Building Materials Manufacturer Lowers Production Costs with Goldfire
Cement and concrete. The world is using billions of tons of it. And, as global demand continues to grow, so too does the cost of raw materials and the cost of energy used to produce cement products.
Cement production is generally centralized around the sources of mined raw materials such as Kaolin, a clay mineral. The raw materials are first crushed and ground, blended in the correct proportions, placed into a kiln to burn, and then the burnt product is ground once again —the resulting ground product known as “clinker”.
With continual pressure on prices and rising production costs – including the recent sharp increase in the cost of Kaolin, a global producer of building materials products sought to find an alternative material to at least partially replace Kaolin in the company’s white cement clinker.
A team out of the manufacturer’s research and development center was chartered with finding an alternative to Kaolin, identifying and understanding any resulting changes both positive and negative — to the characteristics of the reformulated white cement clinker, and the identification of any additives that might be used to minimize any negative impact to the performance of the new formulation.
Given the scope, cost and complexity of such a research and development endeavor, an empirical approach would prove too time-consuming and too expensive. To help them quickly identify a viable alternative formulation, the company turned to Goldfire, the optimal decision engine.
To start, the manufacturer’s team built a series of knowledge bases within Goldfire —pre-indexing nearly a million documents including dozens of abstracts from scientific journals specific to the cement and concrete industry. The team was then able to leverage Goldfire’s powerful semantic technology to begin researching a mineral the team thought might be able to partially replace Kaolin in the cement production process.
The rich technical content in the manufacturer’s Goldfire knowledge bases along with Goldfire’s ability to semantically search through millions of patents, quickly yielded over a dozen highly-relevant documents with detailed information on the replacement of Kaolin by the proposed new mineral. One document provided the results of a series of experiments, while another critical document detailed the formulation of an
optimized composition. Additional documents provided valuable
information regarding the potential drawbacks of using the
With this knowledge in hand, the team then used Goldfire’s Function Modeling capabilities to build a detailed function model of the current clinker production. In doing so, the team was able to more clearly identify and understand all the potential harmful and useful interactions — of the clinker components – particularly those which the building product manufacturer hoped to replace – and to ensure these interactions were fully considered as the company considered the reduction or removal of Kaolin.
Based on this groundwork within Goldfire, the company was able to identify a variation on their previous white cement clinker formulation — and minimize much of the cost that had previously been attributed to the use of Kaolin.
Using Goldfire’s pinpoint precision to content and robust system analysis and problem-solving methodologies, the manufacturer estimated four months labor savings in identifying the new formulation enabling the company to bring this solution to market that much more quickly.
As a result of this initial project with Goldfire, the manufacturer expects savings of approximately 500,000 euros, annually, in raw material costs.
In addition, the new formulation will represent a significant and unexpected savings in energy costs as it allows the building product leader to reduce production temperatures by as much as 100 degrees Centigrade.