Cement making, put simply, consists of the pulverization of a burnt combination of limestone and clay (as clinker) and Some trace elements (liky gypsum) into a fine powder. This seemingly simple process, however, incorpo- rates a complex chain of stages requiring high levels of technological know-how and precision engineering. For instance, the equipmentrequirements for handling and producing large quantities of cement include heavy crushing and grinding plants and storage equipment of production.
A standard cement industry may be supplied with electricity at 132KV or 33KV, being a heavy industry. A wide range of powder control panels, power factor correction equipment and large motor starting facilities are also in use. Also of importance in thee process are a wide range of precision measuring equipment, motor and conveyor speed regulators, pyrometers and radiation-type temperature detectors.
The whole process is thus engineering-dependent: from the quarrying of the limestone and shale, to crushing and milling, dewatering nodulizing, pre-heating, buming,milling (with gypsum) and, finally, to packaging and delivery to the end-user. Engineering infrastructure is therefore an indispensable leg of the tripod in cement-making; the two others being raw materials and the human input.
The state of heavy industries in
Nigeria is such that they do not have much to offer the cement industry in the area of sourcing capital equipment. The 5 steel Rolling Mills in the nation, for example, have not started significant operations contrary to all expectations. On the technical know-how of cement making, some considerable progress has been made but indigenous cement experts are still relatively few. All these inadequacies in engineering infrastructure have resulted
in delayed refurbishment of olderplants and the sub-oplimal maintenance of the relatively new ones. It has also slowed down the entry rate of new plants into the business and discouraged expansion in the existing plants.
A.THE INDUSTRY AND THE STATE OF ENGINEERING INFRASTRUCTURESS
The requisite infrastructure in cement-manufacturing could be classitied with reference to the various production stages. There are those equipment and plants required for the initial processing of the raw materials: i.e excavators, loaders, dumpers and crushers. Equally important are the equipment and plants for the subsequent stages, viz the milling system, clinkering plants, lubricating equipment and systems, storage and packaging facilities, electric motors of all types and sizes and post-production transportation facilities.
One characteristic of the Nigeria cement industry is that most of the infrastructural requirements have history of being met only with imports. This is because of the level of technological know-how entailed in the production of these requirements and partly as a result of the long history of dependence arising from agreements reached with overseas technical partners at the inception of most Nigerian cement companies.
Many parts are today still being imported while the whole range of main machineries and equipment for cement manutacture such as kiln, raw mills, blending equipmerki, crushers, drilling equipment, planetary gears, laboratory equipment and conveyors are still manufactured outside our shores. An additional reason for this high level of import-dependence is the relatively rudimentary level of Nigerian scientific and technological development which also accounts for our general state of engineering under-development.
The heavy core industries that should normally be the backbone of our drive towards engineering naturity have failed to live up to expectations. For example, steel mills, foundries and other steel ana metal works which should meet allied requirements of the cement industry have largely remained inactive or are contending with their Own problems too. The hope of our cement industry to one day be able to source most (if not alb of its engineering infrastructural needs locally thus appear farfetched.
This is one of the major difficulties confronting the industry today. As a result of the paucity of locally available spare parts for our plants and machinery, we have had to depend heavily on imported spares which are very expensive. In the past few years, for example, the prices of imported spares have, in reaction to changes on the foreign exchange scene, increased more than ten-fold in some cases. For example, before the total deregulation of the forex market announced few weeks ago, cement manufacturers were appealing to government for a guarantee of external loan of just $ 112.4 million for partial refurbishment and repairs in their works.
Any attempt to self finance this huge foreign exchange requirement would no doubt have adverse effect on not only the cost structure of cement production, but also on the pricing of the finishedproduct. Production at many of our cement works is often interrupted with breakdowns as a result of wear and tear on ball rollers, hammers, or cracks in the walls of the large diameter mills.
The inability of the plants to promptly restore production as a result of unavailability of spares reduces our capacity utilization thereby heightening the already widening supply gap in the cement market. Let us now examine the state of some key sectors that could be regarded as constituting the basic engineering sector capable of offering support services to the cement industry.
1. THE IRON AND STEEL SUB-SECTOR
The Ajaokuta Steel Complex was conceptualized as the backbone of effort to meet our national steel and allied requirements for an effective launching of the economy on an industrial and technological part to greatness.
As we all are well aware, the project, whose cost has been so frequently reviewed up wards, is nowhere near completion and this has adversely affected other downstream ventures like Oshogbo and Aladja Steel Mills that were expected to be fed from its output.
The oshogbo Steel Rolling Mil, for
example, has frequently suspended production for either technical or material input reasons. The local fabrication of spares for industries Cincluding ours) is thus adversely affected.
