Feeding 9 Million Mouths by 2030

Are We Ready?

Under the proposed Sri Lanka Development Policy Framework’s Megapolis project, the Western region will have an estimated population of 9 million by the year 2030. Whilst focusing on building the infrastructure, planning, and policy making, there is a dire need to plan for a quality food supply to this forecast population increase. These ideas were highlighted in the keynote speech by Madhawa Waidyaratna – Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development, at the 21st Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka Food Processers’ Association.

The Development Policy Framework consists of 4 key areas: strengthened governance, equitable economic growth, improved competitiveness and infrastructure development. The Megapolis project falls under the latter, which it aims to achieve by developing 10 diverse areas, which are the Central Business District, Aero City, Maritime City, Logistics Corridor, Tech City, Administrative City, two Industrial Cities, two Tourism Zones, Forest City and Plantation City. In addition, there will be the functional areas of Transport and Solid Waste Management. The increase of mobility through various proposed transportation models such as the Light Rail System, Multimodal Transport Hub and inland water-based passages together with the expected rapid development will attract a large number of the population towards the Western region and the Colombo city in particular.

Increased supply, enhanced supply chain, improved quality and safety are key words associated with such a transformation. Waidyaratna posed the question of how the much-needed sustainable food security in this region, and the whole country could be achieved. Explaining further, he pointed out that we live in a shockingly unequal world. “Hunger is a constant feature in the lives of millions of people, whilst obesity has become an epidemic in the developed countries. We can witness the same scenario in the Western region of Sri Lanka as well,” he stated. 

The economic wealth and socio-cultural imbalance has resulted in more than half the population of the Colombo metropolis living in less than the prescribed calorie intake per day.  Moreover, as the most urbanised region of the country, records show the population to have nutritiously unbalanced dietary patterns, and food quality does not meet the necessary standards. The need therefore is created to move away from primary agriculture to processed and value-added agriculture. This initiative requires a combined strategy with the expertise of urban planners and agricultural and health departments.

With its high population density and complex socio-cultural dynamics, the Western region probably has the most diverse food systems in the country, which requires vastly different types of food. With the proposed development, this situation will only increase. Therefore, this issue needs to be viewed as a multi-faceted domain in terms of food supply, 

food waste management, nutrient and food safety, and food prices. The key note speaker pointed out that the responsibility mainly lies in organizations such as the Sri Lanka Food Processors’ Association to formulate the correct strategies which will cover these issues. 

Waidyaratne also drew attention to food waste management, which is a huge problem in the region since the city area is heavily utilized for commercial and residential purposes. The Megapolis project will focus on creating suitable locations to dispose food waste and converting solid waste to energy.

Nadishan Guruge – Treasurer, Sarath Alahakoon – President, Maliek De Alwis – the immediate past President and Thusith Wijesinghe – Hon. Secretary, extreme right : Madhawa Waidyaratna – Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development

Adding to these sentiments was Mario De Alwis, Managing Director of Ma’s Tropical Food who predicted a deficit in water and food in the next 2 decades resulting from global warming and environmental damage. In societies like Sri Lanka with an agrarian past, the issue at present is that agriculture is not profitable enough to motivate the next generation to take it forward. He highlighted the importance of the State’s role in creating adequate incentives, use environmental friendly technology and enable remote management of agriculture. “We should move away from politicizing agriculture and look at it as a national effort, beyond political boundaries,” he added. The food processing sector has an important task in picking up seasonal crops and processing and storing them for off-season. 

Mario De Alwis,
MD of Ma’s Tropical Food

Overall, it was envisaged that there will be drastic changes in food patterns and consumption in the region, with more demand for processed and packaged food. Alongside this development, new sets of problems will inevitably crop up. Members of the Sri Lanka Food Processors’ Association need to individually and collectively foresee this situation and adapt suitable strategies to face the changes as well as the challenges.

Founded in 1997 as an advocacy group, the Sri Lanka Food Processors Association currently consists of over 130 member companies, which include large and multi-national, as well as small and medium enterprises (SME’S) committed to the development of the country’s processed food and beverage industry. The Association consists of members from all relevant sub sectors addressing issues such as national policy and regulations, intra-regional cooperation, technology, knowledge transfers and marketing.

The Association further offers leadership to the small but vibrant national processed food industry, which is vital to the island nation’s agro based economy, and directly employs over three hundred thousand persons while supporting over four million back stream producers. The new committee of the association consists of President – Sarath Alahakoon, Hon. Secretary – Thusith Wijesinghe, Treasurer – Nadishan Guruge, and Maliek De Alwis – the immediate past President.

