Challenges for plant manufacturers in the cement industry

The Corona pandemic has added to the new challenges faced by the cement industry. ZKG Cement Lime Gypsum spoke to Peter Herrmann, Head of the Fan Division, and Reinhold Mertens, Branch Manager Cement, Fan Division, of Ventilatorenfabrik Oelde GmbH about the company‘s economic development, as well as innovations and prospects.

How has the order situation developed in recent years – in view of global economic developments, but also with regard to the restrictions imposed by the Corona pandemic?

Even long before the Corona pandemic, significant changes were taking place in the cement supply industry because global cement consumption has been stagnant since around 2013.

With regard to installed capacity, it can be said that saturation was reached in many markets after the boom years before the financial crisis of 2007/2008.

This has meant that there are few new large-scale projects, while the remaining projects are struggling with the strong focus on prices.

The Corona crisis has also only contributed to a further postponement of decisions and order awards.

Of course, this has also impacted Venti Oelde’s order intake, but 2020 went better than 2019 due to our acquisition of a major project.

One trend that is becoming apparent is that Chinese EPC plant manufacturers are becoming increasingly active, forming a new target group with, in some cases, different requirements in terms of order structure and sourcing.

Nowadays, there is a larger number of small but complex and service-oriented conversion/upgrade projects carried out in existing plants. These are significantly more time-consuming and support-intensive in terms of project planning and sales. For Venti Oelde, such projects offer the advantage that we can use our technical expertise much better than in new plant projects. We have mastered the balancing act between close support of the ultimate customer/operator and simultaneous adaptation to new requirements of the plant engineers.

Which projects have you carried out in the last few years?

A highlight of recent years was the equipping of six cement lines in Egypt with process fans from Venti Oelde.

Venti Oelde also supplied the process fans for upgrade projects in Thailand.

Also, the delivery of process fans for a new line in southern Germany is imminent.

What Venti plant innovations or further developments have there been in the cement sector?

In this context, we can mention the further development of fan types for process filters up to 2 million m³/h with optimized efficiencies and reduced noise levels. The first industrial prototypes are in operation and we are now successively starting the „roll-out“. Here, real efficiencies have been measured that were previously considered virtually unattainable.

In addition, we have developed a wear protection system for fans which allows us to tailor the wear protection to individual process conditions and requirements.

What are the current strategies at Venti Oelde; where is the company placing its focus?

In the areas of digitization and automation we have established that more in-depth use of CFD analyses, a new system landscape, more automation in manufacturing, and new manufacturing processes can leverage previously inaccessible added value for us and our customers.

In concrete terms, this means being able to supply more energy-efficient and resource-saving fans: An increase in fan efficiency is possible through the use of completely new impeller geometries and further optimization of fan housings. This gives Venti Oelde a competitive edge, minimizes the TCO for the customer, and at the same time we are making a contribution to greater sustainability – after all, due to the nature of the production process, fans are one of the largest consumers in the cement plant.

In addition, we intend to expand our global reach in order to serve customers around the world even better and faster.

What new projects are you planning? What product innovations will there be in the next year?

We are planning to optimize kiln fans with a focus on design and execution, again primarily with the aim of saving energy during operation.

What are currently the most interesting topics in the field of sustainability in the cement industry – and what is the main area in which Venti Oelde can make a contribution?

As already described with respect to product innovations, two major topics in which great progress is already being made and further developments are taking place are extended service life and the energy efficiency of fans. Any optimization in terms of service life or efficiency is a major direct contribution to sustainability.

Indirectly, however, by reducing operating costs such optimization also serves to give our customers more financial leeway for the development and implementation of new, resource-saving production technologies.

New production technologies, such as modified clinker burning processes, are also very exciting, as these in turn place new and very specific demands on fan technology. A lot will certainly happen in this area over the coming years, and Venti Oelde is already right in the thick of things.

In which international regions is Venti Oelde active, and what are the particularly exciting projects/challenges in these regions?

In fact, we are active all over the world, but in recent years the focus has been on Africa and Asia.

A particular challenge at present is the establishment of a further Asian subsidiary including our own manufacturing facilities.

What are your expectations for the future development of the cement industry?

The only thing that never changes is change itself. In the medium term, the cement industry will be faced with massive changes, particularly in the course of the sustainability and climate debate. In the next ten years, decisive steps will be taken towards setting the future course of the cement industry. These will be partly taken by the industry itself and partly imposed by legislation and international trade policies and developments. In the near future, the number of new projects will remain at a low level. One focus will be the optimization of existing plants. For us as a machine and plant manufacturer, this means that customer requirements and our service philosophy will be a primary consideration. We will work closer to and, above all, more closely together with the end customer or operator.


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