2. FOUNDRY SUB-SECTOR
There are about 50 foundries and 10 forge shops in Nigeria today. The installed capacities of the foundries range between 45 and 6,000 tonnes per annum for ferrous castings and 15 to 1000 tonnes per annum for non-ferrous casting. The Ajaokuta Steel Plant when fully
operational is expected to have the largest foundry and forge shop in the country. About 80% of the foundries in Nigeria produce grey cast while 18% of the commercial foundries have facilities for producing steel castings. Non-ferrous castings are produced in about 80% of the existing foundries.
Though these foundries produce some wear and abrasive-resistant parts, steel and alloyed steel parts essential to the grOwth of engineering industries such as cement are not produced in significant quantities. For example, the demand for foundry products in 1991 was about 136,000 tonnes while the installed capacity and capacity utilisation were 39,000 tonnes and 5,400 tonnes respectively which means that less than 4% of the demand was actually satisfied locally.
2. METAL FABRICATION SUB-SECTOR
For sustenance, the cement industry require the services of the metal fabrication industry which comprises industries engaged in the production of castings and forgings, fabricated metal products, components for mechanical and electrical equipment and the manufacture and assembly of capital and consumer goods, etc.
The metal fabrication industry in this nation is still at its development stage. The largest concentration of 48% of the metal, fabrication firms in Nigeria is in lagos while remaining 52% are spread over different locations in the country. 90% of firms in the sub-system are owned by the private sector and are mostly small outfits. In fact, only the Oshogbo Machine Tools and Machine Shops in the Nigerian Railway Corporation and the Nigerian Ports Authority could be described as big outfits.
The potential capacities for the local production of light sections is 670,000 tonnes per annum. Medium section structural and rail products can be produced at Ajaokuta Steel Project which has the capacity of 560,000 tonnes for these products. For the production of wire rods in the country, the local capacities in the various mills are in the order of 780,000 tonnes per annum. Aluminium flat products have local production capacity of 30,000 tonnes per annum out of which only 25% is currently being utilised.
The growth of this sub-sector has been inhibited by scarcity of inputs most of which are imported and by the low level of technical know-how. The aluminium ingots
used for production are being imported. Aluminium powder transmission cables are produced locally using imported aluminium rods. Of the other non-ferrous materials, tin is locally available, zinc and lead are locally available too but not fully exploited, while copper is wholly imported. In the case of jointing materials, welding electrodes are produced locally using imported base metal and other materials, brazing rods and locally produced with raw materials, fasteners such as rivets, bolts, nuts and screws are produced locally using local raw materials, and welding gases are locally available.
Finishing chemicals such as anodizing and galvanizing chemicals are imported while paints are locally produced using imported raw materials. The average current capacity utilisation of the firms in the industry is between 25% to 30%.
The cement manufacturers have machine shops either as captive or jobbing outfits. These are used primarily for the manufacture of a few of the spare parts and components required for the maintenance of equipment in the various industries. All the conventional machining processes, e.g. turning, milling, grinding, drilling etc., are used in these shops. However, the useof non-traditional machining processes such as electro-chemical machining (ECM), and laser-Beam-Machine (LBM) which are essential for the fabrication of intricate parts like
dies for auto pressed parts, forging dies and injection moulds are yet to be introduced into these and most other machine shops in Nigeria.
The quality of finishing of the products of these shops i very poor and needs improving. While the equipment for finishing operations are available, the standards to guide and regulate the operations are not available. Also skills for proper preparation of surfaces before finishing and specifications of equipment for testing are virtually nonexistent. There are no commercial laboratories for testing quality. Lack of products standard set by the relevant standard organisation in the country is another inhibiting factor. The Research and Development activities in this sub-system are grossly inadequate and have been traditionally shouldered by the government with private sector contributing minimally.
The level of welding technology in the country is very low and without any appreciable standards and codes. The training facilities that exist for welders in large companies are primarily designed according to the individual needs
of these companies. There are no accredited institutions for the training of welders and welding technologists. There is also no umbrella organisation similar to that of engineers in the country that brings together all the welders and welding technologists for the upliftment of the profession.
Generally, engineering infrastructure in Nigeria is inadequate to support even the relatively old cement technology which we use, not to talk of being able to encourage employment of the more sophistlcated, more cost effective modern cement technology. For example, while cement works elsewhere, especially in Western Europe, are equippedwith state-of-the-art plants and equipment capable of cost effective and highly efficient per formances, here we still battle with near obsolete production units which we find most difficult and expensive to run and maintain.
Since 1984, cement plants in Western Europe have been emmploying robotics in various harzadous chores. The Romeo robot, for example, handles bagging and palletizing of cement in many plants, thus avoiding the nuisance issue of dust in many ways.
Apart from this, the Romeorobot produces 275 tonnes per hour, compared to an average packer here which turns out below 90 tonnes per hour. The highly computerized production facilities in the advanced countries are equally supported by advanced engineering infrastructure.