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Global Spice Road Symposium 2019

Global Spice Road Symposium 2019

Chelcey Consulting Private Limited, in partnership with OSL-THE Investment Magazine, has ignited the fuse for a revolution in global spice industry. The ground-breaking event, the Global Spice Road Symposium, or GSRS 2019, is scheduled to take place at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 10-13 July 2019.

GSRS website launched

Primary Industries and Social Empowerment Minister Daya Gamage formally launched the GSRS website at the Hotel Marino Beach on 1 February. At a media briefing following the launch, the minister stressed the significance of the event to the stakeholders and its timeliness and importance to the country. He re-iterated his fullest support and offered his blessings to the GSRS Secretariat to manage the event and conduct it to global victory.

Deshabandu Dr. Publis Silva, the renowned chef of more than 60 years’ experience, and expert in traditional Sri Lankan cuisine, underscored the importance of spices in maintaining the health of the public as well as in adding flavour to dishes. 

GSRS Programme Director Fahmida Bulathsinhala emphasised that the team has embarked upon a journey, determined to achieve the GSRS goals of reinstating spices to their deserved status and furthering the claim of Sri Lanka to be the Land of Spices and World Capital of Spices.

In the Q&A session which followed, Export Agriculture Department Director-General Dr. A.P. Heenkenda, Spices and Allied Products Producers’ and Traders’ Association Founder Chairman  Gulam Chatoor and Vice Chairman Chamika Naranpitiya, and Peradeniya University’s Post-Graduate Institute of Agriculture’ Professor Buddhi Marambe, as well as Minister Gamage, fielded questions. During this session, several issues in the local market were highlighted, while official endorsements and assurances of co-operation with the Symposium were made publicly. Momentum has gathered, and the onward march towards the Symposium has begun. The GSRS Secretariat invites all stakeholders in sectors such as food and beverage, health, beauty and cosmetics, Ayurveda and aromatherapy to grab the early bird registration. 

The panel
Minister Gamage flanked by the heads of the GSRS team

A Spicy History

A vast majority of the global population depend on a spice-laden cuisine. Behind this fact lies a complex history of trade in spices.

Why did Christopher Columbus blunder into the Americas, and why did Vasco de Gama sail all the way around the Cape of Good Hope to the Indies? What connects the Spanish “Black Ships”, which carried cinnamon to the fabled silver mines of Potosí, in modern Bolivia, with the spicy Arab cuisine which found its home in Mexico – which consumes the most Ceylon cinnamon? Why did the Dutch trade their American settlement of New Amsterdam (now New York State) for the tiny, obscure island of Pulau Run in modern Indonesia?

The answer is spices. While sought by many, it was only the elite that were able to enjoy it. Spices, in ancient times, were a luxury that was limited to royalty. Royal families used these spices as preservatives for food and also boasted of the rarity of including spices to their cuisine from the mystical Asian island. The Holy Bible and Holy Quran tell us that in 1000 BC Queen Sheba offered King Solomon a bountiful harvest of spices along with priceless riches.

From the beginning of the human race, it is evident that man has been wired with an innate yearning for a flavourful palette. In prehistoric times, hunters and gatherers used a mix of leaves to enhance the meat that was consumed. Food, to them, was a combination of berries, seeds, and nuts that provided them wholesome nourishment. Over time, this tradition birthed the need for complementary condiments in the form of flavour, aroma, and colour. What was once a plain meal, was now possessed of burst of flavour making it all the more enjoyable.

Spices in medieval times were a privilege. Each spice, unique in aroma, texture, and flavour were explored for its many uses by monarchs to gauge its worth. Some that possessed medicinal qualities presented more value than others. 

Subsequently, ancient trade hotspots of China, Mesopotamia, and Egypt influenced the way in which spices were traded. Not only was it an edible delicacy, but it was also widely hailed as a source of healing sustenance, nourishing oil, and many multifarious indulgences.

Arabian dynasties held the key to the spice road for five millennia. The Portuguese, Arabs, Chinese and the European nations competed through trade streams to possess as much spice as possible. What was symbolic of royalty centuries ago, hailed as a healer, has been connecting the world for centuries – spices are still treasured for its multifarious uses.

The Dubai Spice Souq, a prominent location for trading spices, has seen travellers from different parts of the world gathering to procure spices. Other locations offering similar trade are Rahba Kedima-Marrakech, Morocco, Spice Bazaar-Istanbul,Turkey, Long Bien Market-Hanoi,Vietnam, Khari Baoli-New Delhi, India, La Boqueria- Barcelona, and Spain has been a magnet for these luxuries.

