Cement plant projects require huge investments, not to be undertaken lightly. That’s why a feasibility study is critical to determining whether or not the project should go ahead.

There are many factors to take into account in a feasibility study and it’s important to consider them all as objectively as possible. Here’s a brief list of just some of the items. For more detailed information of what we include in our feasibility studies, please get in touch.

Is there opportunity?
Every feasibility study should begin with an analysis of the market opportunity and competitors. Is there sufficient demand to cope with a new player? Is that demand already being fulfilled by local manufacturers? Importers? Are there projects in the pipeline that might change the market landscape? What could the future import scenario be, based on your assessment of other nearby and interested parties? Include an examination of environmental and political factors that could affect the project’s viability.

What will the costs be?
In terms of the technical aspects of the project, a feasibility study doesn’t need to get into the detailed engineering design aspects – but it is important to have an estimate of the capital and operating costs of the project. Obviously the size of the plant needs to be relative to the market opportunity, but other things to consider will be where the raw materials and fuels will come from, what that supply chain looks like, etc.

What is the long-term viability? 
More often than not, we see cement producers rushing to build plants in growth markets to the point that supply soon outstrips demand – we only have to look at Egypt, Indonesia and Vietnam, but there are many, many examples of this. This suggests a lack of long-term planning. Market forecasts should include an estimate of peak demand levels – no market will grow and grow forever, and your investors will know that. I find financing parties like to see a healthy injection of reality in their reports. No one wants to risk their investment on questionable numbers. Looking at demand in terms of cement consumption per capita is one of the best ways of providing a realistic forecast.

What if your forecasts aren’t met?
A feasibility study should also include a plan for what will happen if your market forecasts aren’t met. Is there another market nearby that could use any surplus product? Have you outlined the production level at which the plant is profitable?
Investors will want to see the plan for a worst-case scenario, to feel reassured that the project could withstand a variety of conditions.

To read about some of the feasibility studies we have conducted for our clients, take a look at our references and testimonials page, or just give us a call to discuss further.


Developing a training plan
Have you got a training plan for 2019?

Training is critical to the success of your organisation, particularly as the baby boomers age out of the workforce and headcount is reduced, leaving a significant skills gap.

But how do you ensure that training actually solves this skills gap? Some organisations are guilty of training for the sake of training. It’s a tick-box exercise with little real-world value if it doesn’t actually help the right people develop the right skills. Is a course about maintenance relevant to your Quality Manager? Is a course about refractory brick installation really relevant to milling operatives? Training should be linked to the job profile of the employee, as well as their career development path.

One popular and effective training method is to rotate personnel around the plant as a way of exposing them to the whole plant operation. This is a really good tool for new employees who might have a grasp on the theory of cement manufacture but need real world experience. Once trained, it also gives you the flexibility to move personnel around should the need arise – for example, to cover holidays or sickness. The downside is that you need sufficient personnel to cover the skills gap that opens up in one department when the trainee moves to the next.

Another good method is to train the trainer. This involves providing experienced people in the plant with sufficient training in specific areas that they are able to carry out training and provide expertise as and when required, rather than continually sending personnel offsite or to a classroom to receive training from a third party. In our opinion, it’s in the plant’s best interests to keep as much expertise as possible within the organisation, though obviously this isn’t always possible.

Something else to consider is the method of training delivery. It is difficult (though not impossible!) to provide engaging classroom-based training on manufacturing topics. Studies show people forget about 90% of what they’ve learned within a week of leaving the classroom. The best way to address this is by creating a more engaging training program that is interactive, carried out in the field or using simulators, and which gives trainees the opportunity to implement what they are learning. And then follow-up and reinforce through ongoing practical experience and regular assessment. This doesn’t have to be formal, but if you notice a critical skills gap it is better to address it sooner rather than later. Mistakes can be expensive.

If you need training, or think there are skills gaps in your organisation that need patching, give JAMCEM a call. Our team is made up of highly skilled personnel with decades of experience across the entire cement plant. We can help you assess what training is needed and deliver it in the best way to ensure you maximise the potential of your employees. 