B. THE ENGINEERING INFRASTRUCTURE PROBLEMS OF THE CEMENT INDUSTRY
While production costs are going up, income for the cement-maker is diminishing in real tems and his access to funds daily narrowing. To make matters worse for him, the plants and their peripherals are ageing and are in some cases actually being operated at a loss. The inadequacy of engine ring infrastructure makes refurbishment and rehabilitation exercise a onerous task almost totally dependent on foreign input. And with the continued deregulaion keep skyrocketing beyond what most cement manufacturers could possibly afford. The result is low capacity utilisation low capital formation in the industry and high production cost. Another closely associated problem is the inadequacy of technical manpower available and the difficulty of recruiting and retaining highly skilled staff for the industry.
These inadequacies have manifested themselves in many forms in the industry, including the following:
-Some installed equipment never worked since they were installed.
-Some equipment have never been serviced because of the lack of a service manual and skilled staif
to effect the service.
-Some broken-down equipment cannot be repaired due to lack of technical co-operation be tween the factory management and the Contractors/Technical partners
after they leave the factory site These anomalies indicate that within the sub-system, aceumulation of technical and technological capabilities is less than optimum.
C. CMAN EFFORTS TO SOLVE THE PROBLEMS
Since an efficient engineering infrastructure is an essential condition precedent to smooth industrial operation, local cement makers have sought alternative means of meeting their needs in this direction, in the light of the afore-stated difficulties. We have individually conceived ambitious schemes to meet some of our needs locally in the spirit of SAP’s inward-looking philosophy.
For example, WAPCO, in conjunction with local foundries, has developed local grinding media to replace costly imported media and is currently developing local products for mill liners, cooler plates and drag chain links which had all traditionally been imported. In the same light, WAPCO has a machine shop which fabricates some of our spare part requirements and ve are at an advanced planning stage of expanding this in-house facility to go commercial.
We also run an electrical motor-rewinding workshop which was set up to meet WAPCO’s corporate needs but which now receives patronage from industry at large. To combat the dearth of technical skilled manpower, local cement companies embark on expensive training and retraining schemes for their staff.
WAPCO, for example, has a purpose-built training school which produces lower and middle-level technical manpower for her operations. other companies both within and outside the cement industry have at one time or another benefited from the activities of thisschool.
D. THE WAY FORWARD
An indispensable plank of the Structural Adjustment Policy is the philosophy of self-reliance and in ward-looking development. Since, importedengineering infrastructure is practically out of reach and our industries are in dire need of such items, it makes economic sense for us to seek ways of substituting locally to the best of our ability limited only by our technological frontiers which we nmust strive to extend.
In our efforts, however, we must watch out to ensure that our engineering infrastructure is appropriate to our sociál and economic needs and that it also takes a sensitive cognisance of our state of technological development and national goals With particular reference to the cement industry, the challenge of engineering infrastructure devel opment is three-pronged. Government, as the prime mover of industry, must put in place the enabling industrial environment for the development of the Nigerian engineering infrastructure sector.
The right policies must be forinulated and state investment channeled into avenues of optimum returns in the development of this sector. In this regard, Ajaokuta and the various steel rolling mills are a god idea but need more concerted effort for the eventual actualization of our team of establishing a formidable iron and steel base forengineering infrastructure.
Research institutes like the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO) and higher institutions of learning should direct efforts at developing local alternatives for hitherto imported engineering equipment and machinery for the cement industry. The user industry itself, as repre sented by the Cement Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria, must of course be in the vanguard of this drive. The association should es tablish a research arm that would explore means of alleviating its problemsand fund research carried out by members into allied issues. The Cement Association of Japan, for example, has an integrated research committee whose research functions include cement engineering and manufacturing and kiln and ailied equipment development.
It would profit CMAN, and indeed the Nigerian economy, if similar projects could be embarked on for the Nigerian cement sub-sector. Professional bodies with interest in engineering and construction in-
dustries should also be involved in this effort since they form the experts in both the upstream and downstream industries related to cement.
In this regard, the onus is on bodies like the Nigerian Society of Engineers to rise to the challenge and blaze the trail of innovations, based on the peculiarities of our industrial and social-economic realities. In the Cement Sub-Sector Strategic Consultative Group’s 1991 report for Nigeria’s Industrial Mas ter Plan, certain recommendations were made which are still relevant.
They include the follow ing: In the short run, the production of easily replaceable and consumable parts such as bearings, pullys, shafts, hand tools, foundry tools, and maintenance tools should be emphasized. Raw materials for the production of the easily replaceable and consumable parts should begranted concessionary tariff to benjoyed by approved producers until they can be sourced locally.
