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LafargeHolcim launch ‘Plants of Tomorrow’

Plants of Tomorrow

Major roll-out of Industry 4.0 technologies as company upgrades cement production for the future

TARGETING a global network of more than 270 integrated cement plants and grinding stations across more than 50 countries, LafargeHolcim have embarked on a four-year programme that will see the utilization of automation technologies and robotics, artificial intelligence, predictive maintenance and digital-twin technologies across their entire cement production process.

The global ‘Plants of Tomorrow’ initiative will involve one of the largest roll-outs of Industry 4.0 technologies in the building materials industry and, according to the company, will result in a ‘Plants of Tomorrow’ certified operation delivering a 15–20% operational efficiency gain compared with a conventional cement plant.

LafargeHolcim are currently working on more than 30 pilot projects covering all regions where they are active. The company’s Siggenthal integrated cement plant, in Switzerland, will be the lighthouse where the integration of all relevant modules will be tested for the global ‘Plants of Tomorrow’ initiative.

Among the technologies being implemented are predictive operations that can detect abnormal conditions and process anomalies in real time, and the creation of digital twins of plants to optimize training opportunities.

Automation and robotics is another key element of the strategy, with unmanned surveillance and drones being used to increase the frequency of inspections in high-exposure tasks while simultaneously reducing costs and increasing safety for employees.

Solomon Baumgartner Aviles, LafargeHolcim’s global head of cement manufacturing, said: ‘Transforming the way we produce cement is one of the focus areas of our digitalization strategy and the ‘Plants of Tomorrow’ initiative will turn Industry 4.0 into reality at our plants.

‘These innovative solutions will make cement production safer, more efficient and environmentally fit. We are moving to fully data-driven operations in order to support further profitable growth as part of our Strategy 2022 – Building for Growth.’

With open innovation at the heart of the ‘Plants of Tomorrow’ initiative, LH MAQER, LafargeHolcim’s new platform to identify the most impactful technologies and target start-up technology companies, aims at establishing new partnership models with both manufacturing and software companies.

Philipp Leutiger, the company’s chief digital officer, explained: ‘Our global manufacturing expertise in cement is second to none. Now, with our LH MAQER platform, we have opened up our operating model to the creativity and ingenuity of some of the world’s most gifted and talented digital minds. We are already seeing the success of this approach in many of our operations globally.’

LafargeHolcim have already launched technology to track performance centrally and allocated resources to support the plant network in real time. More than 80% of their cement plants are connected to the company’s Technical Information System, which provides data transparency at plant, country, regional and global level. Since its implementation in 2006, this system alone is said to have delivered CHF80 million in savings and an additional three million tonnes of cement sold as a result of fewer breakdowns.

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