Build it up
Fly-ash bricks are increasingly gaining acceptance in construction. There are several reasons for this. To begin with, these bricks are fire and moisture resistant, while being eco-friendly and aesthetically appealing. And one of the biggest reasons they are popular is because they are durable. What is little known about the use of fly-ash bricks is that they facilitate speedy construction and enhance the value of a project in terms of carbon credits.
Manoj Kumar, managing director at Hess India, an international leader in the manufacture of concrete production equipment, is exuberant when he speaks about his company. “Converting fly-ash into useful construction material is economical and the bricks are much cheaper than clay bricks and cement. What few realise is that it enables considerable cost savings on plastering mortar. Considering all the talks around sustainability, the fly-ash bricks are ideal exponents of sustainability, he adds.
Germany-based Hess Group, now known as TopWerk after a recent revamp, decided to enter India in 2010 with a sales and marketing office.Two years later, seeing a positive response and a wider market it decided to set up a manufacturing unit. “The group is into several activities and all of them are related to construction and concrete. The management is certain about one thing — that we get into expansion mode every year or go in for an acquisition every three years. This is a policy it has stuck to last three decades,” he says.
Currently, the company has six production facilities in Germany followed by Netherlands, France, Russia, Canada, China, Mexico and Brazil. It recently underwent a small change in management when the owners decided to retire. Only one of the top management’s son Tobias Hess, decided to take up the business.
Kumar, who has worked in this industry for nearly 20 years, of which 10 years have been spent with Hess, took the India view seriously and moved here to Bengaluru. Although, he admits that the going has not been according to expectations and attributes it to the political situation and the global slowdown, he is not disheartened. “The country is seeing a momentum of sorts. For this reason, we launched a couple of entry-level machines in India. We have already started manufacturing 3-4 machines in India,” he says. The machines that are manufactured in India are 85-90% local. Some critical components come from Germany or Netherlands. However, the German company continues to fully control project management. It is now looking at making India a 24×7 service offering unit as manpower is easily available.
Speaking about concrete as a product, Kumar says there are different types of concrete for different applications. Consider an era about 25-30 years ago when there were few or little RMC plants and that too see only in construction areas. Today, all infrastructure players and most real estate developers have their own RMC batching plants. A second type of concrete is dry-cast or semi-dry concrete again used for building construction. Then there’s the light-weight concrete concept, popularly known as autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) or cellular light-weight concrete (CLC). A recent entry is the self compacting concrete. The application areas for each of these are totally unrelated most times.
While RMC is used for building and concreting or even road construction, semi-dry concrete is used for building blocks that go into the substructure as well as super-structure. The advantage is that it reduces the load factor and reduces construction cost while allowing for faster construction.
Speaking about the advantages of fly-ash bricks and also about the new products entering the market, Kumar says that one must consider the possibilities of thermal insulation they offer. The conventional types of bricks use plenty of energy as they generate heat by using wooden particles which is used for generating heat for the kilns. “For bonding they use cement mortar which 70% cement and second most expensive building material. All these factors are avoided here. And Hess offers machinery for all these,” he adds.
The company is also looking keenly at road construction materials a.k.a. paving. Considering that technology has vastly improved in road construction, India lacks far behind in implementation due to several factors. The country continues to follow IS code, which is a copy of the earlier BS. Considering that India faces extreme climactic conditions, there must be standards to suit to each area. He cites that eastern and northern India have abundant fly ash that are mainly used for land filling. Simultaneously, he is worried about the problems this land filling could cause soil problems over the next generation.
As a 60-year old German company, quality is the important factor for Hess India. Considering their long-term of experience in the international market, the company has certain systems and has chosen best partners in each field. Siemens, Bosch Rexroth, Lenze and SEW are few partners associated with Hess in the long run. Regular customer feedback and a strong internal design facility help them to stay ahead in the field. What Kumar stresses on is that almost all the machines can be upgraded at any point of time and all the machines are equipped with a modem system which will enable them to check the electric, electronic and software issues from the 24/7 service centres. Hess machines work with more electric, electronic and software functions and less hydraulics. This helps in fault detection and troubleshooting process. Different types of conveyors are using for each application like belt conveyor, weigh batcher, skip system, bucket conveyor and latch conveyor. All these operations are controlled through a central system with highly integrated synchronisation.