Like grandfather, like grandson

Historie | People at thyssenkrupp | Service foreman David Sudan installs large production facilities such as cement plants at construction sites around the world – like his grandfather and uncle before him.

David Sudan stands in front of a rotary kiln, the heart of every cement plant. “During the construction of a cement plant, a rotary kiln like this is delivered to the site in 8 to 12 pieces, depending on size and transportation method,” explains David Sudan. “The biggest kiln I’ve installed to date is in China and has a diameter of 6.8 meters and a length of 98 meters.” It can produce up to 12,000 tons of cement clinker per day.

This one here is much smaller and belongs to the Phoenix cement plant in Beckum. “I can still remember how my grandfather Ernst, at the time installation foreman at Polysius, once carried me on his arm underneath this kiln. The heat it gave off really impressed me back then.”

My grandfather Ernst as well as my uncle were also traveling around the world to build new cement plants.

David Sudan

Today, several decades later, it is part of David Sudan’s job at thyssenkrupp to supervise and optimize the installation and start-up of cement plants for customers all over the world. He spends 80% of the year traveling. Three generations of his family have done this job – first his grandfather, later his uncle and now David himself.

David Sudan’s grandfather Ernst and his uncle built cement plants all over the world. This photo shows Ernst Sudan during a gear unit inspection in 1958. (© David Sudan)

David Sudan’s grandfather Ernst and his uncle built cement plants all over the world. This photo shows Ernst Sudan during a gear unit inspection in 1958. (© David Sudan)

Cement plant construction with tradition: David Sudan’s grandfather Ernst and his uncle built cement plants all over the world. This photo shows Ernst Sudan during a gear unit inspection in 1958. (© David Sudan)

The grandson still remembers a surprising amount about his grandfather’s work. And a box of photos shows how it all looked back then: “I still have pictures of construction sites in Saudi Arabia and Jordan from the sixties and seventies. My grandfather’s room contained a bed, table and chair; a shortwave receiver was added later so he could listen to the news from home once a day. Back then the nearest telephone was 150 km away. No-one had even dreamt about satellite TV, never mind cellphones or the internet. Having a fridge at the construction site and maybe an air conditioning system was considered a luxury. It’s hard to imagine nowadays.”

Ernst Sudan_4

Just like his grandfather, David Sudan was also gripped by wanderlust at an early age: Following his apprenticeship at Polysius (now thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions) and his civilian service, he traveled round southern Africa: “People, countries, adventures – that kind of thing is great as a young man,” he says. In his mid-twenties he finally decided to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and uncle. Today he has been in the job for almost two decades, has traveled to 28 countries and seen almost 80 different airports. “My last project was in Turkey installing the country’s biggest cement kiln line to date.”

People, countries, adventures – that kind of thing is great as a young man.

David Sudan

Installing a cement plant like that takes around 15 months. “On the site we have a normal working day from 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m., sometimes also at weekends,” says David Sudan. When repairs are needed, work occasionally continues around the clock in two or three shifts. “When a plant is down, we do everything we can to help our customers quickly and efficiently – which is no different to how it was back then really,” he continues.

David Sudan is currently installing a cement line in Mexico. We wonder where he ends up next.

Installing a girth gear at a Persian construction site (1959) (© David Sudan)

Installing a girth gear at a Persian construction site (1959) (© David Sudan)

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