World’s oldest clove found in Mannar

Archaeologists believe they might have found the oldest clove in the world at an excavation site from an ancient port in northern Sri Lanka, which dates back to around 200 BC.

A multi-national team of researchers from Sri Lanka’s Department of Archaeology, SEALINKS and the University College London’s Institute of Archaeology, carrying out excavations at Mantai Port made the discovery. They have also found evidence of high value black pepper. Lead archaeologist Eleanor Kingwell-Banham said that they found the Mantai clove in a context dating to 900-1100 AD, making it not only the oldest clove in Asia, but also the oldest in the world. 

Cloves are native to Indonesia’s Maluku Islands, some 7000km distant from Mantai by sea, while black pepper is native to the Western Ghats of India. Together with other finds, such as wheat and grapes, the assemblage of high-value spice finds from Mantai support the existence there of a spice entrepot, at the centre of a network of trade stretching from Sri Lanka to India, Indonesia,and the Mediterranean, by the middle of the first millennium.

Regaining the Spice Road

The GSRS is a joint venture between OSL-THE Investment Magazine and Chelcey Consulting,” says  Lolitha Abeysinghe, Director, OSL-THE Investment Magazine, “intended to regain the diminished glory of the Sri Lankan spice story. Merchants from over the world, from the Gulf region and Europe, came to this island in search of spices. It was the spice hub and the spice capital of the time. However, with the passage of time, we lost momentum in the direction in which it should have moved. Therefore, we thought that it is a service of national importance to come forward and invite the world to gather here, in the spice capital of the world, to start an all-new Spice Road.”

“There are a couple of such international initiatives such as China’s Belt and Road initiative and Germany’s G-Road concept of a “green and healthy” silk road between Germany and China. So we thought that, before these two, why don’t we – who were in the centre of the Spice Road, who owned that road, which is several thousand years old – take

the leadership, to become a catalyst to restore the Spice Road, and give a boost to the local spice industry and make Sri Lanka a centre of value addition and the global spice trade.”

What is GSRS 2019

Sri Lanka was not only on the ancient spice route, but it functioned as a hub” says Dr Harsha Gamage, Chairman of Chelcey Consulting. Sri Lanka, the Spice Capital of the World, has commanded the attention of ancient dynasties and formed alliances trading spices that gained international repute for its superior flavours, textures, and aromas.

“What prompted the idea for Global Spice Route Symposium was this historical fact,” explains Dr Gamage, who wants to restore Sri Lanka to that status. “We intend GSRS to build up the spice industry in Sri Lanka. People think that spices are only used in the food industry. They are actually used in all industries. For example,in perfumes and pharmaceuticals. We only export these spices as raw materials. There is no value addition. What we want to do through this symposium is to increase the cultivation of spices and to create value addition. We also want to build up the identity of the Ceylon Spice sector, to ensure the purity of the products and to create a brand name with the same power as Ceylon Tea.”

“The Global Spice Road Symposium is a quantum leap taken by our organisation,” says Programme Director Fahmida Bulathsinhala, “adopted as a semi CSR initiative, to promote the growth of the spice sector globally. The Symposium intends to be a global conqueror, by bringing together local and global stakeholders – visionaries, industry leaders, consumers,and governments – who can contribute their expertise for an international spice revolution.”

At the same time, the Symposium is aimed at re-igniting the age-old route that connected continents for centuries, on which merchants travelled, crossing forests, seas,and deserts, trading these exotic spices, developing ties between countries, and laying the foundations for modern international commerce. This will be done by sparking dialogue between stakeholders, businesses, consumers, and governments.

Through this three-day Symposium, which is estimated to attract over 500 local and international stakeholders, visitors will be able to enhance their knowledge of spice history, cultivation, processing, value-addition,and end use, through interactive moderated sessions with government and international influencers, networking sessions  designed for B2B, B2C, B2G encounters, and exhibition booths.

“As Chelcey Consulting, we have developed the concept, given sponsorship to this idea together with OSL-THE Investment Magazine and provided seed capital and organised the Symposium,” concludes Dr Gamage.

54 C/1, Ward Place, Colombo 00700
Tel : +(94)112694611
Mobile : +(94)772870499
Email : programdirector@globalspiceroad.com
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Request for proposals for supplying total 100MW of supplementary electrical power on short term basis

Request for proposals for supplying total 100MW of supplementary electrical power on short term basis


On behalf of Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), the Standing Cabinet Appointed Procurement Committee (SCAPC) of Ministry of Power and Energy invites proposals from reputed companies for supply of supplementary electrical power to CEB on short term basis under a Power Purchase Agreement. 



