Research and Technology
The targets of HeidelbergCement’s research and development activities are to generate added value for customers and the Group through innovative products as well as through process improvements and new formulations, whilst minimising the use of energy, CO2 emissions, and hence costs. The innovation work at HeidelbergCement can essentially be divided into five areas of focus:
Products and applications
Our research and development activities are geared strongly towards the market and our customers. The main priority is the development and improvement of binders and concretes with optimised properties and innovative functionalities. However, our work does not end with the product; it also involves providing our customers with a competent, professional technical service on the application and optimisation of their products.
The focus lies on the continuous improvement of processes and cost structures. This includes the cost-efficient replacement of fossil fuels and natural raw materials with alternative fuels and raw materials as well as reducing energy requirements in production. These goals were pursued until the end of 2013 as part of the Group-wide “Operational Excellence” initiative, and potential was systematically and very successfully exploited in the cement plants. With the “Continuous Improvement Program” that started in 2014, we intend to not only retain but further improve our achievements.
In the aggregates business line, the “CLIMB” (2011–2013) and “CLIMB Commercial” (2013–2015) projects have led to significant improvements in throughput, uptime, manpower utilisation, energy efficiency, pricing, and the balance between production and sales. During these five years, we have increasingly focused on promoting standardised processes in the plants. We have targeted training at all levels from management to workers in the plants, supplemented by user-friendly training resources. Strong regional and local management commitment, coupled with the involvement of local CI managers, is driving improved performance and bottom line results.
Optimisations across all business lines
Vertical integration, especially in urban centers, has been a strong focus of HeidelbergCement. Sustainable financial improvements can be achieved through a tightly coordinated optimisation of product portfolio, production processes, and logistics across the aggregates, ready-mixed concrete, and cement business lines. By utilising our entire raw material portfolio in one market region, we can optimise the material mix in our ready-mixed concrete plants so that our raw material deposits are most efficiently used and the costs in all aforementioned business lines are reduced. At the same time, we guarantee high concrete quality for our customers.
Development of cements and concretes with improved CO2 balance
The main emphasis here is to further develop composite cements with less clinker – even beyond the limits of today’s existing standards. Reducing the proportion of clinker is the most important lever when it comes to minimising energy consumption and CO2 emissions, and in preserving natural raw materials. Finally, we are also researching entirely new kinds of binder systems that dispense with the use of clinker altogether. These innovative alternative products are only in the early stages of research and it will take several years until they are ready for the market and for wide deployment.
Our global competence center Heidelberg Technology Center Global (HTC Global) pools the knowledge and expertise in our Group and makes it available to the operational units quickly and comprehensively. Technical centers support our national companies in the Group areas. In the cement business line this are the Heidelberg Technology Center (HTCs). They support our cement plants with all technical issues, from securing raw materials and operational optimisations to process control and quality assurance. Similarly, the technical centers of the Competence Center Materials (CCM) support our Group companies in the aggregates, ready-mixed concrete, and asphalt business lines.The close dialogue between HTC, CCM, and our plants ensures efficient implementation of potential optimisations and a continuous improvement process.