As you approach maintenance season, do you feel ready for your annual shutdown? Have you got everything planned, or do you fear that when you get into the main equipment there are going to be some nasty surprises in store?
So much of the success of a maintenance shutdown depends on the planning. I’ve written before about how best to do that, but in this article I wanted to talk about one of the most useful tools in your arsenal and how to make the most of it to ensure your shutdowns progress smoothly.

The ERP Maintenance Module
Many cement companies operate an ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning tool – to streamline business operations. It covers the entire process, from raw material stocks to finances to human resources and everything in between. But one of the most critical elements of the ERP is the maintenance module. This module is key to planning for both day-to-day tasks and for the annual repair.
You can use it to plan inspections and to record the results of those inspections, to plan maintenance and to keep a record of work carried out, manage both human and material resources and develop your overall reliability strategy. The more data you record, the better you can plan work to be done. It has the potential to be a self-perpetuating – and, in fact, self-improving – instrument of reliability…if it is used properly. But how do you make sure you’re doing that?

What should be included in the ERP?
Before we look at the level of detail required, it’s worth mentioning first that it’s important to designate the task of updating the ERP. Without assigning this job to specific people, you run the risk of it being one of those jobs that everyone thinks someone else is doing. Incomplete records are more of a hazard than a help, so make sure you allocate ‘ownership’ of the ERP Maintenance Module to specific personnel, or that you have a system in place to ensure it is continuously updated. This is generally achieved by having a strong Planning Department within the plant structure.
In terms of what should be going into it, we recommend that engineers focus on building job plans to plan the daily workload. In order that anything that needs to be monitored can be and any actions that are required at the annual repair can be planned in, every job plan should include detail of:
• The resources needed – people, spare parts and tools
• How long the work should take
• The method for doing the job
• What should be checked so that this information can be fed back to the engineers.

This information allows you to not only allocate personnel in the daily and weekly planning, but also enables you to assess the effectiveness of workers on the job and providing additional training if required. A job taking additional time may also indicate there is a problem with the equipment, which is why effective feedback to the Engineers is so valuable. The feedback can then be used for additional monitoring if required or inclusion for corrective work in the annual shutdown plan.

Using the ERP to manage spare parts
The maintenance module of the ERP is also a key tool for managing spare parts inventory – again, if used appropriately. By looking at the data on usage rate, the minimum and maximum spare parts levels for each part can be identified, allowing you to schedule automatic purchase orders for smaller items. Ensuring that the stocks of parts are not excessive helps manage the plant’s cashflow and will help to avoid obsolete parts. Maintaining a minimum stock will also ensure that the plant isn’t stopped because a part isn’t available. Managing ordering and usage of parts through the one system prevents multiple orders of the same part, as well as parts being used without the stock data being brought up to date.

Saving the leg work
Though it might sound like extra work to capture all this data, the reality is that the savings produced by proper use of the maintenance module – both in time and money – are worth that extra effort. Plus, the ERP is paperless, which shortens the time for sign off on work and purchases.
However, ERP systems are expensive and time consuming to implement so it is absolutely essential that they are used correctly after all the resources have been used to install it. JAMCEM has extensive experience in the best practice maintenance module installation, operating practices and personnel. If you are planning to install one or feel you aren’t getting enough out of your existing system – contact us!


In recent years, cement plants have been battling the economic downturn. That has meant budget cuts, which in turn has led to major headcount reduction exercises. Many plants have cut staff right to the minimum and some have gone lower even than that.
We’ve worked with a number of plants on headcount as part of our human capital services and one of the mistakes we’ve seen management make is to only think about headcount in terms of budget. In reality, headcount should always be considered in the context of the plant and operational issues.

Allocate resources to issues
Any exercise to reduce headcount should begin by looking at the plant. What is causing reliability issues? Are there quality issues impacting profitability? What about raw materials? Every plant has its problems and that’s where any discussion of ways to cut costs should begin. Write them all down and decide if they can be resolved. If they can, develop an action plan and consider what resources will be required both during that process and after the issue has been resolved.

How many supervisors does one worker need?
I’ve noticed in a lot of plants the ratio of supervisors to ‘workers’ – those going out on the plant and physically doing the work – is skewed. This is often symptomatic of using old, out of date plant structures in a world where management information systems and planning are now more frequently used. It doesn’t make sense to have too many supervisors and not enough ‘doers’ – especially when personnel can be trained to do the work and can be paid to operate without supervision.