The key parameters of this procurement are

  • Aggregate capacity requirement is 100 MW in 06 locations: transmission grid substations at
    1. Pallekele (24MW),
    2. Hambantota (24 MW),
    3. Horana (24MW),
    4. Galle (10MSAT),
    5. Mahiyanganaya (10MW)

          6. Polonnaruwa (81MW).

  • One proposer can offer bids for one or more of the above locations.
  • Tariff will be in two parts: one for capacity availability and the other for energy dispatched.
  • Selected proposers are required to procure fuel for their plant operation, and should enter into a fuel supply agreement with the selected fuel supplier.
  • Procuring, delivering and storing of fuel and lubricating oil for the plant shall be the responsibility of the selected proposer.
  • Securing all clearances/permits/licenses would be the responsibility of the selected proposer.
  • Successful proposers will be notified in not less than three (03) days after opening of proposals.


Our company is fortified with all the information and local expertise for winning the bid successfully. The following services are included in extending our services to you with regards to this NIC tender: 

  1. Represent the principal at the pre-bid meeting
  2. Provide the principal with a price guide only in order for the principal to reach the final price.
  3. Assist to prepare a comprehensive proposal
    with local expertise to ensure that there are no deviations.
  4. If our pricing is reasonable (should not be the highest), to check the technical deviations of others (if any) and make way to disqualify them.
  5. Agree to look after PR activities with all stake holders, the state officials and trade unions at the client’s organization, media chambers etc.,
  6. Get the contract awarded to our principal.

Design & construction of  700 housing units at Apple Watta


The city of Colombo has been the commercial and industrial center of Sri Lanka since the 17th century, largely owing to its strategic location along an international shipping route. The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) plans to transform Colombo into a city on par with its regional middle-income competitors and has established a dedicated Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development (MMWD) in charge of developing the Western Province, where Colombo is located.

The objective of the proposed project is to improve housing conditions of low-income communities and increase land use efficiency in Colombo through investments in the construction of affordable housing and redevelopment of land, with associated policy and system enhancements. Proposed results indicators for the objectives would include:

(i) number of adequate housing units allocated to households in the two lowest income quintiles;

(ii) number of people resettled into the newly constructed housing units;

(iii) area of land allocated for public and high-value uses;

(iv) more than 4,500 below-median income households whose housing is improved in terms of utility, drainage and durability, and resident satisfaction; and

(v) value of land made available for redevelopment under the project increased by 30 percent or more. 

The total project cost is estimated at USD280 million. The GoSL has requested the Bank to finance the project through a sovereign backed loan. Components 1 and 2 are proposed to be financed by the Bank and the GoSL on a 70:30 basis, with component 3 financed entirely by the Bank. The indicative project cost and financing plan is shown in the


The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has proposed to Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to provide joint financing for the support to Colombo Urban Regeneration Project, and intends to apply part of the proceeds toward payments under the contract for design & construction of 700 housing units at Apple Watta. 

The Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development (MMWD) now invites sealed tenders from eligible tenderers for design and construction of 700 housing units at Apple Watta accommodated in 16 (G + 15) storied building consisting of 500 sqft carpet area housing units. Each housing unit includes two bed rooms, living area, kitchen, dining area, balcony and toilet and bathroom with a separation.

Tendering will be conducted through international competitive procurement using Request for Tenders (RFT) as specified in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s “Interim Operational Directive on Procurement Instructions for Recipients (June 2, 2016) (“Procurement Regulations”), and is open to all eligible tenderers as defined in the procurement regulations.

Tendering will be conducted through International Open Competitive Tendering Procedure.

Supply & delivery of UHF communication equipment and accessories


Chairman, Ministry Procurement Committee on behalf of the Ceylon Electricity Board, invites sealed bids from the potential suppliers, for supply & delivery of UHF communication equipment and accessories. bidding method shall be International Competitive Bidding. Bids should be submitted only on bidding documents purchased from the CEB. 

These projects are all available for investment and development, through us. Investors interested in finding out more information about these projects should contact
Dan Vithanage at Opportunity Sri Lanka, at the following email address, telephone or fax:
E-mail : info@oslmagazine.com
Telephone : +94112585833 | +94112593416 | +94 75 0 260 422 Fax : +94112589334

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Weapons system developed by CRD

Weapons system developed by CRD

This year, many people looked forward eagerly to the parade, held on 4 February,  for the 71st Independence Day – mainly because former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had announced that a newly-developed Sri Lankan rocket system would be on display. As expected, the Ministry of Defence revealed the weapons system, a multi-barrel rocket launcher (MBRL) developed by its Centre for Research and Development (CRD). This, the first locally manufactured MBRL, is 100% locally developed and fires locally-developed 122mm rockets. The system, made to international standards, is also compatible with Chinese, Czech, Pakistani and Slovak rockets of this calibre. CRD scientists developed the chemical formulas for the rocket fuel.

