free commissioning.

The trend in the global cement industry is moving toward the awarding of turnkey orders: from individual grinding plants to entire production lines. Thanks to the application of ultra-modern production processes, Thyssenkrupp plants protect resources and the environment, and guarantee plant owners maximum productivity and economy of operation.

2. Radio Technology

Voith Digital Solutions, a subsidiary of Voith that delivers products and services in IT, automation, software and sensor technology, announced a long-term agreement to partner with Persistent Systems LLC to offer its radio technology to all of Voith’s industrial environments, including cement plants.

Persistent’s Wave Relay is the preferred solution for Voith’s Mobile Ad Hoc Network (MANET) needs, connecting the Internet of Things (IoT) with reliable communications in very complex environments. This system significantly increases the digital capabilities of the solutions offered by Voith by creating better communication ranges at industrial facilities and greatly improving Voith’s IoT/Industry 4.0 mobile radio networking solutions.

Industrial facilities present unique challenges to wireless communication systems, making it difficult to deliver advanced IoT Solutions, big data analytics, remote video diagnostics and other cost saving services. This radio system will establish a high-speed wireless network with no need for an existing fixed network infrastructure as it utilizes MIMO technology and advanced mobile routing to thrive in complex industrial environments, resulting in a robust system that can be rapidly deployed while delivering high Ethernet data rates. This integration of advanced wireless technology into Voith’s digital solutions enables Voith’s cutting edge technology to be rapidly deployed and to proliferate, paving the road to the next industrial revolution.

3. Non-Magnetic Belt Cleats

A New England cement manufacturer employed powerful magnets to separate steel scrap from the stone and gravel used for the production of aggregate. The magnets pulled scrap metal from the stone and gravel, and held it against a moving aerial belt that carried the metal away from the mainline. Angle iron then scraped the metal into recycling bins.

However, the power of the magnets soon resulted in the magnetization of the fasteners and cleats themselves. Scrap metal would then adhere to the steel components of the separator belt, wedge underneath the cleats, tear the cleats from the belt and damage the belt surface. The downtime required for belt repair seriously compromised productivity.

Installing non-magnetic components was quickly identified as a long-term solution for the separator belt. Flexco recommended HD2 Tatch-A-Cleat mechanical belt cleats constructed from a durable SBR compound for high tensile strength and flexibility. Flexco Everdur 375 bolt-hinged fasteners constructed from non-magnetic stainless steel were also selected.

As a result of the Tatch-A-Cleat installation, separation now continues virtually uninterrupted. The HD2 Tatch-A-Cleat measures just 2 in. high, so if scrap material wedges between the cleat and the belt, the easy-to-reinstall cleat is likely to detach cleanly. And because Tatch-A-Cleats can be quickly replaced – especially when compared to time required for belt repair – downtime is minimized and productivity maximized.

4. Conveyor Solutions

Monarch Cement needed assistance in increasing the substitution rates of a challenging fuel: high-moisture petroleum coke. The fuel’s 50 percent moisture content made it difficult to handle and transport. The fuel needed grinding prior to firing in a kiln or calciner.

It was agreed to dose the high-moisture petroleum coke with a FLSmidth Pipe Conveyor to the existing vertical coal mill. The pipe conveyor is a fully enclosed conveyor system that allows spillage-free conveyance of material, thereby reducing maintenance costs.

Today, Monarch Cement substitutes up to 60 percent of its fuel with the high-moisture fuel. The system delivers the material to the coal mill at the rate the customer needs to have a very short payback.

5. Drive Solutions

In cement plants, drive solutions represent the link between electrical and mechanical systems and it is therefore necessary to plan the drive system design to meet mechanical requirements. As these mechanical modules usually originate from more than one supplier, their technical demands and specifications vary.

Siemens SICEMENT Drive Solutions stand out because of their availability, energy efficiency, simple operation and ease of maintenance. Siemens standardized systems allow simple integration for different requirement.

Whether for the raw mill, kiln, belt conveyer or fine milling, it is important to select the correct drive model and dimensioning to achieve uninterrupted and energy-efficient operation. The SICEMENT Drive Solutions portfolio includes specific drive solutions for all normal cement production processes. Despite the wide power spectrum, standardization allows them to be completely incorporated into an integrated power supply network and control system. This is vital to guarantee safe and transparent operation of processes throughout the cement plant.

6. Replacement Parts

Do you need more durable replacement parts? Replacement wear parts from Columbia Steel such as tires, grinding ring segments, armor rings and spindle shields are cast from high chromium alloy irons and fully heat treated for optimum mechanical properties. Tires and grinding ring segments are also accurately machined to tight tolerances for precise fit.

