In an old chalk pit in the western part of Denmark stands Dania, a once active cement plant. Nowadays, Dania is the hub for much of FLSmidth’s Research and Development (R&D) activities. What is it that makes Dania such an attractive workplace? And why is it important to invest in R&D and the future generation of engineers?
FLSmidth's engineers today are working to develop cement production equipment and streamlined processes fit for the future. FLSmidth recently opened the doors to its head office in Valby and the R&D centre at Dania to a group of students visiting from Belgorod State Technological University (BSTU). The university is the largest specialised Russian Higher Educational Institution in building material and construction. By showing the students where all the R&D action happens, FLSmidth is in its own way helping to shape the next generation of engineers.
The Mariager Fjord site that is home to Dania has historical significance for the cement industry. Cement was produced from here for almost a century. Now, the team based there is 30 strong, and about half of them work in the site’s world-class laboratory. The centre attracts passionate engineers, forgers, electricians and technicians. It’s a unique blend of talent that the head of R&D Support, Bjørn Steninge, thinks is crucial for innovation:
“All the necessary professional groups are here, working closely together to turn ideas into reality. This makes Dania a very exciting workplace for all who are involved – from new apprentices to experienced engineers with a PhD. And when you put a skilled engineer and a skilled craftsman together, something positive is bound to happen.” - Bjørn Steninge, Head of R&D Support, Dania
The team, as part of FLSmidth, is dedicated to developing better solutions for its customers and the communities in which it operates. Its efforts can be categorised into two streams, one being the analyses of raw materials for cement production and the other process optimisation. The latter is achieved through designing highly advanced and customised technology solutions for its customers.
FLSmidth has had research facilities since the 1970s and Dania is one of the world's most advanced laboratories for the analysis of raw materials in cement production, receiving and testing tonnes of raw materials from all over the world. Dania prides itself in having high standards of testing, using rigorous procedures with highly skilled laboratory technicians to ensure complete confidence in its recommendations. The results help determine if there is solid ground for investing in a new cement plant in a particular region and how the cement production equipment should be designed. It largely depends on raw materials, as the characteristics can vary greatly from region to region.
While testing of raw materials is important, optimising production to minimise the impact on the environment is equally so. FLSmidth's engineers and craftsmen at Dania are working to develop methods and production equipment that reduce CO2 emissions from the world's cement plants. Research and Development Specialist Iver Schmidt says:
"We put a lot of effort into streamlining production for the benefit for our customers and the world. Currently, we are working to offer a solution that uses waste as a source of energy in place of fossil fuels. This is just one example of how we interweave sustainability into our work at Dania.”
Sustainability is a priority
As urbanisation increases, about 3000 cement producers around the world are collectively producing cement around the clock to meet global demand. This continuous and energy consuming operation contributes approximately eight percent of the world’s CO2 emissions.
Stringent regulations outlining maximum allowable levels for gases emitted from cement production requires some proactivity from cement plant owners. As sustainability becomes top of the agenda around the world, cement plants need to re-think how they produce cement. Dania laboratory manager Jesper Axelsen adds:
"Our work in the Dania lab provides the basis for designing a plant that is as environmentally sound as possible – with the lowest possible energy consumption and the least possible emissions of CO2 and other gases.”
A solid relationship
It is not the first time that students from BSTU have collaborated with FLSmidth. This visit stemmed from a relationship that spans many years. In 2010, two graduates were selected to complete a traineeship program with FLSmidth. In fact, one of those graduates is still working with FLSmidth in the customer service department with a field service engineer function. Yet the history of the connection with Russia’s cement industry goes beyond the university. FLSmidth has been working with cement plant owners there since 1893, opening the first Russia-based office in 2005. The FLSmidth engineers who visited the country over a century ago paved the way for a longstanding and successful relationship.
At the headquarters of FLSmidth and at Dania, the student engineers were shown first-hand that a career in the cement industry and R&D is highly rewarding. Dania is a world-class laboratory, where some of the most experienced engineers and technicians want to work. Innovation has to start somewhere. By getting a glimpse into R&D at FLSmidth, we hope this future generation of engineers walked away feeling empowered that they can make a difference.