From its source in the Swiss Alps, the Rhône winds its way to the estuary delta in the southern French region of the Camargue. Upstream, it passes grapevines and peach trees, through Avignon, the seat of the popes during the Middle Ages, and the region's vibrant metropolis, Lyon, with its 2.2 million inhabitants. Approximately 60 kilometres further East, France's most plentiful river reaches Montalieu-Vercieu, a small town of just under 3,500 inhabitants. Here, Vicat, an international corporation and France’s only cement manufacturer, operates one of its six plants in the country. Continental supplied the conveyor belt for transport of the raw material as well as the scanning technology for early detection of belt damage. After all, production has to flow – any stoppage would result in significant financial losses.
Steel cord conveyor belt transports limestone to the plant
The six-kilometer-long conveyor system crosses through the middle of a nature preserve. To protect the flora and fauna, it was built virtually underground – in a flat, rectangular concrete tunnel. “Our 12-kilometre-long 1,000-millimetre wide ST 1000 5:5 DIN X steel cord conveyor belt is both the heart and main artery of the site,” says Patrick Raffler, who worked as a service engineer for the project. “The belt transports the opencast-mined limestone to the plant, where it's processed into cement.” The system has been operating with our belt since 2018. Our customer was confronted with a difficult situation in the spring of 2018. Foreign bodies, which had caused a longitudinal crack in the centre of the conveyor belt, stopped production for almost three months. The belt was torn in two like a zip fastener.
Service team delivers replacement belt in record time
After this unfortunate experience, our customer was determined to ensure this must never happen again. The first priority however was to quickly replace the damaged belt. “We delivered a new belt in a very short timeframe,” remembers Patrick Raffler. “Our service team was in action around the clock to install the replacement belt. Production was then able to resume again."
||Patrick Raffler worked as a lead service engineer on the customer site:
“Not only did we configure and supply our CONTI MultiProtect belt monitoring system in record time, we also trained the customer’s maintenance team. This means that the technicians on site know how the software works, how the information is to be interpreted, and how to respond in an emergency so that no serious damage occurs. We therefore offer real added value for the customer.”
Belt monitoring system retrofitted
In addition, a reliable monitoring system was also required which we installed in 2019. In perfect teamwork and record time, our technicians and service teams tailored the CONTI MultiProtect belt monitoring system to the customer's requirements, delivered and installed the system with local service providers.
Scanning technology provides technical data 24/7
Once installed, the system checks the condition of the conveyor belts for cable damage and variances in the belt splice fluctuations around the clock and transmits the technical data to the control center. The scan results are also accessed at any time on the conveyor system itself – conveniently as a chart or PDF report. If the system detects significant carcass damage or longitudinal cracks in the conveyor belt, it issues an alarm to the control station so that the conveyor belt is stopped immediately. This prevents any major damage or downtime – and the production flow is maintained.
From Roman cement to limestone for the Empire State Building
Did you know that the famous Empire State Building in New York is made of limestone from the banks of the Rhône? Likewise, villas, temples, and baths were also built with local materials of this kind during the Roman Empire. But limestone was also the source of another great discovery: artificial cement, invented in 1817 by the Frenchman Louis Vicat. Its formula, which defines the ratio of limestone to clay, is still the most important binder used in buildings throughout the entire world today. In fact, the humanist Louis Vicat, who never patented his discovery, led his family to tremendous success: in 1853, his son Joseph founded the young company Vicat's first cement plant. The group has continued to grow ever since and currently employs almost 9,500 staff in the 12 countries in which it operates. Today, the Vicat group is the only cement manufacturer in France.