Although the Soviet Union developed the first MBRL (the “Katyusha” or “Stalin Organ”) during the Second World War, this type of weapon arrived late to Sri Lanka. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) first used 107 mm type 63 MBRLs as part of an artillery bombardment of the Army camp at Thallady, in Mannar, in 1999. These MBRLs had devastating effect during the LTTE’s Oyatha Alaigal (“Unceasing Waves”) III campaign in 2000, including the successful attack on Elephant Pass Camp and the subsequent offensive in the Jaffna peninsula.

The Sri Lanka Army hurriedly acquired Czech-built GRAD RM 70 MBRLs and deployed them in late May 2000. They played a crucial role in halting the LTTE’s advance on Jaffna. The RM70 can launch 40 rockets within the space of 30 seconds. A single, 3-metre-long rocket carries a warhead with 6.35 kg of explosives, giving a combined punch of 256 kg.


The locally-developed rocket launcher (type-named CRD/18/MBRL10-G122mm) has 10 barrels and cost LKR 7 m to make. The locally-designed and manufactured rocket has similar characteristics to the Czech 122mmm rocket, with a range of 15-20km, Because the armed forces have only a limited area available to train their artillery personnel, the CRD made a very short range training option, with the range adjusted to 1 km. They are handing the weapons system to the Sri Lanka Artillery for evaluation.

Now the CRD, while it is able to develop a 40-barrelled system, is preparing to manufacture a 20-barrel system. It is making a marine version for naval applications. The centre has also developed and tested a short-range missile.

A research team of civilian scientists and engineers from the universities, as well as experts from the military, led by Dr Chandana Perera, developed the system. This exercise is not merely a military one, being part of an effort to achieve a degree of self sufficiency in supplying the needs of the armed forces. Since Sri Lanka needs to enhance her manufacturing capabilities and know-how, to expand the economy into the 21st century, local research and development (R&D) is of utmost importance. Currently, the country only spends about 0.16% of its gross domestic product on R&D, in comparison to South Korea’s more than 3%. 

Self-reliant technology

Dr. Chandana Perera

According to Dr Perera, the armed forces spend a lot of money to get products from overseas. Even though they might spend several billion rupees to get equipment, after a few years, they may find the manufacturers have changed their product policies, so they face a maintenance problem

“I did some modifications to keep the equipment operational,” he says. “I found that the problem is that we don’t produce our own technology, so I started doing that. I went through the systems available in the defence sector, and found there is a single core, from which we can derive any product.” 

Under Dr Perera, the CRD team developed such a core, and the technology, especially for simulators and control systems for missile and rocket systems.  Each and every sector, he explains, has a common core, and they tried to develop that core indigenously – the simulators for training, the fire-arms, the rocket and missile. Because of this approach, the armed forces can now derive their equipment from that core, which means techniques and processes developed during this programme can be adapted to other programmes with no technology-transfer fees.

“We don’t want to depend on other countries to develop the technology,” Dr Perera affirms. “We did not take the technology from outside. We just produced our own. So we have developed the technology and we can produce what we expect to use in future. We are now making several products successfully. You will be able to see many innovations in the future. We are now technologically on par with other countries.”

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NSBM developing synergy with industry

NSBM developing synergy with industry

Meeting the challenges of tomorrow’s technology

The National School of Business Administration’s NSBM Green University Town, at Pitipana, not far from Colombo, aims to develop a collaborative approach with commerce and industry, to produce the kind of graduates whom businesses need. This is especially true of the technology field.

“There are many engineering faculties in the country,” says Dr Chandana Perera, the head of the NSBM’s School of Engineering, “but we are still in the developing category.  The reason is that when we create graduates, they are not really ready for industry. Industry has a certain requirement, which the graduates developed by the universities do not match directly. The graduates go for engineering work which is not adapted to the development of the country.” 

He should know: a chartered physicist with specialised expertise in mathematical physics, acoustics and electromagnetism, Dr Perera has a broad array of knowledge in the field of technology, and has worked at or interacted with such institutions of international repute as Sweden’s Uppsala University, STRI high voltage laboratories and ABB. As consultant scientist and, later Chief Co-ordinator of the Nuclear Biological & Chemical Wing of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD) of the Ministry of Defence, and he has been involved actively in the field of defence research from 2005. There, he has been involved in the development of simulator systems for military training of arms, armoured vehicles and naval vessels at national level, as well as a rocket launcher and missiles. 

