A concrete hold
In a recovering market, Danish cement leader, Aalborg Portland, is demonstrating exemplary levels of environmental responsibilities to compete in an ever demanding industry
Aalborg Portland can trace its roots back to 1889, when cement factory producer FL Schmidt & Co established the company. In 2004, the company was bought by Italian Group Cementir Holding, enabling the parent company to secure a wider international footprint. Today the two core productstreams for the company are in grey and white cement, which enable Aalborg to occupy leading positions throughout Europe and the US. With the soft chalk, which underlies much of the country’s landscape, forming the raw material for its products, Aalborg is the only cement producer in Denmark and has established successful distribution channels for white cement across the world. “On the worldwide scale we are the largest producer of white cement,” explains Sales Director, Export, Henrik Hougaard. “In the late 90s we established a new factory in Egypt to cover the Middle East, and have since established production in Malaysia and China and have set up a joint venture in North America.”
Through a combination of smart business and strong backing, Aalborg Portland has established itself as a very financially sound company. “Going through a crisis this is a massive strength as we are robust enough to make big changes to maintain growth. Therefore, we were able to continue investing into and growing the business through the downturn,” highlights Henrik. “Our logistical expertise and capabilities are big advantages as well, as we have the quarry, production facilities and private port all based on one site. This way we have very integrated operations from quarrying through to dispatch. Aside from this our history has given us expert capabilities and technologies both in terms of production competence and in R&D.”
The company’s product range varies accordingly to meet a number of requirements across the relevant sectors. “We basically supply the whole palette of demands with about six or seven products in our grey and white lines. We supply all segments of the market: Precast elements, paving and masonry products, drymix mortars/renders/grouts and readymixed concrete, asphalt and special applications,” Henrik outlines. “We also supply producers of high strength concrete products.” Denmark and its surrounding countries are Aalborg’s major markets for grey cement where the company holds a leading market share; elsewhere it is white cement that secures the Danish firm’s success.
With regards to the market Henrik is pleased to see conditions improving as Denmark begins to emerge out of the economic crisis that has overshadowed Europe for the last few years. “We haven’t reached pre-crisis levels as yet,” he notes, “but it is definitely showing sustained levels of growth. To a great extent this is being driven by a number of large projects around the country such as an ongoing extension of the Copenhagen Metrolink. For white cement it is a much more scattered picture across our markets, we see our best growth in Poland, the UK and to some extent Sweden where demand is really increasing in line with growing economies. Elsewhere there are still some challenging markets. We are also seeing really positive growth levels in the USA where we are partners in a jointventure established back in the early 80s.”
Perhaps compounding the economic challenges that still exist across Europe for Aalborg, is the state of material demand. “Apart from the UK where the market is having to look at importing grey cement, there is a surplus of capacity across Europe. This of course is creating a lot of competition in the market,” expresses Henrik. “This competition is magnified further due to new environmental levies and taxes placed upon heavy industry, these tend to be isolated market-bymarket rather than being European wide and Denmark is leading the way so it makes it even harder for us to compete with other producers in Europe.”
However, one way Aalborg is working to secure its competitiveness in the market is in its exemplary responsibility to environmental considerations. “Customers are starting to become more aware of the CO2 impact, so we are working hard to either meet these environmental requirements or publicise that they are already in place,” says Henrik. “Innovation is of significant importance as we look to find alternative raw materials to use in our products whilst maintaining quality, and alternative fuels to power what is a heavy industry that has traditionally relied on coal and oil. We are extracting surplus heat from the white kilns and providing that to the district heating system in the local area to heat over 25,000 homes a year. We would like to increase this system. We are also currently looking at installing wind turbines to generate power for the facility here and we are working in co-operation with the local community to set up a cooling system from our quarry lake to cool the machines that will be installed in a newly built hospital nearby.”
With a wealth of high profile supplier contracts under its belt including London 2012 Olympic sites and the newly built world’s tallest residential building in Manhattan, the quality of Aalborg’s product and service is unrivalled on a global scale. The future for the company will be focused on maintaining the market leading positions and looking at product development and innovation to increase its competitiveness and ability to lead the heavy cement industry into a new age of green production.
Services: International cement and concrete supplier, global leader in white cement