Cement facilities that rely on kilns, coolers, preheater towers and risers risk costly losses in production without efficient means to maintain refractories. Lars Lindgren, president of Brokk, and Heather Harding, managing director at Bricking Solutions, explore best practices for ergonomic installation of refractories and how demolition and hydrodemolition robots make refractory removal efficient.



Refractory maintenance, though vital, can often be a logistical and financial burden. This is especially true for cement and other large facilities that rely on kilns, coolers, preheater towers and risers for day-to-day operation. These facilities stand to lose upwards of $50,000 a day in production if their refractory can’t stand up to the heat.

To avoid unnecessary production loss, most facilities take on large-scale refractory removal and re-installation during annual maintenance shutdowns. But managers know how quickly these precious weeks fly by with crews struggling to complete as many maintenance tasks as possible.

Establishing an efficient refractory removal and installation process is important for maximizing productivity during these cycles, which is why many facilities employ innovative, specialized equipment that increases safety and minimizes downtime during refractory maintenance. From robotic removal to fast, ergonomic installation, here’s how facilities around the world are increasing refractory maintenance efficiency.


Demolition Robots

With their position at the heart of the cement process, rotary kilns present a significant challenge to maintenance timelines when it comes to removing and re-installing refractory. Getting kilns up and running quickly is important to restarting production, but long cooldown times mean crews can’t even start descaling until well into shutdown.

Additionally, descaling and debricking have traditionally relied on large crews with hand tools, such as jackhammers. This removal method comes with a number of drawbacks, including low productivity and increased risk of injury from equipment or falling debris.

To gain earlier access to kilns as well as increase safety and productivity, some cement facilities employ heavy-duty, remote-controlled demolition robots for descaling and debricking applications. These ruggedly designed machines can withstand extreme temperatures, allowing facilities to begin descaling operations earlier than with any other method. The operator remains outside the kiln, away from the heat and the risk of falling debris.