Tailored innovation adds value to traditional support and maintenance service
There is one common goal with all of FLSmidth’s service agreements: to improve productivity of the plant. It is no different with FLSmidth’s PlantLine service agreement, which helps plant managers and operators get the most out of their automation systems from FLSmidth. However, there is more to it than service. The real key is helping customers move to the next step through technology innovations. This is made possible by the knowledge and experience of FLSmidth’s engineers who have solved technical and business issues over many years. Armed with this knowledge, they can work closely with plant staff to deliver customisations that boost plant performance through technology enhancements or through specialised training.
Jens Aaslyng Dall, Global Product Line Manager for Aftermarket at FLSmidth discusses the development of FLSmidth’s service agreements: “We have more than 100 PlantLine service agreements globally, and they are growing, not only in numbers, but also in scope. We have offered automation support and services for more than 25 years, which is a huge reason why we have developed a deeper understanding of our customers’ business. We see support as a partnership; we learn from our customers while we provide support, but we can also take over when needed in areas in which our customers need assistance.”
Ash Grove Cement
Ash Grove Cement is one cement producer that has seen its partnership with FLSmidth grow from a simple service agreement to technology innovation. After starting out by providing remote service to Ash Grove Cement in 2000, this developed into provision of services to eight cement plants covered by a PlantLine service agreement. Now, FLSmidth provides 30 on-site preventative maintenance visits (PMVs) per year along with 24/7 phone and remote support.
“It’s the kind of partnership where through being a technology innovator, we have been able to help Ash Grove extend the lifecycle of their systems by updating technology. The key aspect has been utilising the service agreement to pinpoint current and future needs of the cement plants.” - Michael Wunderly, Aftermarket Sales & Support Manager, FLSmidth
Michael Wunderly explains that the PlantLine service agreement allows him and his colleagues to help with technical staff development. This is particularly relevant, as new recruits often do not have the necessary skills in the latest technologies. He explains: “FLSmidth experts and Ash Grove plant managers have a close relationship which means I can pinpoint resources to assist them in developing and retraining their staff while we are working on various PMVs. In addition, we provide one-hour webinars to go over various modern integrated control systems with Ash Grove engineers as well as electrical and maintenance personnel. This has helped seasoned employees and newly recruited individuals gain a further understanding of our technology and obtain the knowledge needed for maintaining and optimising Ash Grove’s systems.”
The training also extends to beta testing of new automation systems using a virtual machine simulator system. Currently in the initiation phase, the simulator will allow Ash Grove staff to try various procedures and learn among themselves without putting their systems at risk.
Of course, the agreement also allows the FLSmidth team to provide timely assistance in the case of technical issues or a malfunction. “If a system goes down unexpectedly, as it did very recently with an ECS/CemScanner system, we will go the extra mile to identify and solve the problem without delay,” says Michael Wunderly, adding that a temporary solution worked fine within 24 hours even though it was a hardware failure in an obsolete system and no spares were in stock.
Innovation through intimacy
The PlantLine service agreement, which offers different combinations of services for FLSmidth’s automation products, is much more than a risk mitigation measure; it drives productivity, according to Jens Dall. Although PlantLine is based on FLSmidth’s commitment to customer intimacy, it is just as much a commitment to innovation.
Jens Dall explains: “Many people think that topics like service agreements and maintenance are uninteresting. But, actually, that’s missing the point. For us, service agreements are also about innovation that extends the lifetime and profitability of our customers’ products. We want to see plant performance move from average to high level. We see it, for example, when a new mix control strategy decreases the standard deviation of the LSF, when the ECS/ProcessExpert system is fine-tuned or when implementation of a control strategy of the kiln shell fans improves the profitability.”
For some customers, FLSmidth’s engineers have become part of their technology development centre, developing customizations for their plants and joining forces in becoming technology innovators together. This brings much more long-term value to both parties.
Michael Wunderly, who has seen many examples of plants that lack proper maintenance, agrees: “The overall comprehensive support we provide our PlantLine customers keeps them in touch with new developments in technology while ensuring our global expertise is at their disposal when they need it.”
Ash Grove Cement
Ash Grove Cement Company, headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas, operates cement plants in eight states across the United States. With an annual production capacity of nearly eight million tonnes of cement, Ash Grove is one of the United States’ largest cement manufacturers. The company dates back to 1882 and prides itself on the quality of the Portland and masonry cement produced as well as the efficiency and high-quality maintenance of its cement plants.
Ash Grove currently uses FLSmidth’s automation systems, including: