Ready mix concrete (RMC) and batching solutions are changing as they become more effective and efficient.
The fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0 has been creating great upheavals and disruptions in the whole process of product design, manufacturing, services and operating conditions better than ever before. Armed with technological breakthroughs and improved connectivity, Industry 4.0 is fueled by the great strides in computing, the proliferation of connected systems (Internet of Things), and stronger, more powerful new ways to analyze big data using artificial intelligence algorithms and machine learning capabilities.
Anand Sundaresan, Vice-Chairman & Managing Director – Schwing Stetter India, & Chairman – Infrastructure Equipment Skill Council says, “we produce batching plants ranging from 18 cubic meter per hour capacity to 240 cubic meter per hour capacity. We are one of the specialized in making mobile batching plants that does not require any foundation. Our greatest achievement this year, is introduction of 3 cubic meters per batch batching plant that will produce roughly about 120-130 CBM concrete per hour in the mobile version. We are the probably the only company in the world to have a mobile version batching plant with 130 cubic meter capacity. This was designed jointly by Indian and German engineers and this has been working extremely well. We have also come out with a few variants on other capacity batching Plant including a 25 cubic meter capacity Mobile batching Plant.” Incidentally, all their batching plants are equipped with IoT and at the moment this is optional. IoT however is completely implemented and they have installed it in companies like Gayatri and L&T. IoT can gather complete information on real time performance of the batching plant, the production capacity, the maintenance related feedback, replacement of parts and all kinds of statistical information online.
Modern batching plants are also becoming sustainable in terms of energy efficiency and curtailing pollution. “We always work keeping the environment in mind and work on keeping pollution levels at the minimal level. We have recently introduced a highly energy efficient engine for our truck mixer which ensured reduction of fuel consumption by 30% on a 6 CBM truck mixer. As far as electric motors are concerned we have energy efficient motors which are now become a mandate and we have an international efficiency norm – IE2 is the minimum level that is a must. We have gone a step forward and we use IE3 motor and current consumption is lower by 12-15% and also less heat is emitted. All our batching plants are equipped with dust filters and controllers and do not emit dust above the Prescribed limits. Hence our batching plants are low pollutants,” explains Sundaresan.
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The best performance of the equipment can be achieved when you have properly trained staff operating it and hence training is a key factor. “We have close to 300 plus engineers across our 26 branch offices and we also have nine training centres where we focus on continually training batching plant operators. As Chairman of Infrastructure Equipment Skill Council we have taken the initiative of training operators in our training centres, where we conduct regular operator training programs that are approved by National Skill development Corporation. We also provide a certification on successful completion of the course. We focus on safety matters, preventive and proactive maintenance too. For operators who are already working for many years we have a training called RPL or Recognition of Prior Learning where we send trainers to our customer’s project site and assess skill gaps if any against the syllabus we have formulated. We provide the training in the gap areas and ensure they are also certified,” says Sundaresan.
Today, the world of manufacturing is not just content with using automation for workforce reduction cost cutting, production improvements, and better safety. Going further, the industry is now on a clear path towards making machines that also produce rich-quality data streams that enable remote-tracking and control, performance analysis, and effect faster product innovations. In concreting and core construction equipment manufacturing sector, ever since the entry of PLCs (programmable logic controllers), there have been drastic improvements in the performance and accuracy of machines. Among the stellar achievements of automation in the manufacturing sector is its ability to support holistic simulation and testing, process optimization, reduction of human stress from mundane tasks, and most importantly, initiate a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement. Real-time field data from machines running around the world can now be automatically fed back to have a tremendously positive impact in the product lifecycle management (PLM). PLM spans across design, engineering, and manufacturing stages of a machine. Heavy equipment machinery has now begun to imbibe more intelligent embedded systems, complex engineering controls, sensors and actuators more than ever before. Through smart engineering, data on component functioning can be captured to improve them right at the manufacturing level. It also helps design better maintenance cycles. All these virtues of connected manufacturing bring down the cost of components, and maintenance requirements in the long run.
In batching plants, until the last decade, there was only potentiometer-enabled selector switches for making concrete, which gave just about 10 to 15 different mixes, called ‘recipes’ of concrete. With the entry of PLCs, batching plants of today can make an infinite variety of these concrete recipes at the click of a button, delighting the whole construction industry. “PLCs also help achieve consistency in the quality of concrete aggregates, thanks to accurate statistical data at the granular level. Automatic algorithms that decide the composition of concrete mixtures are far more accurate than human inputs that suffer from great variations from judgemental and behavioral errors. Operationally, automation in the sector makes a sea of a difference. Operators who own larger fleets of such machines spread across different geographies can keep a firm tab on the production of concrete through remote tracking, and manage their inventories and billing cycles with effortless ease,” says Sundaresan.
As far as concreting and core construction equipment manufacturing industry is concerned the challenges of rapid inclusion of disruptive new age technologies into the design and functionality of the machines are two pronged. “Firstly, such technological inclusion comes at a high capital cost increase. In a highly price-sensitive market that is crowded by owners of small fleets, an additional cost delays the returns on investment, which make buyers reluctant to invest. Secondly, to operate the new machines, renewed, updated technical skills are essential, which further increases the pressure on fleet owners, who would be forced to invest in training modules. Existing experienced operators also face the necessity of upskilling themselves, lest they go irrelevant,” says Sundaresan. Despite all these challenges mentioned above, there is a silver lining. Leading manufacturers in the sector have already begun doing good work in terms of comprehensively training the operators and awarding them with industry body-recognized certifications, that further fuels adoption of newer technologies by the market. In the past decade, thanks to improvements in mobile connectivity, many manufactures have made significant progress through inclusion of connected technologies such as telematics in their machines. The next wave is going to be a complete integration of automation capabilities in new age machines that enable operators and owners with a firm control of real-time data from remote locations for better operations and accurate decision making. Eventually, it is expected that automation in the sector is expected to increase to favorable levels, once virtuous adoption patterns push volumes up, bringing down input costs. As the economy continues its upswing and construction takes forefront as far as infrastructure is concerned, RMC batching plants are sure to make a big impact. After all the material used for construction in an organized and ecological manner will make the difference that matters.
This story first appeared in Construction Week Dec 2018 issue here: CW_December 2018_RMC & Batching Plants