Parts requiring drilled or tapped holes such as roller bosses, clamping rings and dam ring segments are made of carbon steel or high strength steel. They are heat treated to provide the best combination of hardness and toughness for long, trouble-free service.

Columbia Steel district managers and product engineers are responsive to customer requests for product improvement. As a vertically integrated plant, the company can easily deal with the changes in design, metallurgy, heat treatment and machining.

Controlling every facet of manufacturing at one location helps us minimize lead-times and maximize quality. All Columbia Steel parts are American-made and guaranteed for proper fit, performance and customer satisfaction.

7. Mercury Control

The EPA’s MACT rules for portland cement facilities mean that compliance plans for the future are evolving. You need a partner that can reliably and cost-effectively capture mercury and keep you in compliance. ADA Carbon Solutions’ core strategic focus is creating powdered activated carbon products optimized for mercury control.

Cement manufacturers have unique challenges in terms of maintaining a manageable mercury control loop while maintaining strict product quality control. Short- and long-term mercury equilibrium within the kiln system can complicate flue gas emissions management. Operational solutions with intermittent injection in conjunction with the right activated carbon product and careful monitoring may be required.

ADA Carbon Solutions works with plants to identify the best product and control strategy for flue gas mercury emissions compliance under the plant’s constraints. The company can help customer’s solve the challenges of mercury control in difficult applications. “As your partner in emissions control, we help you evaluate your facility’s near and long-term needs and help you develop a plan to cost-effectively provide the peace of mind that comes with a reliable compliance strategy,” the company said.

8. Plant Monitoring

The world’s largest, most innovative cement producers work hard to ensure product quality. Thermo Scientific instruments can help ensure product quality, improve plant profitability and operate safer, cleaner plants. The company provides analytical spectroscopy, online elemental analysis, emissions monitoring instrumentation and tools for dynamic weighing and monitoring, according to the company.

Thermo Scientific, is the product brand representing the world’s leading analytical instrumentation. “Regardless of plant size and age, we offer solutions to help you meet your needs. Whether your goal is improving efficiency of your existing plant, building a new plant from the ground up, expanding capacity, converting from wet to dry process or implementing a productivity solution in just one part of your plant, we can help,” the company said.

To keep cement operations running efficiently, safely and profitably, Thermo Scientific cross-belt online analyzers process upsets and increase throughput with minute-by-minute composition analysis of ores and concentrates. Additionally, Thermo Scientific elemental and particle size analyzers for mineral beneficiation and flotation plants – when integrated with our sampling and analysis solutions – help increase the efficiency of the production process.

Moreover, cement quality control laboratories face demanding elemental analysis requirements to determine major and minor oxides in clinker, cement and raw materials such as limestone, sand and bauxite. The preconfigured Thermo Scientific ARL OPTIM’X Cement Analyzer for dedicated cement applications offers a powerful solution that delivers high precision, outstanding repeatability and stability. Featuring a compact, reliable WDXRF platform, the analyzer comes with factory-installed calibration using NIST standards for clinker and cement, making it the fastest turnkey solution available, noted the company.

9. Improved Instrumentation

Today’s operations are using fewer, larger mills for comminution. As a result, keeping these assets online and running optimally is paramount to productivity. Because of variations in ore particle size, feed rate and moisture content, it’s essential to continuously monitor mills, crushers and screens to achieve desired performance. Further, unscheduled stoppages as a result of plugging, high vibration, and worn out machine bearing pads can mean restarting heavily-loaded equipment – often a labor-intensive and expensive problem with both upstream and downstream impact. 

Whether it’s an AG, SAG or ball mill, Emerson can help achieve higher mill availability while reducing operational costs. With Emerson Rosemount instrumentation customers receive reliable measurements and greater insight into operations despite harsh conditions.

And, with the company’s advanced control strategies, customers will be able to balance the dynamics of their mills’ load and power relationship to achieve a more consistent grind while reducing energy consumption. Emerson’s AMS Suite software and CSI Technologies monitoring solutions can provide early detection of excess vibration, lubrication issues, or evolving mechanical problems, allowing customers to avoid failures before they occur.

10. Plant Automation

In the competitive cement-production market, technology improvement is vital to increase production and revenue. While companies face the significant challenges of globalization and increasingly stringent environmental regulations, they must ensure exacting quality standards. Companies want to avoid downtime and wasted energy.

Rockwell Automation’s knowledgeable professionals combined with scalable control and information technology and solutions can help meet these challenges.

