Cement is a product that is consumed in large volumes next to only food grains. Therefore packaging of cement becomes extremely important. From the delivery of loose cement, it varies to costly paper bags or laminated polymer bags.
For the cement market, India has been a very different place and has its unique position on the world map. The retail market, which exists in India, is very different than the developed world. In the advanced countries, about 90 to 95 per cent of cement is sold loose in the form of bulk cement for the simple reason that concrete the end product is not produced at site, but it is a factory made product. Therefore it is B2B game. We hardly find cement bag being sold in supermarkets of Europe or US, whereas in India, bagged cement dominates the scene. Here, we have shops that only deal in cement or building materials for retail consumers.
ACC was the first company in the country that started supplying cement in bulk in the city of Mumbai the others soon followed after seeing the success. Another dimension to bulk cement is jumbo bags again for large consumption. The major consumers have been asbestos sheet manufacturers, spun pipe makers, electric pole manufacturers and railway sleeper producers. However, supply of cement in jumbo bags have limited market and is not growing much. We have a few companies that are presently supplying loose cement through bulkers or wagons to the users directly. The users are the large volume consumers where it makes sense for them to procure cement in loose form to save on costs and handling. The requirements of the end users of bulk cement are much different than that of retail cement consumers.
In the good old days, cement was being packed in jute bags as a support to jute industry; however of late, now cement is packed in woven polypropylene (PP) bags. The advantages are many folds, the ability to protect the contents from dust and moisture, impact resistance, resistance to sliding, and high durability and above all the cost of packing. The standard packing of cement has been 50 kg in our country. Palletisation of cement bags is not at all popular in our country.
In the conventional 50 kg packing, there have been many varieties available today. Three ply paper bags have been a proved and accepted since 90s. For filling of any type of bag, it is extremely important to have efficient perforation on the bag that allows good air ventilation minimizing bursting of bags and the least moisture ingress shower proof bags. Less flying of cements means cleaner environment and production areas.
Nowadays, there are laminated brick-shaped PP woven sack, produced without adhesives by heat welding of the coating on the fabric are available. These have been developed with automated filling and handling processes in mind. The sack can be produced either as a one-layer block bottom valve bag or as an open mouth bag with a block bottom. It surpasses all comparable products as far as resistance to breakage is concerned, is versatile and also eco-friendly and economical.
PP fabric is laminated on a PP extruder and printed. At the end of the production process, the tubular fabric becomes a sack. And it is the conversion line that gives the sack its final, individual form, cutting it to length, sewing it, and adding the desired closure type – or forming a brick-shaped sack in a special adhesive-free heat welding process. It turns out to be slightly expensive than PP bags hence it may take time to get established.
Another facet of packaging cement is smaller packets for retail consumption. Today if your visit any retailer, he unpacks 50 kg sack of grey cement and repacks smaller denominations of quantities for end users. There is a demand for small packs of cement but manufacturers are unable to meet it for the reasons of viability. However the story is opposite in case of white cement, which sales the smallest pack of 1 kg in highest numbers. It has been a successful case study. If the product is packed in right kind of denomination and brought to the market, nothing can stop it. Smaller quantities have been instant success in the case of white cement. However in case of grey cement, some manufacturers have tried 25 kg pack but could not sustain the same.
As our country focuses on infrastructure development, bulk cement in the years to come will grow and has a good potential. Bagged cement will continue to stay in India even after 25 years from now.
- VIKAS DAMLE