This is a different kind of JAMCEM blog. This isn’t about equipment or engineering or training. This time, we’re talking about climate change. There is no doubt that the past few months have seen a re-emergence of the need to take action now on climate change and that has brought with it renewed focus on the cement industry. Unfortunately, in all the media coverage there is no recognition of the work that the industry has done in the past 20 years to tackle an issue that we have been aware of for a long time.

We’re not just talking about emissions from fuels and power. CO2 is created in the process of making clinker. And you can’t – yet – have cement without clinker. So what more can we do to promote what we have done, as well as try to influence customer behaviour?

Thus far, the cement industry’s in-plant efforts to curb CO2 emissions have focused on three main areas:

- Reduce fuel and power consumption.
- Reduce the clinker content of cement.
- Switch to alternative fuels.

All these efforts should be commended. But are customers aware of them?

Consumer behaviour drives change. We’re seeing it in the uptake of renewable energy and electric cars. We’re seeing it in the resistance to plastic packaging. And we could see it in the cement industry – if we were able to provide consumers with a simple way of understanding the product’s environmental impact.

What if we could give cement products an environmental ranking in the same way that domestic appliances such as dishwashers are ranked in bands from A+++ to F? This method has been pushed the development of ever more efficient appliances. It’s hard to imagine a customer ever buying an E ranked washing machine – and, given equal price, who would buy a B ranked machine over an A++ ranked? Could this same system work for cement?

We believe it could. Here’s our proposed formula:

kg CO2 / tonne cement / MPa of 28 day mortar strength using EN standard testing methods

For example: a typical CEM I 52.5N in Europe has a kg CO2/tonne cement of 828 for a 28-day compressive strength of 63MPa. By dividing the 828 by 63 a ranking of 13.2 is produced.

We would end up with a ranking list that looks something like this:

Of course, there are obstacles to using this same kind of system for cement. The issue of minimum cement content in concrete, for a start – a subject that requires a global critical review. But if we were to adopt an environmental ranking system for cement, it could influence customer behaviour and provide a competitive differentiator that would surely inspire manufacturers to strive for the highest possible ‘score’. Especially if the specifiers of cement for large projects required a minimum of, say, an environmental class B cement to be used.

This post is just the tip of the iceberg. To read the full article ‘Environmental ranking of cement’, click here.


Right first time design
Getting a cement plant to run competitively is not just a question of proper management. Achieving low operating costs, reliability, profitability and a smooth, quick start-up begins in the design phase.

Raw materials 
You can’t have a cement plant without locally available raw materials, but it’s not enough simply to establish that the materials are available – they have to be the right materials for the job. Proper raw materials testing will help you determine not only the chemical composition of the materials, but also the moisture content, hardness and abrasiveness. This has an obvious impact on the crusher and raw mill, so is an important part of selecting the proper wear protection.

Funding requirements 
As well as ensuring you have the money to go ahead with the project, it’s also important to check whether the funding parties have additional requirements. For example, some institutions will require that the plant have low energy consumption and low CO2 emissions. These things can’t be magicked up once the plant is built; they have to be considered in the design phase.

Consider what cements you will produce. Have a look at the local market – is there a gap that you could fill, or are you better being guided by what’s most popular? Obtain competitor samples to assess their properties. What will be your USP? It may even be the form in which you supply the product – it depends what the main market is locally. Do your due diligence.

Standards and regulations 
There is a lot of admin involved in building a new cement plant – and none of it should be ignored. Following the local building standards and regulations is critical to getting a plant signed off by the building inspector. The same applies to electrical, civil and structural, mechanical and health and safety design. Any omissions will result in delays to the plant start-up – or worse – and even small delays can carry a significant financial impact. Your suppliers are responsible for checking that their product is ‘fit for purpose’ in the country where your plant is being built. Choose wisely, and always ask for the relevant certifications. Ultimately, if a regulatory body takes issue with any aspect of your plant, it will be up to you to resolve it.

Ask for help 
Even for experienced industry professionals, setting up a new cement plant can be a daunting process. If you have any questions, or want help to make sure you get the design right first time, give JAMCEM a call.


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!