Page 4: Secondary sector
A business will aim to add value (both financial and non-financial) as a product moves from inputs to outputs across the three sectors of industry.
Globally Lafarge invests over 170 million Euros every year into research and development. This makes it one of the world’s leading research and development companies. This investment helps to provide ongoing innovation in its secondary sector production processes which benefits customers. Its skilled chemists and scientists work in laboratories across the UK. For example, it created a self-compacting concrete called Agilia®. This saves customers' time and money in the construction process.
It creates value for the client due to less time being needed for application and lower costs of equipment. This also contributes to a healthier environment for construction workers.
The manufacturing process to create cement involves heating the raw materials to a very high temperature, grinding the clinker finely and adding different minerals to the resulting cement to give different properties. Important properties customers look for include increased resistance to weather or a higher quality finish. Lafarge is the leader in the development of low carbon cement products and has five main manufacturing locations, producing 5 million tonnes of cement each year.
By its nature, cement manufacturing consumes large amounts of non-renewable resources and also generates CO2. Lafarge is therefore committed to reviewing its processes to reduce its impact on the environment. Its production plants are certified under British Standards for both quality and environmental management. One way in which Lafarge helps to minimise its impact and emissions is by having on-site concrete production plants for large-scale projects. This is more efficient and enables Lafarge to provide continuous supply throughout the life of the project.
As a major user of significant amounts of water in its processes, Lafarge is also piloting ‘water footprint’ assessments. These aim to use water more efficiently and reduce consumption where possible. Other examples of Lafarge’s ‘best practice’ include:
- using the fly-ash waste product from iron and steel smelting to make low-carbon cement
- using alternatives to fossil fuels (such as chipped used tyres) in the kiln heating process
- investing in more efficient manufacturing units
- offering a cement recycling service to customers for unused, outdated bags of products.
Lafarge also takes innovation right through the supply chain into its packaging. Its weather-resistant plastic packaging is easier to handle and is tear resistant. Both effects benefit customers. Plastic packaging for cement perhaps surprisingly, is more sustainable than paper as less material is lost through damaged bags, which is better for the environment.