Sourcing Refractory Materials from Developing Markets
The continuous search for better and more cost effective refractory materials has led many large users to look towards the booming developing refractories markets. As many have found, this choice is by no means easy to take or to implement, and pitfalls, real or imagined, do act to stop many purchasers from taking this step.
Opportunities do exist to obtain good quality materials at very competitive prices, however great care and expertise are required to ensure qualifications and quality control are in place and customer expectations are fully met.
Ceram has helped many customers to discover the true pot ential of these markets by acting as both intermediary and technical expert in order to ensure quality, specification and on-time delivery. One particular customer was looking to source AZS fusion cast refractory materials for glass production; Ceram helped them to ensure that the refractory m aterials they received were good quality products.
What We Delivered
Ceram established the current product quality through an investigation involving a site inspection as well as a series of laboratory tests on their material.
1) General site inspection giving attention to detail such as:
- raw material handling
- recycling of material
- condition of equipment
- general layout of the plant
- production records
- annealing process
- laboratory capability and equipment
- quality system
- product specification
- general housekeeping
- safety standards.
2) Product tests, where samples were taken from the site and analysed for properties such as:
- chemical composition
- glassy phase composition
- corrosion resistance
- exudation potential
- stoning potential
- blister formation.
After this preliminary investigation, areas for improvement were identified and appropriate action was taken to address any deficiencies.
Ceram representatives were present during specification negotiations between the manufacturer and end user. When, in some areas, the client required specifications that were higher than those usually provided by the manufacturer, our representatives led the discussions so that they could be satisfied such standards would be met. In most cases this was dependent on the support of the management team of the manufacturer.
The next important milestone was the witnessing of the first melt. It gave Ceram the opportunity to ensure that there was accurate recordkeeping of the important quality assurance parameters at the start of the order, as well as being able to clarify expectations with the production personnel.
Following this, the first de-moulding of the casted blocks was witnessed. We were then able to set the standards for the first inspection and to clarify again what was acceptable for the complete order. It also gave the opportunity to follow up on any concerns during the casting process.
Ceram then witnessed the assembly of the first blocks. At this point in time the blocks were ground to the set specifications and checks were made to ensure that they passed the final inspection for dimensions, cracks and spalling. This enabled assessment of actual quality to perceived quality as well as assembly methods.
A further inspection was carried out during the last part of the assembly, with the client being invited to join the final inspection. At this point, only a few minor issues required attention; the final inspection remained, however, a very important part of the complete process.
As is evident, the total process required a large amount of contact time with the manufacturer. This was very important to the success of the order, because it showed total dedication towards quality, whilst establishing good relationships for future orders.
Value to the Client
The client was made aware of any potential issues with the refractory material at various stages during the whole manufacturing process, thereby ensuring that no sub–standard blocks were received with the order which could, potentially, incur substantial additional costs. The client made a significant cost-saving on the order without sacrificing the quality of the material.
In addition to the client benefits highlighted, the manufacturer was given a better insight into the requirements of their customer.