Why performance analysis and diagnostics should replace traditional benchmarking models

Traditional benchmarking doesn’t work

Benchmarking is an important part of performance analysis, but traditional models offering league table comparisons do nothing to inherently improve performance. Knowing that your cement plant comes fifth on a list of 50 cement plants does not tell you what plants 1 – 4 are doing differently to you, or even where you’re succeeding and others are failing. These anonymous reports just give you yet more data to work with – or, more likely, file and forget.

In an industry with so many variables – raw material chemistry, the fuels and alternative raw materials used, labour costs, the age of the equipment, local regulations, to name just a few – there is no benefit to shoe-horning data into a generic model that doesn’t speak to your unique process.

Put your process at the centre

None of this is to say that there isn’t a place for benchmarking – there absolutely is. But the information that’s really relevant to you is that which shows what your plant could achieve compared to its current output. What is your rated kiln output and what is your daily production rate? How does your kcal/kg compare with the target that is appropriate for your raw materials and fuel mix? What should be the power consumption for the different cements that you produce which are no longer the same as when the plant was built? These are the questions that are worth asking – the questions that reveal where specifically your plant is falling short. Knowing the optimum and actual performance of your entire plant gives you a framework from which you can develop real-world solutions.

"Plants change with time - alternative fuels change the target output and fuel consumption; cement surface areas keep increasing to deliver higher strengths - what is required is up to date targets for todays production circumstances"

It’s not the data; it’s what you do with it

With so much reporting built into a modern cement plant, it’s easy to feel like you’re a slave to data. Don’t be. Data works for you. It is the first step on the path to process optimisation – what comes next is the good stuff.

Once you’ve performed a gap analysis based on your plant data (potential vs. actual), the next step is to diagnose the real problem areas and develop solutions. Most of the solutions go back to basic engineering and good practice. Can the raw materials variability be improved? How can the by-pass level be optimised? What technology exists to reduce the number of kiln stops? Having the data to support your decisions is empowering. Knowing the numbers you are reaching for makes success more easily quantifiable – and more easily achievable.

A fresh perspective

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, ‘Sounds great, but I don’t know what my plant could achieve’, or ‘I know where my plant is falling short, but I don’t know how to fix it’. Time to bring in a fresh pair of eyes. We all know what it’s like to be so close to something that we’ve lost our objectivity. Bringing in a consultant who has worked in the industry at plant level gives you the benefit of both a new perspective and a whole new range of experience.

JAMCEM Consulting developed its Performance Analysis and Diagnostics System (PADS) to address exactly the need outlined in this article. Plants submit their data through a web-based input system, so no site visit is required, which is a significant cost-saving. That data is analysed against the technical standards we have developed based on our many years of operational experience in the cement industry, and we examine the performance gaps and the possible actions that could be taken to improve operating outcomes. It’s a mini plant assessment that could be a step towards a full audit, or could be all the information you need to make improvements in-house. It’s exactly as simple as it sounds and it could provide you with valuable information to improve your process. View sample PADS pages here, or contact us for more information.