r Bill Price, National Commercial Technical Manager from Tarmac’s cement business, discusses how to reduce cement waste to save money on construction projects.
Whilst possibly inevitable in the construction industry, waste remains a costly issue for many companies, and when you consider it can account for 2 to 3% of the total project cost¹, it is easy to see why less waste will always be good for the bottom line.
So what practical measures can a project team take to reduce waste and cut costs? In the case of cement – and many other construction products for that matter – there are a few important factors that can help drive down waste; namely product choice, product size and packaging, storage and handling. Let’s explore each of these in more detail.
Product choice – leave no room for mixing errors
For some construction products, like bricks and blocks, the industry is well-versed in specification benefits and product choice is usually a ‘safe’ decision as a result. However, this isn’t always the case with other associated materials, where time and cost savings could be overlooked.
In particular, cement and mortar are often seen as commodities due to their proven track record and availability, which can lead to spontaneous purchases throughout the supply chain. However, a little research goes a long way.
Cement products which have enhanced resistance to freeze-thaw attacks, for example, will not only protect the reputation of the work, but also help avoid costly mistakes further down the line. The last thing any firm wants to do is pay twice to do the same job.
In the case of mortar, firms should consider a number of factors such as consistency, including how it hangs on the trowel and spreads, workability, compressive strength and appearance. That’s why ready-to-use mortar remains so popular, with guaranteed mix proportions that can help eliminate potential problems that can arise with site mixing.
With improved quality and consistency, high-quality products such as Tarmac Cement’s Blue Circle Quality Assured Mortar are made to exacting standards in a controlled factory setting – reducing the risk of wastage during both mixing and use.
Product size and packaging – making adjustments to reduce waste
Whilst it may not seem like a deal breaker, the type of packaging and size of the product is also worth considering in an effort to reduce waste.
The majority of cement available to buy as a packed product comes in 25kg bags, which is suitable for two separate batches in the mixer. On a larger site, where there are multiple mixes to be made in one day, this usually isn’t an issue. However, smaller projects may only require one mix at a time, which could result in the half-opened bag potentially being left on site, forgotten, damaged or spilt.
In contrast, Tarmac Cement’s Blue Circle Mastercrete 12.5kg Mixer Handy Pack is half the size of the traditional 25kg bag, providing the exact amount for one mix of mortar and taking away the risk (and cost) of wastage. It is a simple change in purchasing habit but one which could pay dividends as the savings add up over a full year.
Storage and handling – small steps to protect products
Another major aspect of waste is when products are purchased and – for what is usually an avoidable reason – not available when the team on site comes to use them. This could be because of unsuitable storage conditions or incorrect/bulk handling, for example.
The smaller 12.5kg Mastercrete bag, for example, is not only more efficient but it is also lighter, which makes it easier to deal with on site, and has a small inbuilt handle so it can be easily carried in one hand, reducing the risk of accidents. Larger bags run a greater risk of being dropped or ripped as they are passed through confined spaces.
Storage is also important, especially as products can remain outdoors and on site for a number of months. With the unpredictable British weather, something as simple as waterproof packaging can increase storage space for water-vulnerable products and eliminate wastage through accidental damage. These simple measures by manufacturers can make all the difference when it comes to cutting waste and keeping costs down. Keeping cement out of the rain on site should also be second nature to end-users.
Ultimately, it is about taking small steps throughout the supply chain to minimise the risk of waste. Manufacturers have done their bit in developing the products and packaging to support their customers, now it is down to the industry to take advantage and put the appropriate measures in place. In many cases, there are easy opportunities for demonstrable cost savings.