Concrete strategies
Concrete strategies

Concrete strategies

RMC continues to trace a growth curve as players carve out new markets. India manufactures around 35-40 million cu m of concrete annually from around 1,000 ready-mix concrete (RMC) facilities. ICR takes a closer look at how the industry is shaping up today.

Concrete is the most widely used construction material in the world. Its spread is so wide that it can be only compared with water. It has a 9000-year old history and has played a major part in shaping modern civilisation. Historically the Romans were particularly adept at using concrete but it was also known to the Egyptians. There are references found in the history books and in the ruins of old monuments about use of cement like binders.

Today agitated concrete or ready-mix concrete (RMC) is a material that is manufactured in a factory or a batching plant, according to a decided recipe, and then delivered to site by truck mounted in-transit mixers. This results in a precise mixture, allowing specialty concrete mixtures to be developed and used on construction sites. RMC comprises a mix of aggregates, cement, water and a variety of admixtures. Understanding these individual ingredients in a little more detail, provides an insight into ways of obtaining the best results for different types of project. RMC is also referred as the customised concrete product for commercial purpose. RMC refers to concrete that is supplied to customer´s construction site in a freshly mixed and plastic or unhardened state. In traditional work sites, materials like sand, cement and stone chips are procured separately and mixed in specified proportions at site to make concrete. RMC is bought and sold by volume û usually expressed in cubic meters (cubic yards in the US).

In India, RMC has been in use for few specific projects for a long time but the present form of RMC actually started off at Mumbai for the construction of Bharat Diamond Bourse at Bandar Kurla Complex in early 1990s. In those days it was accepted very easily but there were issues of taxation which made the materials pretty expensive than site mixed concrete.

As informed to us by an official of Ready Mixed Concrete Manufacturers´ Association (RMCMA), ´Today RMC exists in more than 100 cities and there are more than 1,000 plants being operated all across. There are few plants dedicated to a captive buyer and are set within the project site, where as there are others which are called merchant plants. They produce and sell concrete as per the requirements of the customers as a business. The number of merchant plants has been increasing and will go on increasing in the days to come.´

The readers will observe that the cement producing companies are entering the business for the obvious reasons that it is a value added product for them and worldwide the bagged cement is a diminishing commodity where as finished product like concrete is sold on large scale in matured markets. In our country [too] the picture is changing but will not drastically change only in favour of RMC. Today companies like ACC, Lafarge, UltraTech, India cement, RAMCO have their presence in RMC business. Apart from that there are many other companies like RMC India which has its roots in the UK. It is rather surprising to note that for RMC producers in the country there was no quality standard applicable for production of concrete per se. Though all the ingredients used have to meet the relevant Indian Standards, the way in which the concrete is produced in RMC plants was not covered by any quality measure. We must appreciate the efforts taken by the RMCMA as stated by Vijay Kulkarni in his article. Today as a user we have a choice either to go to a plant which follows the standards set by QCI & RMCMA or go to someone who follows his own standards since it is a voluntary acceptance of quality standards. The efforts taken by RMCMA reflect in the system they have created and even the documents drafted that have been so exhaustive. The audit methodology is quite meticulous and stringent. If followed thoroughly in letter and spirit, it will certainly benefit the user and industry. There is a general belief that concrete coming from RMC supplier is always superior in quality but that is not true when we here customers complaining on poor strength of concrete, not hardening of concrete, slump requirement not addressed, etc.

Transit-mixed (also known as truck-mixed) concrete are batched at a central plant and are completely mixed in the truck in transit that generally carries 6 cubic metre (cu m) of concrete. The internal design of the mixer is such that it avoids the problems of premature hardening and slump loss that result from potential delays in transportation or placement. Additionally, transit-mixing allows concrete to be hauled to construction sites further away from the plant.

Hurdles for RMC
Though the picture looks quite attractive from one side, we must see the other side as well. The industry is starved today of good trained manpower at the level of plant operator. Kindly refer to the article by A. N. Singh of RMCMA. Trained manpower at operator level is so much in demand and often faces a problem of poaching by competitors. RMCMA is taking efforts to bridge the gap but still has to go miles ahead.

The other major issue is that of safety procedures in the plant. Our approach to the safety in general is more of lip service. The plant personnel take many shortcuts which are not questioned by the management. RMCMA will have a daunting task of improving the safety standards.

The industry of RMC is day-by-day getting more competitive and the margins are eroding. Mainly there are two types of players. One group comes from large companies started by cement companies or big construction companies who have to compete with the other group who are relatively small players initiated by family concerns or aggregate suppliers. In both the the cases the manner in which business is done is quite different.The compromises done by some players can not be done by large size players.

