How to fix a clinker cooler during a pandemic

With a clinker production capacity of 13,000 tpd, the ACC Wadi cement plant in Karnataka, India, part of LafargeHolcim, is one of the largest in the world. During a cooler upgrade in early 2020, the team noticed that three cross bars were dislodged. Although this crossbar problem did not reduce production, with ACC engineers able to continue operations in an optimum way under the conditions, it did marginally impact efficiency. A fix was therefore required.

And then the world changed. 

The outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown forced ACC to stop the plant in April 2020. With the plant shutdown, ACC decided to fix the problem. But with lockdown in place, FLSmidth engineers weren’t able to travel to the plant. Not to be deterred, we took up the challenge to provide a solution to remotely support ACC engineers to complete the necessary work. This included the installation of crossbars with solid pins, drive plate and locking plate, as well as checking the U-profile and C-profile of the drive plates.

At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, during complete lockdown conditions, ACC and FLSmidth worked together remotely to successfully complete the world’s largest clinker cooler checks. We were having certain issues and needed OEM expert views and guidance. We are happy to say that the experiment went very well and we could use FLSmidth’s expertise effectively and in real time.

K R ReddyDirector Plant, ACC Wadi Cement Works

Remote mechanical repair and replacement

At ACC’s request, remote access to the plant was provided via Facepro xpert, a video-calling application that the company already had experience with. Facepro xpert is installed on laptops or mobile phones and includes the option of connecting a helmet-mounted camera, as well as using the camera of a mobile phone. The application also allows freezing of the video, annotation, messaging and commenting. Using Facepro xpert, for example, allowed the condition of the over- and under-grate to be remotely assessed by FLSmidth experts.
Daily updates on progress and critical topics were provided to the stakeholders. With the team and technology in place, our experts were able to guide ACC’s onsite team to identify the problem and make the necessary repairs. 

Technological advancements were put to new uses, opening doors for a new normal of remote service. Thanks to the great coordination efforts of ACC-TECHPORT and FLSmidth to utilize the existing Facepro Xpert helmet camera and other applications, the job was completed to the satisfaction of both the parties. We appreciate FLSmidth’s proactive collaboration and approach in fulfilling service requirements, even during difficult times. Kudos for making new advances in this pandemic.

K R ReddyDirector Plant, ACC Wadi Cement Works

The challenge of maintaining connection  

The key challenge that faced the team was connectivity. Facepro xpert requires a good quality internet connection, which wasn’t available inside the cooler area and considering the remote location of the plant. To overcome this, the customer installed WIFI connectivity with a stronger bandwidth. WhatsApp also used for video calling and picture messaging when more immediate support was required but connectivity was limited.

In crisis, look for the opportunities. This well-known saying motivates us. When the world was struggling to cope with the insurgence of COVID-19, FLSmidth Digital Solution and Mechanical Installation Service teams were on the job, working in co-ordination with the teams from ACC Wadi and ACC-TECHPORT, exploring options, establishing remote connectivity and finally completing remote supervision of work on the world’s largest clinker cooler.

Venkata Siva Ram KAssistant General Manager, Project Management, FLSmidth
Despite the connectivity challenges, the replacements were successfully executed in 10 days and the plant is now up and running at full capacity again – a significant achievement for this first-of-a-kind project. 

About ACC Ltd

  • Formed in 1936 with the merger of ten existing cement companies.
  • Has been part of Lafarge Holcim since 2005.
  • Operates of 17 cement plants with over 6600 employees.
  • Commissioned the first 1 million tpy plant in India at Wadi in 1982.
  • Opened what was then the world’s largest kiln at the Wadi plant in 2011.

Read more about the company.

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