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Case study: Mammoth machines and nerves of steel

Steel production units are among the largest, riskiest and most challenging environments in which a facility management company can operate. Raghav Kapur, Vice President, SILA shares how man and machine come together to service such plants.

The client: JSW Steel is among India’s largest private sector steel production companies, and has partnered with SILA at multiple locations. Among them, SILA provides housekeeping and facility management services to its upstream production facility at Dolvi (Maharashtra), where iron ore and other materials are smelted into steel, and three downstream production facilities at Vasind, Tarapur and Kalmeshwar (Maharashtra), where this steel is fashioned into various types of products.

Upstream steel plant: Spread across 5,000 acres, SILA services 30% of the facility and is the largest vendor here. A combination of indoor and outdoor cleaning is required; indoor temperatures can reach thousands of degrees and the height of cleaning required is hundreds of feet. Dust levels may be several feet high. Since the facility has its own power plants, lime calcination plant and operations continue 24×7, cleaning too is required around the clock.

“Very few vendors have the expertise to perform this kind of cleaning”, said Kapur. “We had cleaning machines made-to-order from Europe”. These include truck-mounted super sucker vacuums which can suck up rocks and boulders (a pile of rocks upto six feet high can be sucked in), JCB scoopers for outdoor areas, bobcat machines with front-attached sweepers that can remove 5-10 cm high piles of dust from roads and walkways, tipper trucks and more.

Monsoons cause the dust and dirt to cake up, since much of the facility is exposed to the elements. If the raw materials get wet and become sludgy, plant operations are affected. SILA works closely with the client to ramp up cleaning during this season. Electric breakers are deployed to scrape off the caked material.

Downstream steel plants: These three facilities range from 30-150 acres, and SILA services the entire facility. With a more indoor setup, machines like auto scrubbers and industrial-grade heavy duty vacuums are used. A truck mounted jetting system shoots water at heights to clean the exteriors of buildings.

Cleaning at heights: Mistral vacuums with a huge suction capacity are used to suck up debris up to six feet high. The tanks are constructed to withstand heavy-duty debris.

Safety: Each area of the facility is subdivided into smaller zones, and each zone is categorised as per risk levels (Level 1 to 5). Separate training is provided to staff members who work at each level. For example, Level 5 involves working at heights; such individuals are specifically trained in how to use belts and harnesses.

The PPE mandated for all employees includes safety goggles, denim jackets, jeans, earplugs, helmets, cut-resistant safety gloves and safety boots.

Machine tracking: Machines are fitted with sensors to detect machine usage. GPS data from trucks is tallied with diesel consumption and integrated into an app. The SILA-JSW partnership is an SLA; scores depend upon how much each machine was used and if the schedule was adhered to during each shift.

Zero downtime: “If a machine doesn’t work for two days, cleaning may be set back by as much as two weeks”, said Kapur. SILA has stationed technicians and maintains an inventory of machine spare parts at each location (typically remote) so that cleaning is uninterrupted.

Manpower: No matter how the production levels fluctuate, the need for cleaning remains almost the same. SILA deploys around 100 workers at each downstream plant and about 350 workers at the upstream plant.

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