Cementing customer connections

May 31, 2018 HANNE FLYGER

An inquisitive mind, a customer-oriented approach and a willingness to continue his professional development has led Avanish Karrahe to the position of Global Product Line Manager for HRP systems. He shares how he ended up working with FLSmidth’s customers to fully understand their concerns and address their needs.

Completing his studies in 1993, chemical engineer Avanish Karrahe entered the cement industry right when he was needed the most. The burgeoning industry was recognising the value of having chemical engineers on board more and more.

When he broke into the job market, Avanish cemented himself with Aditya Cement in India – a unit of UltraTech Cement Limited – where he started as graduate engineer trainee. The position encompassed different capacities including plant operations, troubleshooting and optimisation; a good starting point to what would become a well-rounded and successful career within the industry.

Problem solving
He was drawn into spending a lot of time at the cement plant early in his career by the overwhelming concept of automation and the sheer size of the different machinery. “Getting to know the cement plant and its systems and components was a thrill,” he says.

After working at Aditya Cement for a few years, Avanish realised his passion was in energy efficiency improvements and investigating machinery breakdowns. He found himself continually asking, how can we increase productivity? What was behind the breakdown? How can we fix it? How can we do it better? It was satisfying to consider all these questions and to find a solution to the problem, which at the end of the day, kept customers happy.

In his close to six-year tenure at Aditya Cement, Avanish developed his knowledge and skill-base in the operations, trouble shooting, and optimisation of a cement plant. He became adept at various processes involved in cement making such as grinding and clinkerisation. He took his first steps in working with the hydraulic roller press (HRP) system. However, his fascination with optimising systems was calling and he turned his focus towards design.

Enriching learning
Soon after, Avanish joined FLSmidth and became a part of the process design and commissioning team. This was a completely different side of the cement industry. He says: “I wanted to learn how to design a cement plant and was interested in what other plants were doing; what challenges they were facing? How did they optimise? How did they go about commissioning and trouble-shooting?”

It was a period of enhanced learning and an opportunity to travel the world. Seeing how other cement plants operated showed him the vast variety of methods and technologies used in production. He soon mastered his technique of identifying ways to solve problems, gaining more insight into product design improvements.

For Avanish, commissioning was a huge learning that will never stop. He recognised that his experience gained from being around machinery supported his new role in commissioning. And finally, in a customer-facing role, he got to meet with them directly and discovered that he enjoyed – and excelled in – this interaction.

Keen to continue learning, Avanish became department manager at FLSmidth for alternative fuels in the India region in 2009. Solid and liquid alternative fuel was a reasonably new concept to the cement industry and appeared to have great potential. It involved converting non-recyclable waste materials into usable heat, electricity or fuel. He worked hard to increase the knowledge and use of alternative fuels within the region, further developing his customer connections. Many first-time alternative fuel projects in India were implemented by FLSmidth during this time, involving both solid and liquid waste fuel-firing projects.

“The cement world was opening its eyes to the need for greater improvements in fuel efficiency and design, so cement producers needed to employ more people with the right qualifications to meet these needs.” - Avanish Karrahe, Global Product Line Manager for HRP systems

Broad experience
Avanish was appointed as product line manager for the HRP system after five years in his sales role. His experience in different areas, including commissioning, process design, sales, engineering, procurement and quality management, meant that he could bring a broader overview of products to the team. Through collaboration with different divisions comes much scope for learning and improvement. He explains:

“We listened to what our customers wanted and are currently transitioning from being project-focused to product-focused. I had gained a broad view of customers’ needs and where we needed to go. We could see that HRP was requiring some attention and decided to give it more focus.

“The HRP systems that are being offered today are much more competitive than what they were in the past and we strive to keep them ahead of competition. This has resulted from the hard work and dedication of the team, an achievement I am extremely proud of. It demonstrates the positive results of what we can achieve when we work together.”

It is clear that Avanish is motivated by staying one step ahead of the competition and succeeding in a dynamic market. Working closely with customers to find innovative solutions for them requires agility and a willingness to be open and transparent with each other. This is something he deeply values.

Collaboration success
Avanish identifies that collaboration is very important and believes that a successful team should discuss research and development ideas, listen to feedback from the sales team and include the process design and procurement teams. Working closely with the innovation manager is also crucial.

With the increasing pressure on the cement industry to meet supply demands and the focus on reducing the carbon footprint in the cement industry, there’s a long road ahead, which requires team work and a collaborative approach. He says: “We are working hard together for continual improvement with the aim of being the market leaders when it comes to building and supplying HRPs.”

Proudest moment
A career highlight for Avanish was when he gave a presentation about the FLSmidth Hydraulic Roller Press at the 14th NCB International Seminar on Cement and Building Materials in  2015. He says: “A customer, who was close to finalising a closed-circuit ball mill cement grinding system, heard the presentation and was impressed with the advantages of the HRP system. Afterwards, we discussed the benefits and how it could reduce the total cost of ownership. In less than a month, the contract for a new HRP system (semi-finish cement grinding, HRP and ball mill) was signed.”

This was just one of the many positive customer experiences that Avanish has encountered in his role as Global Product Line Manager of the HRP system. It showcases his ability to find the most suitable technologies to address the customer’s critical issues and needs, keeping them happy, which he finds truly satisfying.

Product Line Management
Avanish Karrahe is Global Product Line Manager for HRP systems. The purpose of Product Line Management (PLM) is to increase competitiveness of FLSmidth products with a focus on global market share, order intake and margin. PLM supports FLSmidth’s sales functions, helping to ensure the right product and quality is being brought to market, including pricing, value proposition, and sales material. In addition, PLM collaborates with R&D and Engineering to develop new products and improve existing products as well as with Procurement to streamline the supply chain and reduce costs.

Hanne Flyger

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