LafargeHolcim announced the launch of a four-year “Plants of Tomorrow” plan to upgrade its production process with artificial intelligence, predictive maintenance and digital twin technologies. The initiative is one of the largest roll-outs of Industry 4.0 technologies in the building materials industry.

A “Plants of Tomorrow” certified operation will show 15% to 20% of operational efficiency gains compared to a conventional cement plant, according to the company. LafargeHolcim is presently working on more than 30 pilot projects. The company’s Siggenthal, Switzerland, cement plant will be the lighthouse where the integration of all relevant modules will be tested for the global initiative.

“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,” said Solomon Baumgartner Aviles, global head – cement manufacturing. “These innovative solutions 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’.”

Among the technologies implemented are predictive operations that can detect abnormal conditions and process anomalies in real-time. This will reduce maintenance costs by more than 10% and significantly lower energy costs. Digital twins of plants are created to optimize training opportunities.

Automation and robotics is another important element of the strategy. Unmanned surveillance is being performed for high exposure jobs in the entire plant. Partnering with Swiss start-up Flyability, the company is using drones that allow the frequency of inspections to increase while simultaneously reducing cost and increasing safety for employees by inspecting confined spaces. The concept is now being rolled out to several markets including the United States and Canada.

The new PACT (Performance and Collaboration) digital tool allows operational decision making from experience-based to data-centric by combining data from various sources and enabling machine learning applications. Furthermore, LH MAQER, the company’s new platform to identify the most impactful technologies and target start-up technology companies, also aims at establishing new partnership models with both manufacturing and software companies.

Watch a video on the “Plants of Tomorrow” here.

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