Factoring in the hidden costs of low-cost cement plants
If you’re planning to build a cement plant, there is a good chance you have been weighing up the pros and cons of low-cost suppliers. Low-cost suppliers have risen in prominence over the last decade or so, offering significant cost-savings over their more established counterparts – at least in terms of upfront capital costs. However, it is fair to say that in many cases the lower cost at the outset is undermined by the hidden costs that crop up later on.

As an independent consultant who has worked with the full range of equipment suppliers and contractors, I’ve noticed a few common problems that could be addressed to help gain the benefits of lower capital costs without the disadvantages.

Quality of construction
While the quality of the major plant equipment from low-cost suppliers is often not that different from the more expensive alternative, I have seen a lack of consideration given to the ‘smaller’ equipment. Things like hoppers, transfer points and even the belts on conveyors may not get the same attention as the likes of the mills and kilns, but poor quality construction can still lead to failures, downtime, lost profits and expensive cleanup.

Hidden problems
In the process of building a cement plant, a surprising amount is going on underground and it’s difficult to quality control what can’t be seen. Water supply lines with non-standard pipe sizes can cause havoc when repairs are needed. Suppliers need to provide a map of the network and mark all pipe routings.

Sourcing spare parts
When agreeing the terms of the contract, ensure the supplier is clear on where you can buy spare parts for all plant equipment. Much of the instrumentation and small fans/motors are difficult to find locally and a delay on sourcing something small can have far-reaching consequences. 

Proper project management
Every project, whoever is supplying it, needs proper management (though the demands placed on project managers will differ from low-cost to higher-cost projects). Project managers should have significant, relevant experience and ideally you will have more than one person covering the project to establish expectations with the supplier and ensure that these are met. 

Supervisors and Project Managers need to be able to step in when things aren’t right. A constant site presence will help ensure no short cuts are taken and that the project is delivered as expected. If you don’t have the resources in house, consider outsourcing the task to an experienced third party. 

Low-cost suppliers can produce high quality cement plants
All this is not to say that we advise against using low-cost suppliers. Far from it. With experienced project management and supervision, the quality of the project can still be very high. However, when comparing quotes, it is definitely worth considering the extra costs that may arise and factoring that into your decision. It may be that some of those cost savings will need to be spent after all.

If you need help assessing the best solution for your plant, contact JAMCEM for experienced independent advice and support.