The African company Dangote, based in Lagos, Nigeria has two ambitious goals – to compete with the leading cement manufacturers worldwide and prepare for an upcoming construction boom. Africa is an emerging continent, where the demand for cement is steadily increasing due to the continuously growing population and the need for infrastructure development. Dangote has been using Beumer systems such as loading systems, belt conveyors and bucket elevators for years. Systems from third-party suppliers are also used.
“When it came to a belt misalignment on a bucket elevator used for feeding silos with a height of more than 60 meters, we repeatedly had to endure production downtimes”, explains Kornelius Thimm, Head of Customer Support for Beumer in Beckum/Germany. This is a typical problem, according to Thimm. The system had to be stopped repeatedly for the workers to correct the error. “In the long run, however, this needed to be corrected”, he said.
Dangote had made various service agreements with Beumer Customer Support. “In principle, our agreements are specially designed to meet the individual requirements of the customer”, explains Thimm. In order for them to be optimally tailored to meet the customer‘s needs, a Beumer service technician evaluated all of Dangote‘s on-site systems. The agreements can range from only maintenance and inspection to a long-term placement of service personnel on site. Beumer Belt Management, for example, helps to avoid downtime through regular inspections and timely replacement of bucket elevator belts. The Residential Service comprises technical support, preventive maintenance and inspection, emergency plans, system and process analyses and optimisation as well as spare parts and facility management.
How to find a sustainable solution for the problem, Beumer specialists discussed together with people from Dangote. “Our goal is to further improve trouble-free intralogistic processes in order to guarantee value-added material flow”, explains Thimm. In this case, the modernisation of the plant was recommended. “We didn‘t just want to repair the errors, but actively support the company to meet upcoming capacity and technology requirements”, says Thimm.
After an in-depth consultation with the specialists, the belt and the buckets were replaced with the latest heavy-duty technology developed by Beumer. This solution offers buckets that are mounted firmly to the back of the belt by segments and bolts. Belts with wire-free zones are used for the heavy-duty bucket elevators just as with all belt bucket elevators from Beckum. The buckets can be fastened to the belt without damaging the steel wires or even cutting them. The traction forces of the bucket elevator belt are maintained to the full extent. The new bucket shape also allows for smoother running and therefore less noise generation. Furthermore, the return pulleys were replaced.
“The new conveyor belts are more resistant against mechanical wear, and they can transport coarse-grained material and high mass flows. All this makes the new heavy-duty bucket elevator the preferred product for this customer”, explains Thimm. This solution helps the cement manufacturer to increase the availability of the bucket elevator, reduce energy consumption and extend service life and makes the company more competitive in the long term, as opposed to the replacement of only one belt. “If we assume that the new Beumer solution lasts twice as long as the old belt, the modification would have paid off after a short period of time”, confirms Thimm.
For the Beumer Group, Customer Support is more than just service, but a separate department on its own, independent of conveying and loading technology, palletising and packaging technology and sortation and distribution systems. “It‘s basically a company within the company”, explains Thimm. “We have our own sales department, which allows us to implement projects independently.” The goal is to support the customer for even better results. The head of Customer Support identifies a pronounced trend: There are still customers who invest in their own skilled maintenance personnel, but more and more companies want to delegate this responsibility.
Beumer is one of the companies offering an all-inclusive service – everything from one source. Beumer Group employees take on the responsibility for operating times, performance and economic efficiency of the systems and are trained regularly to stay up-to-date with the latest technology so the customer can concentrate on their core business. “Over time, the number of technicians assigned to Dangote will increase to ensure machine availability as the increasing requirements will require a tremendous amount of time and work, impossible for one technician alone to accomplish”, explains Thimm.
If the customer wishes to use their own maintenance personnel, Customer Support specialists can provide training to bring the machine operator up-to-date and introduce new employees to the systems. This method ensures maximum operating time for the systems. Training is required for the initial installation, as well as a follow-up several months after the system has been running. At this time, the customer has the opportunity to ask questions related to their specific needs.
“The training programmes are tailor-made for the customer and their systems”, Thimm points out. In the event there is still a system downtime that the customer is unable to correct on his own, qualified Customer Support technicians offer around-the-clock support every day of the year worldwide, reducing downtime to a minimum. Our technicians can perform remote analyses, indicate corrective measures and offer quick and reliable solutions to correct the malfunctions, so the systems can be put quickly back in service. Additionally, we will also find the cause for the malfunction to prevent it from happening again.
For its CS employees, Beumer sets high standards. When systems are installed and used in other countries, it is ensured that the customer should have access to a technician who originates from the same cultural background and speaks the same language. “For this reason we cannot just send any colleague from Beckum to Africa or Southeast Asia”, says Thimm. Successful customer support requires successful communication. How is the customer positioned? What are their goals and how do they want to develop in the future? These questions require tactfulness and cultural know-how. “We are in permanent contact with the company”, explains Thimm.
“As all of the systems used by the customer need to be complementary, we also take into account the technical improvements of parts produced by third-party manufacturers”, says Thimm. Therefore, the technicians suggest adaptations to the mechanics and controlling systems of products that interact with Beumer machinery. “Of course, we know our competitors and their differences”, he explains. For products that are not part of the Beumer portfolio, Customer Support assumes the function of a general maintenance department: “In the case of malfunctions, we correct them and carry out the maintenance work as indicated by the third-party supplier”, explains Thimm. In Nigeria, there are many Chinese suppliers in the market and Dangote uses many Asian units and systems, too. “That is why we have a service technician on site who has also a lot of experience with the Chinese market and its products”, says Thimm.