In the days to come, we shall see more and more cement companies to come in the fray. Producers of RMC are going in for value added products like designer concrete or architectural concrete to differentiate the products. Abroad most of the RMC players are also in the business of aggregates and sand. Here in India it was started by RMC India. It is also the first to go ahead and try for the first time copper slag to be used as aggregate. It gives big advantage to RMC producers as they have their own source of materials and they are more organised than traditional aggregate suppliers. You may find the aggregate business is largely unorganised and very much fragmented. We shall have to wait and see how many more RMC players will come to aggregate business?

Another connotation to RMC business is pumping of concrete. For any fast track project, RMC plant can easily satisfy the quantity requirement of a project. But the RMC received at site needs to further travel to the exact location may be even to a height of 25 m. It is not an easy job and companies like SchwingStetter are there to solve the problem. SchwingStetter is worldwide supplier of concrete pumps, boom pumps up to various heights. In India the company supplies pumps for delivery up to 40 m of height. Incidentally they are also in the supply of batching plants, transit mixers, etc.

Pollution
There was a news item sometime back that two of the RMC plants have been asked to shutdown by the pollution control authorities of North Mumbai. Though the harsh action taken by the authorities has its justification but it can happen with any other plant and at any location. In cities like London and Singapore, there are plants located a midst the sky scrappers. If users over there can find solution to these problems then why can´t we? Operating companies and the complainants will have to sit down and find a solution with in the framework. Both the sides cannot stick to a rigid stand. Development of a city or town is equally important at the same time controlling the nuisance is an equally essential issue.

Similarly there is a problem of disposing off waste concrete, as many times, we see a transit mixer parked on road side letting out the last stream of concrete in the near by pit creating pollution and getting off easily. As the industry gets matured, these practices have to stop.

Ready (mix), set, go!
The overall business sentiment is very low now and RMC is no exception. Once the infrastructure construction takes off then this industry will do better. In spite of all the odds, future is going to be bright as that we are a developing country.

About RMCMA
Established in March 2002, the Ready Mixed Concrete Manufacturers´ Association (RMCMA) is a non-profit industry organisation and one of the leading ready mixed concrete (RMC) producers in India. RMCMA is a registered body under the Registrars of Societies Act 1860 (Bylaw 21) of the Government of Maharashtra..

The vision of RMCMA is to make RMC the preferred building material of choice across India. RMCMA is committed to provide leadership to the RMC industry in India. It advances the interests of the entire RMC industry in India, without sacrificing the interests of end users, designers, specifiers owners, and others. It provides a variety of services to its members in respect of trade, commerce, promotion, education, etc. connected with RMC.

RMCMA will encourage the sustainable development of concrete industry in India and its staff and members would strive to emphasise the fact that concrete is the best environmental-friendly material of construction available today. The organisation would provide latest information on products and services to all its members so that they are able to upgrade their operations continually. It would share the latest developments in concrete technology with its members and the customers of RMC. RMCMA would strive to expand the market for RMC in India. It would endeavour to bring a large majority of RMC manufactures under its fold so that a strong combined voice of the industry can be used to find meaningful solutions on various issues hindering the healthy growth of the industry.

About Quality Council of India
The Quality Council of India (QCI) was set up in 1997 jointly by the Government of India and the Indian Industry represented by the three premier industry associations, i.e., Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to establish and operate national accreditation structure and promote quality through National Quality Campaign. The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, is the nodal ministry for QCI.

Structure of QCI
The society is governed by a council comprising of 38 members, and has an equal representation of government, industry and other stakeholders. The council is the apex level body responsible for formulating the strategy, general policy, constitution and monitoring of various components of QCI including the accreditation boards with objective to ensure transparent and credible accreditation system. The council through a governing body monitors the progress of activities and appeal mechanisms set by the respective boards. QCI functions through the executive bodies (boards/committees) that implement the strategy, policy and operational guidance set by the QCI with a view to achieve international acceptance and recognition of various programmes offered by the boards. Each Board has a Chairman nominated by the Chairman, QCI and comprises of representatives volunteer group of stakeholders who guide and monitor the activities and progress of the respective boards.

NABL continues to be a separate legal entity. NABL is also registered as a Society under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860. Each Board offers services that are needed by the market place and also those services that have been specifically designed for certain Ministries and government departments. Each Board is expected to be financially viable and also contribute to the quality promotion efforts of QCI.

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