The company said its rugged solutions can optimize a cement operation, from system design through maintenance, and from quarry through packing and dispatch. Information-enabled solutions, motor control technologies and powerful operator workstations help reduce emissions, per ton costs, and achieve needed functionality. “With our Integrated Architecture system, you can span multiple control disciplines in a single, easy-to-use programming environment,” the company said. Intelligent Motor Control devices help protect assets, improve motor performance and reduce energy consumption. Its FactoryTalk software suite gives you access to the real-time information you need to improve operational flexibility and maximize productivity.

The Process Optimization Model Predictive Control application can be applied to any process area in cement production. The application:

  • Provides crushing or grinding optimization.
  • Provides performance information to help reduce process variability, increase overall production and reduce energy cost per ton.
  • Delivers pyroprocessing or drying information to reduce product variability and improve sustainability practice.
  • Helps increase throughput and improve process/operational consistency.

11. Vibration Analysis

Vibration sensors improve machine reliability, so companies can maximize production and avoid downtime. Keeping processing and pollution-control machines in top operating condition is a key objective of maintenance and reliability engineers in cement manufacturing. Early identification of mechanical problems keeps machines running and maximizes production. Vibration analysis is an important part of machinery health monitoring within any effective condition-based maintenance program.

Wilcoxon Research vibration-monitoring sensors have been used for decades by maintenance experts around the world to detect machinery problems and avoid failure. The company supplies sensors for all types of rotating machines.

  • Vibration analysis. Key predictor of cement equipment and machinery health.
  • Preventative maintenance. Schedule repairs in a cost-effective way, maintain uptime, prevent unexpected failure of critical equipment.
  • Condition-based monitoring. Analyze/sustain machine life, avoid expensive damage, keep operations running at peak performance.

Typical vibration monitoring solutions for cement plant equipment that’s used for grinding, crushing, material-transport systems, ball and roller mills, and material separators include:

  • Air compressors.
  • Belt drives.
  • Fans and blowers.
  • Kiln rollers.
  • Motor bearings.

12. Storage Systems

Tank Connection provides dry bulk and liquid storage systems, offering a complete performance package to cement producers. Tank Connection designs, manufactures and installs all four major steel storage tank types including bolted tanks, field welded tanks, shop welded tanks and hybrid storage tanks. Along with major steel tank offerings, the company has also become a provider of aluminum dome covers and composite pedestal storage designs.

In addition to comprehensive manufacturing and superior service, Tank Connection delivers customized tank fabrication to suit the needs of the customer’s location. Expert industrial designers and shop technicians with decades of experience in tank production turn customer specifications into a specialized tank built to last. Streamlined, vertical integration of the Tank Connection family eliminates external costs and translates into leading competitive pricing and top quality.

Tank Connection construction crews recently installed a barge-to-truck transloading terminal with a 127-ft. tall x 41.5-ft. diameter RTP bolted cement storage silo to store and transfer cement from ocean barges. Tank Connection also designed, supplied and installed the pneumatic conveying piping and the unloading system.

13. Wear Protection Concepts

In cement plants there are many challenging applications to handle abrasive bulk materials. Coperion customers can rely on proven competence and expertise in all process steps, such as dosing of additives like fly ash, slag sand, lime or gypsum; pneumatic conveying from clinker grinding to dispatch silos; or discharge of (hot) bypass dust. All these materials have one thing in common: highly abrasive behavior, which Coperion addresses based on innovative and graduated wear protection concepts – by design and by special selection of wear-resistant materials.

Coperion components are long-lasting, high-quality products for all applications, the company stated. It’s DUROPROTECT levels for rotary valves guarantee maximum service life and availability. In its test center they simulate wear conditions and define the optimum wear protection (DUROPROTECT level).

14. Plant Revamping

Through its design engineers, Gambarotta Gschwendt implements its know-how and experience to revamp, upgrade and enhance machines already installed on plants, whether supplied by the company or other manufacturers.

Revamping involves collecting geometric and process data by specialized technicians through on-site surveys and interviews with the customer to define the project targets.Possible targets involve:

  • Capacity increase.
  • Partial or total revamping.
  • Conversion.
  • Efficiency enhancement.
  • Maintenance.
  • Reduction of maintenance costs.

The revamping phases may include:

  • Initial assessment: assessment of customer requests and, if the machines are manufactured by Gambarotta, retrieval and analysis of any possible technical documentation in our possession.
  • Inspection at the plant: measurement of overall dimensions, assessment of wear conditions, vibrations check, operational check, operating conditions check.
  • Data analysis: parameters check using our calculation programs, analysis of collected data, identification of possible solutions.
  • Drafting of an intervention project and proposal to the customer.

15. Semi-Ceramic Pulley Lagging

ASGCO added a semi-ceramic option to its pulley lagging product line, featuring 40 percent coverage. With this newest addition, customers have a choice between full-ceramic coverage with the Arrowhead Ceramic Pulley Lagging for high tension drive pulleys, and the Semi-Ceramic Lagging for smaller pulleys, non-drive pulleys and bend pulleys.

