A new resurgent Bangladesh aspires to emerge as an infrastructural icon in the realm of development. Shah Cement, the market leader in the cement industry is leading the way in this initiative. The company has already invested in World’s Largest Vertical Roller Mill Technology recognized by Guinness World Records. In an exclusive interview with ICE Business Times, Hafiz Sikander, Director Operations of Shah Cement illuminates us on the company’s pursuit for technological excellence and its dream for building a prosperous Bangladesh.
You’ve served Shah Cement for more than 15 years. Can you tell us about the operations you oversee and are in charge of?
I look after the total manufacturing operation, starting from implementing and improvising the vision of the company by strengthening the leadership; to improve the quality of living across Bangladesh. Shah Cement has always led the way in new innovations. The newest addition to its efforts is the World’s Largest Vertical Roller Mill (VRM).
In the last 18 years we evolved from a basic Ball Mill to the present having state of art AI enabled World’s Largest VRM & Horizontal Roller Press. Shah Cement Industries Ltd. is the largest cement producing plant in Bangladesh, now with a capacity of 10 million metric tons per annum.
At Shah Cement, safety and quality gets the highest priority. I am directly involved in the selection and sourcing of raw materials that stand up to the quality we aspire towards. Through strict monitoring and control of product quality in all the stages, we ensure that quality is never compromised, and with the implementation of Level-3 automation, we have the capacity to monitor and control operations remotely.
Shah Cement has achieved an un-beaten track record of continuous product conformance to quality standard in all testing labs for the last 18 years. We have successfully established a culture of continuous development in all operation parameters. These parameters can be fine-tuned to meet specific customer requirements and minimize lead time between product ordering to customers receiving them.
How have you shaped the company’s Quality Management Policy for Shah Cement to become an industry leader?
We believe that we provide a construction solution to the customers and treat quality as “a pursuit of excellence”. Our employees are dedicated to quality training in order to ensure our reputation for outstanding quality can permeate throughout the country. Being a market leader for more than a decade at a stretch means, we needed to work in a way that the customers trust the quality of Shah Cement and we have managed to do that successfully so far.
As a manufacturing industry, sustaining quality is a major concern in the cement sector. We have heavily invested on international standards for quality equipment as well as in-house test facilities to protect the brand value of Shah Cement. Since the beginning we have adopted the latest technology in our production and quality control system. Added care along with the technology lead to the discovery and correction of “bugs” in the production system. Investing in training means investing in quality. Whenever we invest in training, our employees work more knowledgeably and efficiently since they understand their job and can find ways to improve. Having said that, we always considered that training begins with people in leadership positions.
Tell us about the World’s Largest VRM technology and what makes it revolutionary?
The futuristic cement plants will be digital-heavy to ensure sustainability and to achieve competitive advantages over other market players. Embracing digitalization and innovation is and will be the key driving factor of the 21st century. Globally leading cement producers have already embarked on the path to digitalization and are thriving.
Worlds’ biggest building materials companies deployed a digital solution to derive decisions from big data in their facilities spanning worldwide. This digitized solution deployment was not only about the production system, but also covered day-to-day operations like finances as well. This kind of data-driven decision making definitely benefits the rock-solid base for automation and optimizes the production potential. It also massively helps the manufacturers to reduce waste in terms of money and manpower, which makes them more sustainable and eco-friendly.
Shah Cement is the leading cement brand of Bangladesh and we are bringing breakthrough technology in our cement production operations through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered Vertical Roller Mill (VRM.). Shah Cement has set the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest vertical roller cement mill in 2019. The OK81-6™ vertical mill, set up in Shah Cement plant, was manufactured by FLSmidth of Denmark.
The World’s Largest VRM has incorporated the latest advancements in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The Intelligent Monitoring Control System evaluates every stage of the production process from a central computer panel. If any operation on the machine encounters a problem, the Artificial Intelligence will be able to identify the problem and solve it with its built-in tools. This superior technology largely eliminates the chance of a human error. This groundbreaking technology ensures consistent and uninterrupted production of high-quality cement and that makes VRM a revolutionary machine.
The Guinness World Record holding VRM machine has certainly upped the stakes in the industry – before we discuss the technology further, can you talk about Shah Cement’s technology partner FLSmidth?
For over three decades vertical roller mill technology has been recognized across the world for the production of superior quality cement and for its efficient energy management. FLSmidth of Denmark is one of the leading technology providers for Cement Vertical Roller Mill with a long and proven track record. FLSmidth designed a new cement vertical roller mill capable of large-scale cement production with a state-of-the-art quality management system. They incorporated the most advanced AI and digital technology in their design and were looking for a suitable partner to implement the design. Shah Cement decided to partner with FLSmidth to commission the world’s most advanced and the largest vertical mill in cement manufacturing.
The VRM machine can produce many varieties of cement at once. Can you talk us through the options and what makes Shah Cement’s cement the sustainable choice?
The industry is currently facing increasing demands for diverse compositions of high-quality cement to cater to different mega projects. Another important aspect of the new Shah Cement facility is the addition of a multi-compartment silo. This will give us the flexibility to ensure steady supply of customized cement formulations to the exact requirement of mega projects without disrupting normal production. The newly introduced ‘multi-compartment silo’, together with the largest VRM in the world, will be able to produce cement of different compositions according to the different requirements in a much more efficient way. We are proud to introduce the world’s most advanced cement technology to the Bangladesh cement market.
The record-winning VRM at Shah Cement is equipped with state-of-the-art AI-systems that are guided by data-driven algorithms. With the integrated Intelligence Monitoring System and Intelligent Knowledge Solution, the cement production at Shah Cement is not only automated, but also has reduced waste, increased production and improved product quality.
Tell us about the function of the AI system that is guided by data-driven algorithms. AI is essentially supposed to improve operations – are we potentially glimpsing a future of the cement industry where the entire process can be machine driven and not require human intervention?
These new AI technologies are based on machine and deep-learning algorithms that create their own understanding of a process by finding patterns in the raw process data. They then use this understanding to solve problems that help improve performance and sustainability
As one practical example of AI at work, the facility’s predictive modeling process data signals that are either unreliable or unavailable – such as real-time clinker quality measurements, these are then used to create a more accurate model and controller of the actual process conditions.
The benefits of AI controlled operations is an improved ability to maintain optimal set points and faster response to conditions that may result in undesirable situations. AI is opening the door to create new solutions that efficiently offer more value, to further improve the intelligence of our process control solutions, which is a big part of our commitment to make Shah Cement plant smarter, more productive and increasingly sustainable.
How do Intelligence Monitoring System and Intelligent Knowledge Solution help to reduce waste?
The world’s largest Vertical Roller miller is also equipped with a built-in knowledge solution system. Built-in tools in the Intelligent Knowledge Solution keep the VRM updated with the latest best available data through the FLSmidth cloud networks and resource system. It’s guided digitally, by a system coupled with analytics-driven maintenance and process-knowledge experts to follow the best course of operation and troubleshooting. Any problems faced by the machine can be resolved with no manual intervention which ensures a high run factor.