Six innovation fields

Holcim continues to focus on six strategic innovation fields that offer the highest potential to add value. The following examples illustrate a few of Holcim’s innovative achievements.

1. Integrated market solutions

Example Green Building Centres/ACC India:India faces a considerable housing shortage, and many homes are built by unskilled practitioners with poor construction materials. The ACC Green Building Centres provide a simple and complete solution for the low-cost construction segment in rural areas. The key success factor is the combination of offering locally produced and easy-to-use construction solutions together with training courses on how to produce and apply these products in the rural context. The construction products are produced in the Green Building Centres by workers trained in the center and using in-house industrial machinery, thereby creating jobs and building trade capabilities. These simple construction products enable comfortable, safe, and affordable housing solutions. Training in the Green Building Centres gives people the skills they need not only to build their own houses but to establish their own businesses as tradespeople. Sustainable construction techniques are promoted by using locally sourced materials and incorporating alternative materials like fly ash, which significantly reduces CO2 emissions. This example of business model innovation is a sustainability-enhanced solution that reduces environmental impact and provides lasting socioeconomic improvement.

2. New materials/functionalities

Example high-performance concrete: Holcim France developed an innovative solution for the high-performance concrete and high-durability market. The range of binders is complemented with related services, including support in concrete design and performance testing. As a premixed ready-to-use hydraulic binder, the new product provides advantages in concrete buildings and structures, civil engineering works, and precast concrete elements. And due to its color, it also allows production of light-colored concrete.

3. Low carbon solutions

Example alternative mineral components for composite cements - Holcim Switzerland: New customized cement types using alternative mineral components like mixed rubber granulate are being developed. These new customized cement types can be used for making lean concrete and concrete for construction purposes with no specific durability requirements. The approach is to produce new types of composite cements with alternative mineral components that are directly milled or mixed together with the cement clinker and other constituents. By using alternative semi-reactive materials directly in the cement production process, CO2 emissions can be reduced and natural resources conserved, making this a sustainability-enhanced solution. The solution closes the material cycle for construction materials like cement and concrete and prevents unnecessary landfilling.

4. Low-energy solutions

Example fan efficiency improvement: The multiplication of low-energy solutions such as fan efficiency improvement by using online measuring and monitoring tools continued successfully during 2014. Implementation has been carried out in 34 operating companies, covering 93 percent of all larger fans in the Holcim Group. The year closed with a rate of 80 percent global implementation. Holcim is committed to continue the multiplication of such solutions to identify low performing assets, take the necessary measurements and therefore substantially reduce the consumption of electrical energy.

5. Waste/recycling opportunities

Example mobile sorting line for municipal solid waste: Most municipal solid waste in Eastern Europe is dumped into landfills. Holcim’s local waste management unit ecorec offers mobile sorting lines to companies that collect municipal waste. The mobile sorting line offers flexibility and extends the waste preprocessing service. By sorting, the companies recover valuable waste for recycling and the remaining useful waste is sent to ecorec pre-processing plants where it is turned into alternative fuel. This provides Holcim a stable and long-term alternative fuel supply and reduces landfill volumes.

6. Lean/clean/efficient operations

Example roller-driven vertical roller mill: To establish an improved concept for vertical roller mills, Holcim collaborated with a main equipment supplier in France to jointly develop a set of modifications and optimizations. Combining their technical knowledge in mills, the two companies engineered design modifications that reduce power consumption without compromising the high-quality production of high-strength ordinary Portland cement. The first roller-driven vertical roller mill was implemented using a step-by-step approach. It is the world’s first application of this type of mill used to produce high-strength ordinary Portland cement.