Arawak Cement upgraded
The St. Lucy, Barbados-based Arawak Cement Company recently completed an upgrade project for its plant control system.
The project was the first phase of an overall upgrade programme for the whole plant which was undertaken by Trinidad Cement Limited when it took over the assets of the cement plant in 1998.
According to General Manager, Fred Broome-Webster, the company decided to upgrade in order to improve and maintain the quality of the cement offered to its consumers.
He said that some of the work previously handled by external contractors was now being completed by Arawak's engineers and the move will help reduce the cost of the overall upgrade project.
"This is part of the systems upgrade programme that our parent company Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) has been implementing for all the companies that fall under its portfolio," says Webster. "The decision to upgrade the system grew out of the need to replace all obsolete equipment, and to improve our operational standards."
The Arawak plant consists of five major process circuit areas - the crusher, the raw mill, kiln, cement mill, as well as packing and loading. The new system features a fibre-optics plant communications network connecting all the Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) to computer controlled operation stations.
In addition, the operation stations have been fitted with the latest software tools specifically created for cement plant applications. It allows operators to view, carefully monitor and manage operations anywhere in the plant from the control room.
Additional software may be added to implement controls, to create plant and corporate networks, to optimise operations and connect laboratory operations onto the same common plant database.
The project, which was implemented in phases, saw the new cement mill control system completed in Phase 1, the crusher and packing plant in Phase 2 and the raw mill and kiln in Phase 3. The entire engineering of all phases was completed during Phase 1.
Engineers were trained to use the system as well as oversee future maintainence. They also played a major role in installing the system and by participating at this level, the company was able to lower its projected cost, says Webster.
Arawak's newly signed collective wage agreement with the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) was also innovative, and it further cut costs by linking wage increases to plant and labour productivity.
The two-year contract for its monthly paid employees, gives permanent staffers a four percent increase in the first year and a 2.5 percent increase in the second year. It covers such areas as appointments, promotions, health and safety, compensation packages, hours-of -work allowances, overtime, training, leave of absence, and a pension scheme.
Webster said he was pleased with the successful conclusion to the negotiations saying that both parties were able to focus on issues which confront the company and the stakeholders including globalisation, external competition, the need to improve the efficiency within the organisation, the need for management to communicate the initiatives to be undertaken, and productivity."
Webster said he was particularly pleased with the high level of discussions with the NUPW and its willingness to take up the new challenge of linking wage increases to a productivity index.
"This agreement deals with the middle management and senior technicians," says Webster, "and we feel it's a good one because these middle managers will help make a difference in the future of this forward-thinking company and our employees."