“What the foreign institutions I work with say is that there should be industry just outside the wall of the university. That doesn’t happen here, but we always try to stay in collaboration with industry, and send people to interact with industry and get feedback. At the same time, we modify our technology and the way we teach according to their requirements.” 

Collaborative science

For part of his work towards his PhD, he went to Uppsala University, where he worked in collaboration with industry. The University interacted with ABB (the most popular world-wide products related to electrical engineering and control engineering), Nokia (one of the biggest telecommunications, information technology, and consumer electronics companies), Ericsson (networking and telecommunications company), SAAB (cars, missiles, aerospace engineering) and (Bombardier train company). In this model, academia must work closely with industry.

“When I came back from Uppsala,” says Dr Perera, “I worked at the Universities of Colombo and Moratuwa, and I incorporated the knowledge from those universities in the defence industry. I took many people from there as interns and trainees, and made some products using that knowledge.”

At the same time, the know-how passed industry to the universities, which modified their curricula according industry requirements. Academics began collaborating with industry. The defence industry also solved another issue: students who have PhDs don’t have an advanced research industry to go to. “In Sri Lanka we are producing doctors and lawyers and engineers, but we are not producing scientists. That is the most difficult task.” Scientists in fields such as physics, chemistry, and biology, do not have any industry enabling higher level special degrees can be followed. A PhD, unlike an ordinary degree, is intended to solve a difficult problem. The CRD has enabled people who work with them to tackle problems and do their PhD that way. 

“I wanted to create that set-up. Now people who want to do the PhD here and solve a problem from which the country suffers, can engage and work with us. You would have seen the rocket launchers and missile systems the Independence Day parade [See box]. That is the scientific approach.” 

“Now people who want to do the PhD here and solve a problem from which the country suffers, can engage and work with us. You would have seen the rocket launchers and missile systems the Independence Day parade.”

Dr Perera thinks that the engineering and technological advances of tomorrow will stem from such collaborative scientific efforts. And that, he says, is why the NSBM has courses in computer science, management information systems and systems engineering – they are the cores of information technology, they produce the concepts.

Connectivity revolution

Many employers complain that the products of Sri Lankan universities are not good employee material. Most universities send their students into industry at the end of the degree, which means it will take at least three years to interact with the industry, so their education is purely academic. However, if they get hands-on experience of industry while still learning at the university, they will definitely be industry-ready by the time they graduate. This is what the NSBM, established by the Government to be at the cutting edge of modern education, hopes to accomplish. 

“On becoming head of engineering,” explains Dr Perera, “I began getting the students to produce something from the first year. We did this in the school of computing as well. We give assignments to create a small product, which they will be able to develop within two months. That will be brought back to industry for evaluation and feedback. Then we do modifications, combine the students with industry to develop their solution. I sent people who studied here to the industries I know, especially defence. There is a win-win situation for both parties.”

The world, he points out, is going through a “Connectivity Revolution”. In the future in Sri Lanka, as in developed countries today, products and systems will be integrated with network systems, the cloud or the internet. Production lines will be controlled from remote locations, from where you can monitor all the factors in the production line, even using a mobile phone. Educational curricula must match the global and national technological requirement, which includes this connectivity.

The NSBM studies the challenges of this connectivity revolution, inculcating its lessons into its students, whom it grooms to create new inventions and overcome those challenges, and become graduates suitable for the new world that is emerging.  To support these students, NSBM has modern laboratories with state-of-the-art, modern technologies.

“We had a meeting with another company,” he tells us, “which intends to introduce technology for production and design for engineering systems and other products, capable of handling the requirements of the next ten years.” At present, the output of the universities is insufficient to fulfil the requirement for graduates in the immediate future.

“The problem is the way that we are doing it,” Dr Perera explains. “In the Sri Lankan context, we do not have space. In the state universities, students are in the university throughout the degree. Because of that, the available space will be utilised by the students for four years. The NSBM has a model – we have space where they will spend the first two years, and the last two years, they will study while in industry.  Using that model, we can double the number of graduates we produce in a certain time.”

School leavers

Many male students, prefer to go into lower-level jobs in IT, without continuing their further education. School leavers can get employment as data entry operators, or work free-lance, because they interact with IT while in school. This does fulfil a low-skill part of the IT personnel requirement, although not at the vital developer’s or programmer’s level, although that is what is needed. The salary which they receive at that level, LKR 10,000-20,000 appears quite big to them, one on which they can survive at the age of 18-20. 

“A few years later, they will realise this is not a big salary, once they find that senior people get very much bigger salaries. They will realise that they need a degree. However, they have got used to a certain lifestyle, for which they need money, so they cannot leave the job.”

