Research and Technology
The target of HeidelbergCement’s research and development activities (R&D) is 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.
Our Research and Development Activities
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 includes providing our customers with competent, professional technical service on the application and optimisation of their products.
In the first half of 2016, the focus lied on the continuous improvement of processes and cost structures in all plants. 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, with opportunities systematically and very successfully exploited in the cement plants. With the “Continuous Improvement Program” (CIP), started in 2014, we intend to not only retain, but further improve upon our achievements. Moreover, in the second half of the year, the focus was on the integration of the newly added plants of Italcementi, with a strong emphasis on costs and operational excellence, consistent with the general policy of HeidelbergCement. The implementation of identified savings opportunities is thus a top priority.
Since 2011, we have been driving continuous improvement (CI) at our locations, targeting uptime, throughput, and more efficient use of labour and energy. Our efforts have matured from capturing “low-hanging fruit” to basic process changes, and have now turned to digitisation. The integration of operational, commercial, and financial data in one management tool allows for greater transparency and the simplified coordination of production, sales, and quality control. CI goes hand in hand with our training programme, which targets all levels from management to the workers at the plants. The entire CI process is driven by highly committed regional and local line managers and supported by local CI managers.
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
A major area of focus 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 conventional clinker altogether. These innovative alternative products are still in the early stages of development and it will take some more years until they are ready for the market and for wide deployment.
Our global competence centers Heidelberg Technology Center (HTC), Competence Center Materials (CCM), the newly founded Competence Center Readymix (CCR), and teams from the two centers for R&D and product innovation – Global R&D (GRD) and Global Product Innovation (GPI) – pool the knowledge in our Group and make it rapidly and comprehensively available to all operating units. Numerous international experts work in all of our competence centers, covering a broad range of expertise in the areas of cement, concrete, and aggregates.