The cement industry is increasingly under pressure. Producers are facing unrelenting requirements to reduce production costs and improve efficiency as overcapacity becomes part of a new reality. Furthermore, while technological developments and increasing digitisation across the flowsheet are enabling improvements, the journey to achieve maximum value from technology investments requires precious time and specialist skills.  

Perhaps even more pressing, however, is the need to earn and maintain a “social license to operate” along with ready access to capital, which are both prerequisites for sustainable operations today.  

For cement producers to thrive in such a world, they need greater access to in-depth expertise and know-how than ever before – and across all areas. For many, it is unrealistic to acquire and maintain all the necessary skills and technologies. Instead, they look to specialists to provide support through a variety of services covering areas that lie beyond the producer’s core capabilities. 

 

Shouldering responsibility

After more than a century of supporting the industry with specialist service offerings, Adriana Muñoz, Head of Global Service Operations, says she and her colleagues have witnessed a striking shift by producers towards strategic service partnerships. A type of alliance, with one, key service supplier that can look beyond the daily operations to help achieve long-term, commercial goals, and that can help to address some of the broader, societal and cost challenges facing the industry.  

“Our customers are dealing with some big issues beyond producing and selling cement. Industrial pollution regulations are becoming stricter and wider-reaching. At the same time, investors are demanding progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – some even threatening to exclude highly carbon-intensive sectors from their portfolios. Fighting on several fronts, producers are battling overcapacity and control of their cost base while reducing their environmental footprint.”  

Muñoz says that producers are realising that, amidst this complexity, they cannot fund the sustainable transition, run strategic maintenance programs and stay competitive all at the same time. That’s why they need to reach out to reliable partners who can help them establish ‘operation excellence’, bridge the competence gaps, and help maintain their license to operate. 

“Market drivers like these are rapidly changing producers’ service needs, and they’ve changed the way companies like our own design and deliver service, too. It’s a far cry from the time when providing service was just a matter of sending an engineer out to do a hot kiln alignment!” says Muñoz.

Naturally, along with these changes comes more responsibility for integrated operation partners to meet producers’ expectations of extensive experience and ability to drive down the cost of cement while enhancing the overall performance of the facilities and optimising their environmental footprint. So, what do such developments mean for the structure and composition of service as an overall concept? 

Re-defining service

Muñoz identifies three types of service that need to be delivered today. First, the ability to offer a one-stop shop for timely supply of inventory and spare parts. Second, the ability to provide full maintenance programs aimed at reducing risk and optimising processes – essentially having the right people with the right skills available at the right time. And third, yet equally important, is the ability to function as an asset optimisation partner, looking beyond daily maintenance tasks to advise on operational excellence and best practices. All this, supported by the extensive network of specialists using the digital solutions to facilitate, enhance and optimize the value add to our customers. 

“Being a strategic service partner requires that you have all the capabilities to deliver a complete mix of these service areas to help customers achieve their overall business goals. Ultimately, our responsibility is to be a partner who can help them reduce risks and reduce the costs of operation to a level that gives them competitive advantage.” 

To learn more at FLSmidth’s service offerings click here.  

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