The improved ceramic tiles are embedded in rubber on all sides and separated by a horizontal groove for dispelling water and dirt. It provides robust performance in dry, wet or muddy applications. ASGCO’s pre-chemical backing provides an exceptional bond for rubber-to-metal applications, and easy installation.

Other features and benefits include:

  • Increased productivity by delivering increased traction between the conveyor belt and pulley, allowing for lower belt tension than with rubber lagging.
  • Reduced down time on non-drive pulleys, where pulley change-out due to excessive wear is difficult.
  • Superior bonding strength due to 3 mm of neoprene compound vulcanized into the bottom-side of the lagging.
  • Rounded corners that allow better adhesion between the rubber and the tile.

ASGCO’s Semi-Ceramic Lagging is supplied in 15-in. x 32.81-ft. rolls for full versatility.

16. Plant Clean-Up

Cement plants experience spilled material and track-out around the facility, requiring durable sweepers. Materials can be a combination of crushed lime, coke and finished cement product. In addition, the cement product is reactive when in contact with water.

Sweepers with waterless/dry dust control such as the Elgin Industrial Waterless Pelican and the Waterless Eagle are the most effective in cement plant applications. These sweepers can sweep dry dusty particles without using water to suppress dust. The Elgin Industrial Waterless Pelican also has an industrial option that includes reduced broom speed, a lower roller deflector and special skirting all designed for superior performance in bulk powder applications.

17. Refractory Solutions

For more than a century, Plibrico has pioneered the research and development of monolithic refractory technology. Seeded in the art and science of ceramic engineering, the company provides the knowledge and expertise in aluminosilicate and high-alumina refractories that is essential for the most demanding thermal conditions. “Through our expertise in refractory materials, engineering, installation and construction, Plibrico is your single source for safe, reliable turnkey refractory solutions,” the company said.

“For many industrial refractory applications, our experienced team of refractory specialists, or PliPartners, will consult with you to recommend and install the best refractories for your unique application,” the company said. “From concept to completion, our PliPartners will remain with your project to guarantee successful refractory installation. Our commitment to providing superior product quality, fast delivery and prompt customer service has been, and will always be, our trademark.”

18. Power Into Motion

Regal Beloit Corp. is working to create a better industry by efficiently converting power into motion. The company offers electric motors, electrical motion controls, power generation and power transmission products serving markets throughout the world, including the cement industry.

The company is comprised of three business segments: Commercial and Industrial Systems, Climate Solutions and Power Transmission Solutions. “Over the last 55-plus years, we have grown from one brand to a family of many major brands and countless products,” the company stated. “Our growth has happened both organically and by acquiring and successfully integrating more than 50 new businesses over the past several years. Our worldwide family of brands now share best practices, human resources, business processes, information technology and engineering expertise, affording us the unique ability to provide innovative, cost-effective products, system solutions and services when and where our customers need them most.”

19. Heat Exchange

Solex Thermal Science offers the development, design and manufacturing of high-efficiency, indirect heat exchangers. The Solex heat exchanger is capable of handling any relatively free-flowing powder or crystalline bulk solids, making it the perfect candidate to cool cement, while using up to 90 percent less energy.

The cooling of cement is an important step prior to storage in mitigating gypsum dehydration and subsequent moisture liberation that can lead to lump formation. Recommendations vary but it is generally accepted that with mill outlet temperatures of around 110 C to 120 C, cooling to below 80 C is necessary to avoid this reaction. The ideal temperature to further avoid moisture attraction while in storage (due to its hygroscopic properties) is in the range of 50 C to 60 C.

With a heat transfer area of almost 10 times that of traditional vertical powder coolers combined with up to 75 percent less water usage, the Solex Cooler offers high efficiency, effectiveness and reliability.

20. Wear Protection

Kalenborn Abresist offers a variety of products for wear protection. The wear-resistant products are ideal for lined slurry piping, bunkers, bunker spirals, chutes and hoppers handling abrasive and corrosive components such as mine backfill, magnetite, tailings and ore concentrate.

Wear resistant linings and pipes can be custom-engineered in ABRESIST fused cast basalt, KALOCER alumina ceramic, including special KALBOND attachment system; KALCOR zirconium corundum, KALCRET hard compound and KALMETALL-W hard weld overlay chromium carbide.

Additional products include KALFLEX wear resistant flexible piping systems and KALMETALL-TC, tungsten carbide for extreme wear and abrasion and KALPOXY solid epoxy corrosion resistant coatings.

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