ZKG TECHNICAL EXCURSION, Lägerdorf/Germany (11.–13.06.2014)

Secondary School with Chalk?

Although modern students are accustomed to working with the latest high-tech equipment, those attending the ZKG student excursion had come to learn in greater detail about chalk and, above all, the production of cement at Holcim in Lägerdorf/Schleswig–Holstein (Germany).

A total of forty-two students, along with their professors and supervisors, came from the RWTH of Aachen, the Technical University of Freiburg and the Technical University of Koblenz to take part in a two-day field trip, bringing together academia and managers from the plant operator and its supplier industry, along with engineers and HR managers from AUMUND Fördertechnik GmbH, Gebr. Pfeiffer SE, KHD Humboldt Wedag GmbH, Maschinenfabrik Köppern GmbH & Co. KG and ThyssenKrupp Industrial Solutions GmbH.

The audience was firstly welcomed by site manager Morten Holpert, of Holcim Deutschland GmbH. Dr. Hubert Baier (ZKG International) kicked off the programme with a deeper insight into the process chain, extending from the quarry to shipment of the finished product. His address was followed by a lively group-work session, in order to provide students with the opportunity of replicating what they had just learned in illustrations depicting the complete production-process chain.

The morning session concluded with a presentation of the Lägerdorf plant by its manager, Morten Holpert, who introduced his plant and its unique situation, the result of the deposits of mineral resources located below the groundwater table. The mineral chalk is excavated in wet condition, ground, mixed in high-capacity slurry vessels and compacted to form a filter cake, and then finally dried in a flash dryer incorporating a hammer mill. This raw material is then blended with fly ash and conveyed to the preheater pneumatically. The session was also lucky to be addressed by Tanja Freiberg, general manager of geocycle, a Holcim subsidiary, who postponed a meeting in order to give the students an additional introduction to the pre-processing and co-processing of alternative fuels and raw materials, and their importance for Holcim.

After a video on safety, the excursion participants had the opportunity of becoming accustomed to wearing their personal safety equipment (PSE) prior to a guided tour of the plant. Morten Holpert and his chief production manager, Burkhard Wolf, divided the visitors into two groups and then toured the various stages of cement production in different orders. After passing through the plant and climbing up to the roof of the press house, the visitors gained an excellent view of the pre-processing of the raw materials, and an impression of the soaring height of the preheater tower, the rotary kiln and its auxiliaries, the control room, and the automated laboratory with its almost toy-like “train system”, in which robot arms run on tracks to transfer samples from one analysis unit to the next. After leaving the control room, the visitors were able to witness and examine the handling and metering of alternative fuels, and also admire the recently completed PREPOL SC and the RDF storage and feed building, with a group picture to close the visit.

After the lunch break, the engineers and human-resources experts from the supporting industrial partners took the podium to focus the students’ interest on their companies as potential employers. They outlined their branding strategies and their main activities within the cement industry, on the one hand, and spotlighted the prospects for future employees, on the other.

The first address was given by Olaf Tremer, sales engineer, and Carsten Vieth, HR manager at Gebr. Pfeiffer SE, Kaiserslautern. Olaf Tremer began his technical paper by introducing his company, and explaining the use of the various types of mill they produce for the grinding processes necessary in cement production. He cited the very recent example of a vertical mill installed in Balaji, India, to illustrate how projects are implemented, and painted a vivid picture of everyday engineering life. Carsten Vieth provided insights into the company’s human-resources programme and perspectives, and discussed the challenges of working in a company with a low-rise hierarchy.

Peter Müller examined the history and development of AUMUND Fördertechnik GmbH, of Rheinberg, which has some dozen subsidiaries around the globe. He also pointed out his company’s other fields of business, outside the cement, lime and gypsum industries, such as port facilities, loading/unloading terminals, power-generating plants, mining, recycling and biomass, for which subsidiaries including Schade and Samson are responsible within the AUMUND group. Upgrading and modification projects are part of Peter Müller’s responsibility, and he explained in great detail the work of his department. Hannelore Hoffmann, of the HR department, also showed how students and graduates can contact the company via YouTube, other social media, or job ads. As she noted, entrance is possible via a technical traineeship, a degree thesis, or directly, to R&D, design, the commercial departments, and other fields where there are vacancies.

As the 2014 World Cup started the same evening in Brazil, all the students took the opportunity of meeting up over a beer at the “Glückstädter Matjeswochen” pickled herring festival and, at the same time, bombarding company representatives with their questions.

Dr. Thomas Hanstein started the second day of the field trip with his presentation of Maschinenfabrik Köppern GmbH & Co. KG, based in Hattingen, and represented around the world by its ten foreign offices and workshops. He explained the basic applications of briquetting, compaction and comminution using Köppern’s press systems, and illustrated his company’s scope of supplies and services with practical examples of pre-, semi- and finish grinding using the HPGR machine. Köppern provides for students “on-the-job training”, degree thesis opportunities, grants and vacancies in dynamic employee teams, balanced structures and attractive salaries.

KHD Humboldt Wedag GmbH, of Cologne, was represented by Jens Breidenbach, who firstly summarised the company’s history and its recent engineering activities. He examined in detail the specific KHD pyroprocessing technology, the various types of calciners and burners, and their modification for utilisation of AFR. He also explained how practical work on a projects starts, and how it is handled, from the design through to the commissioning stage. Eric Tresbach, of the company’s HR department, then examined the “soft skills” necessary for a career in engineering, such as knowledge of languages, flexibility and willingness to travel, and the communications skills vital to maintain a personal presence in a globally active industry such as cement.

After the lunch break, Kerstin Rössler, of ­ThyssenKrupp Industrial Solutions GmbH, of ­Beckum, focussed the audience’s attention on its “Industrial Solution” business sector, which previously operated as a range of separate companies, and is now dedicated to mining, cement and service. Markus Strauss, a young engineer and relatively recent recruit, could empathise well with the attending graduates and students, and related in an excellently comprehensible manner the story of his first days after starting his new job in a new region. He briefly summarised his career, from beginning to learn about the company’s internal operation and processes, his search for guidance, and his establishment of his own network before really learning to “swim” in the company climate. As he stated, after around six months, he had got the hang of things, and was able to work on and support projects, and, for the first time, visit clients along with his colleagues. To provide visual support for his address he also showed photographic impressions of his first experiences. After initial on-site familiarisation, he felt confident in his tasks and with the company. As he summarised, a measure of independence, self-confidence, and also the ability to listen attentively in multicultural contexts, flexibility, and efficient and conscientious work are all absolute necessities for the start of a satisfying career. Kerstin Rössler concluded by encouraging students to apply for a traineeship, write their final degree theses, or contact her ­directly via the company’s Internet portal.

Finally, Christina Zufall, HR manager of the host company, Holcim Deutschland GmbH, of ­Hamburg, examined her company’s recruitment and personnel development policies, and highlighted opportunities for working for a global player, a path taken, for example, by Morten Holpert, the recently appointed plant manager. As she affirmed, the “technical bandwidth” assures a comprehensive overview of all potential fields of employment for young engineers in cement production, plant engineering and in the support activities provided by suppliers.

ZKG INTERNATIONAL wishes to take this opportunity of thanking Holcim Deutschland GmbH for its kind hosting and support, and for its highly successful arrangements for the student excursion to Lägerdorf. We also wish to express our gratitude to our industrial partners for their support and assistance, and for their excellent cooperation.

We wish all the participating students the very greatest success in their continuing studies, and trust that they have gained useful ideas for their future working life. Welcome, most sincerely, to the cement family!

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