Dr Perera advances two possible solutions. The first is to encourage school leavers to go for further studies. “I have found that there is a lack of knowledge of how to select a path. We have to encourage our school teachers to give knowledge to the students to select their future path.” The other is to create a pathway for industry employees to take up tertiary education.

“Once they find they need a certain level of education to go further, they will definitely come from industry and take their education up to the graduate level. So we need to have another model, whereby they can come on weekends to do their part-time degree. I think we will be able to do that in the future.” The NSBM currently produces about 500 graduates in the information technology (IT) field. However, it plans an expansion, enabling the number of graduates to be increased. Additionally, if distance learning is embraced, and if industry enables its employees to do degrees, the requirement for IT graduates can be fulfilled.

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Innovation in steel manufacture

Innovation in steel manufacture

The steel mill at Oruwala remains cutting-edge

When the Ceylon Steel Corporation steel rolling mill went into production in 1967- the first modern steel factory in the country- it revived a tradition of high-technology steel metallurgy which had died out a thousand years before. It also began a process of innovation. At a time when plain steel reinforcing bars (re-bars) dominated the construction industry, the Soviet-built mill eventually produced twisted ribbed steel rods, which eventually took over the market. 


The present owners of Ceylon Steel Corporation Ltd (CSCL) continued this innovative process. They replaced the Tor-steel rolling mill with an ultra-modern modern plant for manufacturing QT (quenched and self-tempered) ribbed steel re-bars. They not only introduced QT technology to Sri Lanka, they established a new benchmark in the construction industry. CSCL’s LANWA brand QT bars became dominant very quickly, and other manufacturers followed suit.

Danieli Morgårdshammar, the world’s number one rolling mill manufacturer, installed the USD 28 million, fully-automated plant. This involved re-hauling the manufacturing plant entirely. They replaced the earlier, labour-intensive, time consuming and costly method of cold-twisting the rebar for strength manually, employing a completely different procedure. The mill which CSCL replaced produced Tor steel bars, which were “hot-rolled and cold-worked”.

This technology gave a strength of 460 mega Pascals (MPa) to the steel bar (a mega Pascal is about 1/10 of atmospheric pressure). The CSCL-produced QT bars have a strength range of 500-550 MPa, meaning that less steel for more strength, a prerequisite

in modern structures  and also affording customers a considerable saving in steel, and hence in material costs. QT-enabled automation transformed the production process, making it far more economical and also ensuring greater control of product quality and homogeneity in its chemical composition and engineering parameters whilst maintaining consistency in its profile and rib geometry. QT is also a green technology, for it optimises raw material use, reduces waste and is efficient in its energy use.


Rohan de Silva, the  Deputy rolling mill manager, read Mechanical Engineering (Production) at the University of Moratuwa, and has 25 years’ experience after graduation under his belt. He has served for ten years at CSCL, having worked in  leading private manufacturing firms before. He worked at the mill during the time the original plant was replaced by an up-to-date new plant, so has hands-on experience of the transition.  

“I worked as a shift engineer,” he says, as he describes the mill’s working, “but now I am in charge of this plant. The Italian firm of Danieli installed this plant, together with our engineers and it went into production in 2011.” To heat up the steel billets (the square steel bars used as raw material) the mill uses a furnace which, unlike most re-bar manufacturing plant, has four firing zones instead of the customary  single or double zone. This guarantees that the entire body of the billet is heated up to a uniform 1200 °C. This helps ensure that the finished product has uniform mechanical properties. This re-heating temperature ensures  a uniformity of the steel internal micro-structure into a form of micro-structure called austenite.


The mill rolls the bars directly off the furnace, squeezing the metal between rollers, which reduce the diameter progressively. Profile rollers, specific for each class of bar, give it size and shape. The bar passes progressively through several stands, which reduce the diameter more than the previous stand. The hot-rolling reduction process, from billets to the desired profile of the re-bars, must be taken in stages to guarantee the right consistency of micro-structural and mechanical properties of the finished product.

As each bar leaves the last stand of the mill, it passes through a cooling chamber, which reduces the surface temperature rapidly using a brisk spray of water. This quenching process transforms the surface layer of the bar to a form of steel micro-structure known as martensite, but the core of the bar remains austenitic. After the bar leaves the cooling installation, it is placed in a cooling bed, where the outside air cools the bar.

Here, the heat flows from the hot core to the much cooler skin. The resulting temperature increase of the skin causes self-tempering in the martensite surface layer. Meanwhile, the core of the bar cools slowly, which transforms the austenite into other structures, namely bainite, ferrite and pearlite.