Optimise headcount the same way you optimise production
Every department head should be continually trying to reduce the costs of their department. Headcount should be considered as part of this. That doesn’t mean continually downsizing the department – it means how can you best optimise the skills and experience you have in your team, while also being mindful of the cost? It’s a difficult calculation to make from the inside, which is one of the reasons our Human Capital services exist – sometimes you need an outsider’s perspective on how to best utilise your resources.

Consider the skills value as well as the money
Before you let anyone go, make sure that those who are staying are properly trained and capable of doing the job that will be theirs in the future. We have a lot of highly experienced individuals in our industry – but not enough to satisfy our future need. It’s worth weighing up the pros and cons of releasing talent, and budgeting for additional training if you do decide to reduce in areas where you don’t have the skills to replace what you’re losing.

Don’t forget the potential cost of reducing headcount
When reductions go too far, too fast, you risk losing much more than you’re saving. For all that automation has done for our plants, there’s still a great deal of value in human skills and human experience. Even the most modern plant requires a certain headcount to run optimally. Going below that threshold can at best place undue pressure on people and equipment, and at worst put people’s lives at risk.

If you’re not sure how best to optimise your human capital, or whether reducing headcount is really the answer, give JAMCEM a call. We’ll be happy to help.


It’s that time of year again. Budget meetings will probably be a fixture across your calendar this month and there’s a good chance even looking at the date in your diary will give you a headache.

Budget setting is often seen as a challenge between the Senior Management/Executives and the cement plant personnel. On the one side you have the theory – what is possible if everything is running as it seems to on paper – and on the other side there is the reality of daily operations, where budget targets are not always met. With this mindset in place, plant personnel tend to start high with their financial budget and low with their production budget, knowing that there will be extensive negotiations on both.

This kind of mentality doesn’t breed trust between the two sides, which can create issues when management ask for more production and plant personnel attest it can’t be done without more resources. The conversations that follow are probably the cause for your pre-emptive headache. So how do we avoid these difficulties and come up with a budget that works for everyone?

                             "A budget that is forced through without an action plan is doomed from the start"

Budgets need to be reasonable
If both sides start by being realistic and reasonable about what is possible, it’s much easier to trust in the process. Production increases, for example, should be accompanied by action plans that support those increases. Greater throughput will usually require investment or some other resource. If a plant has produced 100 tph all year, it’s unlikely it can achieve 105 tph next year without some level of investment. Both plant personnel and senior management need to be receptive to ideas and practicalities. A budget that is forced through without an action plan is doomed from the start.

Budgets can be negotiated
All that being said, it is reasonable to approach the budget meetings as a platform for negotiation. If senior management wants 105 tph, plant personnel can use the promise of a production increase to negotiate for additional resources.

Prepare for budget meetings
Take the time to properly prepare for budget meetings. From the plant personnel perspective, this means arriving to the meeting with all the facts you need to support your arguments. Itemise the major items in the budget so that you can demonstrate to senior management what you are spending on. Think about what they might realistically ask from you and from the process. Be prepared to answer their questions and counter their arguments on spending with your own.

Include everything you think is necessary in the budget – even those things that may not be necessary right away. It’s better to highlight to senior management what needs doing and the risk of delaying the decision to proceed, than it is not to mention it. All risks should be shared risk, so always be upfront about them.

Be realistic about time as well as money
It’s easy to make false promises when you’re trying to get approval on a project, but it’s important to be realistic. After all, these meetings happen every year and you want the good grace of senior management the next time you come to the table, cap in hand. If CAPEX is involved, set reasonable timescales – especially if the impact of the investment is reflected in the business plan. Bear in mind there may be a ramp up time before new equipment delivers on performance guarantees. And don’t forget to factor in potential project delays.

Defend the essentials
At the end of the day, plant personnel know the process best so when it comes to must-have items, be prepared to mount a defence. JAMCEM has the knowhow to support the entire budget process for your company. We have completed this process many, many times in multinational cement producers. If you need help, give us a call. You can be sure you will end up with a realistic but challenging budget that both sides will be satisfied with.