The cement companies ‘may form joint ventures witlh indigenous entrepreneurs to produce spare parts for the cement sector. For selected industries like tool
industries, spare parts and machine building, government should give fiscal incentives to enable investors invest in these vital areas. These incentives could include the following:
-Preferential allocation of foreign exchange; granting of differential interest rates; direct foreign exchange allocation from the Central Bank.
The SCG in co-operation with Government, should ensure that there is a quarterly meeting between the public sector plants supplying primary steel and aluminium and the organised private sector employing these items as inputs in order to ensure cohesion in the development efforts of the duo.
– Top priority should be accorded the completion of the facilities for flat steel production in view of the fact the end users facilities set up long ago are stil being starved of local raw materials.
-The Government is advised too establish a National Institute of Technological Development (Similar to National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS, Kuru), where policies on engineering development which are the bedrock of national survival, will be decided. The institute shall be funded jointly by Government and the industrial sector.
In the long run, emphasis should shift to the production of heavy parts such as crankshaft, gear box, pistons, engine block, cutting tools, dies and other heavy equipment sparcs. Private entrepreneurs should be encouraged to set up plants for the production of steel tools, cutting tools and dies. Govemment should provide soft loans to the interested private investors.
Technical agreemment should be entered into with potential foreign investors to impar the production knowledge to indigenous personnel. There is need to make a very speedy incorporation of a flat sheet metal production section to the country’s steel production facilities. There is need also to providee a condition (either through local manufacturer or through easy access to importers) whereby stainless steel sheets and materials of all shaped, forms and specifications are made available to Nigerian engineering fims and fabricators. Local fabrication of spares has often been hampered by the difficulties encountered in the local procurement of stainless steel materials.
This will also mean liberalisation of the instruments required to facilitate the importation of the requisite stainless steel fabrication tools in addition to these steel nmaterials. Some engineering outfits in che country with demonstrated capacity for machinery works should be
encouraged, and venture capital provided to launch, consolidate or expand their activities in prime movers and general power equipmenn conmponents fabrication, assembly and ultimately manufacture Since Nigeria may not, for now or in the near future, be able to manufacture power equipment especially prime movers due to inadequate infrastructure and technical skill, it would be worthwhile for the importation and distribution channels utilised for these hardware to be reassessed and liberalised.
If possible government should subsidize the cost of imported prime mover with proven performance characteristics spare part supply. This is necessary because of the tremendous and un-avoidable necessary of prime mover as the engine of industry.
Accessories of significant importance to the development of an appropriate engineering infrastructure such as bearings, pulleys sprockets, gaskets, bolts etc, are still very difficult to get locally.
The government should give special incentives to encourage their proiuction. The capital required forventuring into any engineering infrastructure related and machinery fabrication outfit is often substantial, and there is long gestation period for the retums, hence a special credit facility should be created by the government in selected banks for the establishment of fabrication outfits nation-wide. In a discussion of industrial engineering infrastructure like this, one can not but recognize the vital role of reliable power supply.
One peculiarity of the cement industry is the preponderance of electric motor-driven equipment in its production paraphermalia. It is therefore heavily reliant on (and sensitive to fluctuations in) electric power supply. Likewise, the upstream industries producing cement-related infrastructures are electricity-dependent. Development in these sectors would therefore be grealy influenced by the efficiency of power supply.
In fact, the little engineering infrastructure presently available would be more productively engaged if our public power generating facilities could be more reliable. On technical know-how, our educational system should also emphasize the practical aspect of engineering training rather than the theoretical.
In this paper, I have tried to show that the state and efficiency of engineering infrastructure has great bearing on the performance of a capital-intensive industry such as cement-making. I have also shown, I hope, that engineering infrastruc ture the Nigerian cement industry and, the industrial sector in general, is grossly inadequate. I have also attempted to offer some suggestions and proposals on possible solutions to this problem.
Central to most of my proposals is an appeal to government to adopt a policy that wil give growth sectors ofthe economy like manufacturing special conces sions that will eneourage investment, reduce foreign exchange Exposure, encourage R&D, complete and commission core indus tries like steel, encourage proles Sionalism in management and engineering practice, and improve the efficiency of utility services. All this might not be consistent with the SAP on which government’s economic policy is centred, but it is proposed as the fine-tunning required if SAP is to achieve its desired goals and objectives of setting this country back on the path of self reliance and self sustaining development.
I therefore, would like to seize the opportunity of this august gathering to call on my colleagues in the Nigerian Society of Engineers to rise to the challenge of our time and take the development of engineering infrastructure to the great heights that industrialization demands.
Government should assist this noble quest by providing the enabling environment for engi neering education and investment development. As the most directly affected, industrialists should also be prepared to commit substantial investment funds to engineering research and development. With this type of concerted effort from all concerned i.e. government, industrialists, professional bodies, etc.