“The CSCLproduced QT bars have a strength range of 500-550 MPa, meaning that less steel for more strength, a prerequisite in modern structures and also affording customers a considerable saving in steel, and hence in material costs.”

Thus, the final metallographic micro-structure of the core differs from that of the skin, with a ductile core and harder exterior. This type of steel affords the best compromise for strength and toughness; elongation and bendability, in addition exhibiting excellent weldability as well.

“It is through this complex chemistry that the re-bar finally gets all the desired attributes that the stringent industry demands. That is why we pay utmost  attention to the chemical purity of the billets we import.”

Increasing capacity

“An in house team of professionals” says de Silva, “carried out modifications, enabling us to increase production nearly two fold per month. From the CNC [computer numerically-controlled] machine onwards, all the machine parts were designed and manufactured by us. It was carried out on the initiative and by CSCL engineers, with Technical Manager Lalana  Malmessa showing the way.” Malmessa, is an electrical engineer who studied at Peradeniya. He and all the other engineers who carried out the modifications are products of local universities.

“We had a South Korean-made furnace,” de Silva continues, “and we increased its length, and then its capacity. We initially rolled 130×130 mm cross-section billets and 125×125 mm cross-section billets. In increasing the capacity of the furnace, we increased the cross-section of the billets to 150×150 mm. Together with this we added two new stands. Earlier, it had 16 stands, but now we have increased it to 18 stands.”

CSCL, which focusses heavily on quality and standards, is the only steel manufacturer equipped with an 18 multi-pass stand, hot-rolling steel mill in Sri Lanka. The increased number of stands enabled them to decrease the gap between billets, and hence the time taken, expanding the per-day throughput.

Recipe for quality

“Earlier, the rods would divide into two lines,” he adds, “but we increased this to three lines, enabling production to increase by half again.  This did not affect safety standards because we have extended the system’s capacity to the maximum within its envelope, with backup from Danieli.”

The staff take samples and send them to the laboratory, which tests them and sends back the results – a process taking several minutes. Through trial and error, they have gained the experience enabling them to achieve the correct quality after the first bar.

“We have a recipe for each size of bar,” de Silva explains, “we change the profiles and adjust the speeds, the water pressures and flow rates required in the quenching process. These pressures and flow rates are critical in achieving the necessary  strength and elongation, and any errors here can result in reduced quality.”

These levels are maintained automatically after they have been set – there is no need for manual adjustment of the valves. Automatic multiple redundancy is built-in – each valve adjusts to compensate for failures in others, providing backup and increasing system reliability. In the event of a major fault, the plant shuts down automatically. The automated process aids in achieving consistency of quality, essential for structural steel. Electronic engineers are installing an extension to the monitoring system, enabling even closer scrutiny of the critical parameters.

“Furthermore, once the mill is tuned and the production is started, we do sampling according to our sampling procedures to ensure the mechanical properties, rib geometry and other dimensions of the finished product meet with the SLS requirements. Thus the consistency of the properties is ensured throughout the entire production.” 


The finished rods are cut to exact size, using Sri Lanka’s largest steel-cutting shears, which cuts the bars to 6 m or 12m. These are exact lengths according to SLS, with a tolerance measured in millimetres. Anything shorter is called a short length – and the market is full of it, the CSCL staff say, though SLS Standards prohibit the sale of such  lengths in the retail market..

However customised lengths can be sold to project sites directly. “We have received requests from such customers for custom-lengths between 6 and 12 m, say 7 or 9 m. We produce these, the adjustment taking only a very short time.”

These customised bars may not be sold on the open market – which is prohibited – but only go to projects, which need such lengths to minimise wastage, reducing offcuts. “We still have 5% of rejects,” de Silva says, “which we dispose of – although some manufacturers sell even this.”

Finally, they prepare rods in bundles, which are automatically weighed and then go to the warehouse for storage. The process of manufacture is fully automated, and monitored from a control room. Each bundle is tagged for traceability.


“I make a monthly production plan in such a way as to maintain buffer stock, based on my knowledge of the movement of each item in the market. It is on this basis that I make the annual plan as well. We prepare the billets accordingly, with some exactness, in order to ensure that we do not get any short bars. This reduces waste considerably.”

“We have the complete dedication of both workforce and the technical staff to thank in carrying out innovations,” de Silva is profuse in his praise.  “We received the complete support of the management, the chairman and directors, who allowed us to go forward through a process of experimentation. Even after losing millions, they have exhorted us to ‘try it and see’. This trust from the management has encouraged and enabled us to innovate. We have extended this process of innovative behaviour downwards, urging the workforce to ‘try it and see’, in seeking solutions.

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