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Lafarge Tarmac moving forward as one company

Following the completion of the merger between Lafarge and Tarmac, Katie Barker talks to the MD of the company’s Readymix division about company strategy, making concrete sustainable and searching for growth in the economy.

The merger of Lafarge and Tarmac was completed in January after nearly two years of planning and speculation. Now the challenge is to integrate the two companies’ offerings into one and bring the best aspects of both businesses to the fore.

As most other companies in the market would probably agree, the greatest challenge facing Lafarge Tarmac is the economy and the uncertainty it brings.

Economy still struggling

“In year six of the recession, the economy is still difficult; most of the sectors we work in are struggling,” says Lafarge Tarmac Readymix managing director Jeremy Greenwood.

“Geographically the big city markets are doing better: London is good, Birmingham and the West Midlands are quite buoyant, the Mersey and Liverpool are pretty good and Glasgow is also holding up relatively well. Everywhere else is subdued.”

He also mentions housing as an area that is quite difficult at the moment, and has been for several years. “There are odd glimmers of hope, but they’ve not all come together yet.”

Despite these sentiments, Mr Greenwood does say he is more optimistic about the economy than at any other point since 2008. “We’re hoping in the second half of the year there will be some more robust forecasting and hopefully some more positive news,” he says.

Defining company strategy

As the company works through its first months after the joint venture, many in the industry and outside it are keen to find out how it will affect company strategy and operations. “The merger was company strategy – we’ve taken the legacy of what both companies were trying to achieve and aim to get the best from each.”

For Lafarge, this was innovation, good customer service and technical expertise, while Tarmac brought its strong heritage of plant networks and access to raw materials, Mr Greenwood says.

“The merger is allowing us to bring the Tarmac aggregate business and the Lafarge concrete business together. The Lafarge Group has been developing low-carbon traditional cement, and the Readymix business can bring the two strands together.”

Operating from 90 concrete plants, as well as fleet of mobile units with the capacity to supply complex projects from 5,000 cu m to 1 million cu m, Lafarge Tarmac’s Readymix division forms a significant part of the new company.

Through 17 local centres, Mr Greenwood says the company can work on all types of projects across the country. “The merger will gives us economies of scale, a more integrated supply chain and a better footprint. The two businesses work well together,” he says.

Making concrete sustainable

Mr Greenwood highlights sustainability as a potential growth area for the business and for the concrete industry as a whole. “We’re doing lots of work on sustainable products and systems, and we see this as a big opportunity not as a challenge,” Mr Greenwood says.

The business has a duel approach to sustainability; first is to look at the embodied carbon which goes into the manufacture of concrete, and second is to work with its clients and supply chain on building design to maximise the thermal mass of concrete.

“On average we have been able to reduce the embodied carbon in our cement products by around 22 per cent, and we are also using waste-derived fuels in our cement plants to significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and ensure we are a net-user of waste,” Mr Greenwood says.

“We also work in partnership with specifiers early in the design process to adopt a considered approach to building design, helping to maximise the thermal mass of concrete to lower a building’s in-use energy consumption throughout its lifecycle,” he says.

Achieving growth in this climate is always going to be a challenge, but the company is looking to its new identity to help provide that.

“We want to grow through innovation and thinking about things differently – and also through early contractor involvement, looking to reduce the cost of the construction process also through innovation and exploring sustainability further,” Mr Greenwood says.

Current concrete projects

  • Lafarge Tarmac is currently supplying 30,000 cu m of ready-mix concrete for the conversion of half of Drax’s coal-fired power station in Selby, North Yorkshire, into a new biomass plant. Working with main contractor Shepherd Construction, it is supplying specialist shotcrete concrete for the site’s biomass domes.
  • The company is also supplying 30,000 cu m of ready-mix for the construction of SSE’s multi-fuel generation plant at its Ferrybridge power station in West Yorkshire. Working with main contractor Hitachi Zosen Inova, Lafarge Tarmac is set to undertake a 28-day slipform concrete project at the new 68 MW facility.
  • Lafarge Tarmac is also supplying concrete to the Skanska/Balfour Beatty JV as part of works to widen the M25. It has supplied 350,000 cu m for sections one and three, north-west and east. The company is set to supply 100,000 cu m for the north-east A1M to M11 section five for concrete safety barrier, retaining walls, and pavement under the barrier as part of a £10m contract.

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