Lafarge, the world leader in building materials, has announced the opening of its Western European Technical Center dedicated to cement products, which will strengthen its R&D activity.
The WETC is located at Lafarge's technology center in l'Isle d'Abeau (near Lyon), one of the largest of its kind worldwide. It houses the cement R&D teams for France, Spain, Italy, the UK and Morocco. This geographical regrouping complements the organisation of the cement technical centers into a regional network . The center, which occupies 5,000m² of new premises, has a team of 90 employees from six different countries. Its goals are to enhance the performance of cement plants and to support and develop existing products for applications specific to its region. Its scope of activity covers 27 cement plants and six grinding units, with a total capacity of 27 million tons.
Lafarge thus intends to strengthen its technological and R&D resources in cement, while focusing more actively on one of the priority regions driving change within the building materials industry.
The Western European Technical Center: several aims to enhance the qualities of cement.
Cement is a complex material, used in many different ways, that requires ongoing investment to gain a better understanding of its behavior. Consequently, the Western European Technical Center has several different aims:
- to enable technical knowledge and expertise to be shared between countries and sites in its region, while identifying and spreading best practices.
- to provide support for the assessment and improvement of plant performance in every single area, for example, costs, processes, quality assurance, environmental issues and investment decisions, while safeguarding teams and installations.
- to deliver a high standard of assistance and expertise to all the sites in its region in all the fundamental technical aspects of the cement business.
- to assist and guide plants in their analysis and execution of internal investments in order to guarantee the technical validity and economic efficiency of the adopted measures.
The role and resources of the Western European Technical Center
To achieve these goals, the center has the support of highly qualified experts competent in the fundamental technical aspects of the cement business, including processes, maintenance, mechanics, electricity, civil engineering and environmental issues.
The center is heavily involved in all the plant improvement initiatives being taken in areas such as manufacturing, marketing and sustainable development in connection with the launch of the Cement division's performance program.
The WETC has its own laboratory facilities supporting the units in its region. In particular, it works on mastering the quality and consistency of cements and on differentiating them according to the qualities and attributes required by customers. Some examples are: the cements used for the construction of the Millau viaduct, the differentiation of cements used in the Agilia® ranges of self-placing concrete or support for the commercial development of Ductal®.
Lastly, because it is located at Lafarge's Technology Center, the WETC's laboratory can call on the support of research scientists at the Central Research Laboratory.
Technical organization based on regional units
The Lafarge group's R&D activity is organized around the Central Research Laboratory and a network of divisional technical centers. The WETC is one of the Cement division's five technical centers around the world. It forms part of the network comprising units in Montreal serving North America, Vienna serving Germany, Central and Eastern Europe, Kuala Lumpur serving Asia and another unit, also based in L'Isle d'Abeau, serving Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.
The technical organization by major regions is intended to provide Lafarge's 115 cement plants around the world with a network of experts who are on hand to intervene rapidly. Grouped together in small numbers, the technical centers are able to concentrate expertise while ensuring a continuous flow of inter-unit exchanges.
Lafarge is the world leader in building materials and employs 77,000 people in 75 countries. The Group holds top-ranking positions in all four of its Divisions: Cement, Aggregates & Concrete, Roofing and Gypsum. Lafarge posted sales of €14.6 billion in 2002.