Efficient training, enhanced expertise, maximised performance

March 13, 2017 Louis Van Jaarsveld

Clear training strategies have proven to be a great tool for maximising plant performance and significantly enhance plant operations. This can be exemplified by both ACC Ramliya and the Wadi El Nile, two cement plants in Egypt.

Beneficial investment for plants and workers
A highly skilled workforce is vital for efficient production, safe operations and staff satisfaction. Like businesses in other industries, cement plants are responsible for keeping the business stable and sustainable by maximising cement production. Due to the precarious nature of the plants, it is crucial that employees possess the necessary knowledge and competencies gained through a targeted approach to training and development.

This is demonstrated by the ACC Ramliya plant in Egypt, where a training and recruitment centre was established in order to enhance plant workers’ professional and technical skills in all aspects of operations and maintenance. Since its inception, at least 85 percent of staff at the plant have undertaken this focussed approach to training and development, which has consequently led to noticeable results. Not only is it an advantage for the plant to improve overall staff skills and know-how, but for individuals it means enhanced employability and better career development prospects, and therefore higher income and improved living standards. This in turn means greater staff satisfaction – and a lower employee turnover rate resulting in valuable competencies retained on the plant.

Clear training strategies
At FLSmidth Operation & Maintenance, our primary goal is to deliver plant operation and maintenance to world-class standards. According to Benedikte M. Sundberg, HR Director, FLSmidth Cement, it is vital that training strategies have a clear purpose and direction, and clarifies objectives, roles and responsibilities as well as job descriptions and job profiles. She explains that from there, you can identify the competencies required and provide the necessary training. 

A common set of objectives could include:
•    Maintenance teams to follow the same strategy, use the same technology and talk the same language
•    Attaining the highest equipment availability and reliability rates
•    Managers to be well-prepared for new projects

A clear approach to personnel training and development

A shared company culture
At the Wadi El Nile cement plant in Egypt, a training strategy with focus on reliability is currently being implemented. By merging the preventive maintenance and planning teams together, a reliability team was established. Ayman Madkour, Reliability and Support Manager at FLSmidth Operation & Maintenance, says that this training is a necessary part of a culture transformation to a shared company culture.

“We are a service company, so we need to run the plant with maximum reliability while keeping our costs under control. This approach will help us reach our production targets. Preventive maintenance is an important part of our reliability concept,” - Ayman Madkour, Reliability and Support Manager at FLSmidth Operation & Maintenance

Individually tailored training programmes
The training is put together based on job responsibilities and requirements for each engineer individually and is therefore not only intended to develop junior engineers, but through individual assessments and development paths it also allows senior engineers to progress and develop. 

“We assess our people first, taking into account their job responsibilities, and then put together a training programme based on this assessment,” he explains.

The overall objective is to create a repeatable model that can be implemented across several plants by cross-referencing job profiles and responsibilities and consequently provide similar training programmes. 

“If you develop standard work systems, which include defining and documenting all responsibilities and procedures, and then train people in them, it will ultimately improve the plant’s operational effectiveness. It also encourages us to see reliability not just being about the equipment, but everything from preventive maintenance to execution and production.”

A two-pillar training model
Pillar I – Technical training
While some theoretical training is necessary in order to discuss important principles and practices, it is also vital that staff are given hands-on training and real-time coaching. As Ayman Madkour explains, “Our training is not just classroom training, which forms about 30 percent of the training, but it is mainly about on-the-job training.”

A majority of the latter are based on operations and structures already in place at the plant. One way in which to build upon already existing practices is for the plant management team to learn how to structure and organise regular activities on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
A recommended approach for the provision of technical training is to focus on the following three aspects:
1.    Bringing the plant to condition
2.    Stabilising operation
3.    Improving the plant’s efficiency

Furthermore, employee health and safety needs to be an integral part of training, and operational structures and procedures need to be developed with this in mind.

Pillar II – Leadership training
Two important aspects of leadership are people leadership and supervisory skills. When FLSmidth trains plant staff, there is a special focus on developing the leadership skills of section head supervisors and shift coordinators. This is achieved through a Leadership Transition Training programme, which helps build a common approach to leadership. The programme focuses on the most important tasks and challenges in the leadership role and addresses the transition from one leadership level to the next.

The well-known concept of ‘Situational Leadership’ is another leadership development tool that has proven useful in helping plant staff become better leaders. With a focus on providing the right type of direction and support depending on the readiness of the employee to perform a particular task, this form of leadership training aids to assess every employee and their assignment on an individual basis and support accordingly.

Achieving operational excellence requires leadership with a vision that encourages a high-performance culture amongst staff while building a safe working environment. On this foundation, plant staff can work together as a team and apply the appropriate skills and knowledge at the right time.

Successful impact 
In order to measure the success of the training effectively, it is essential to measure the skill level of the target personnel before and after the training. While it is not realistic to assess the whole organisation, it is important to focus on certain key positions, particularly people who make a daily impact on the company performance, such as inspectors, planners, production technicians, and central control room operators. 

Additionally, it would be sensible to get an independent third party to conduct the competency assessments in order to achieve the right balance between critical positions in maintenance, supply chain and production, but also to make the process clear, transparent and credible.

Effective training not only has a great impact on operational targets, but also on the engagement and morale of plant personnel. Providing the right balance between technical training and leadership development will result in a sustainable, responsible path to delivering outstanding plant performance. 

Louis Van Jaarsveld 

Trine Stahl Eriksen 

Previous Article
Pfister Multi-fuel dosing strategy for alternative fuels
Pfister Multi-fuel dosing strategy for alternative fuels

Increasing the proportion of alternative fuels is one of the most important factors in cutting costs in cem...

Next Article
Landmark Financing
Landmark Financing

The success of the greenfield cement plant, Margem Companhia de Mineração in Brazil, was partly the result ...