w&p Zement GmbH, a subsidiary of Alpacem, manufactures cement, binders, aggregates and special building materials in southern Austria. The company has two locations in Wietersdorf in Carinthia and Peggau in Styria, making it a strong partner for the local construction industry. Their products are the foundation for long-lasting and sustainable structures such as bridges, tunnels, housing and foundations, among other things. w&p returned to the RCG as a client in 2019: Thousands of truck journeys are saved every year with the innovative MOBILER system and the commitment to rail. Herwig Biei, Logistics Manager at w&p Zement GmbH, shares more about this in an interview.
How important is it for you, as a family business, to fulfil your social responsibility in society and in the region?
As a family business with a history stretching back almost 130 years, we have deep roots in the regions in which we operate. Not only as a company, but also through our employees, who live and work near our locations. We therefore feel obliged to make a contribution to the positive development of the region.
Which raw materials do you use in your production process and where do these raw materials come from?
The majority of our raw materials are sourced from the quarries in the nearby area where our production site is located. These are transported to the cement plant on conveyor belts. However, we also need raw materials that we cannot mine ourselves. One example of this is granulated blast furnace slag, which is currently being supplied from Upper Styria. We also source substitute fuels and substitute raw materials from the region. Both are used in the interests of sustainability in order to reduce CO2 emissions or conserve natural resources. That includes quality-assured plastic fractions, material streams from the processing of construction waste and biomass ashes.
Which advantages do you get from the RCG's MOBILER system and where do you apply them?
We consider the MOBILER system to be the perfect end-to-end solution. The absence of direct loading and unloading options means that this multimodal logistics solution is tailored precisely to our needs. RCG is our system partner and organises the punctual collection of the materials from our suppliers, carries out the professional and CO2-neutral rail transport and is also responsible for unloading and storing the materials at our site. We currently use the MOBILER system in the inbound division. We use it to transport large volumes of raw materials and additives, some of which are not time-critical, in a round trip.
What made you decide to use rail transport? And do you still have plans to shift more transports to rail?
Rail has been part of our logistics strategy since the company was founded. Lately, however, it has become even more important in light of ecological and economic considerations. We found RCG very exciting as a full-service provider of sustainable and optimised logistics solutions.
We are planning to put around 100,000 tonnes of raw materials on the rails by 2023. This would be an increase of 25 percent on 2021. We are also working on restructuring our connection line. Using an efficient overall concept, we could also shift substantial volumes from road to rail in the outbound sector, i.e. in block trains.
How many truck transports could you switch from road to rail?
And what has RCG done to support you in shifting your transports from road to rail?
To date, we have succeeded in shifting a volume of around 80,000 tonnes per year to rail. That is roughly equivalent to 3,200 truckloads or twice as many trips. RCG has opened up new prospects for us by providing excellent service. The innovative multimodal solutions, and in many cases also the customised equipment (e.g. half-containers), have made it possible to achieve advantages in terms of loading technology compared to road transport. Ultimately, however, it is RCG's skills as a logistics systems supplier and their reliable cooperation as equals over a long period of time that make this partnership so valuable.
Aside from climate-friendly rail transport, how important are sustainability and resource conservation to you?
Sustainability and resource conservation are two aspects that we keep in mind for every project. And we have set ourselves the clear goal of being one of the best in the entire industry. Our production site in Wietersdorf is now one of the world's cleanest cement factories. We invested more than 17 million euros in emission-reducing equipment between 2014 and 2019. And it has paid off – both economically and ecologically.
Can you tell us something about how you are advancing the development of low-emission production techniques?
As we continue to develop, we are focusing on maintaining and expanding the high standard we have achieved in recent years by using the best available technology. There is a lot to do – especially in the area of decarbonisation. It all starts with the challenges of constructing the plant, transporting the captured CO2 and providing electrical energy. These are issues that take time. That is why we are concentrating on increasing the use of alternative fuels and increasing the share of secondary raw materials in the medium term. Both of these are key factors in reducing the carbon footprint of cement clinker production.
There is also a lot of potential for becoming more sustainable in the grinding of cement, as innovative recipes can be used to reduce the amount of clinker in the cement and thus significantly improve the CO2 balance of the finished products. We are also currently working on an exciting project in this area.
Where do you see your company in 10 years? Do you plan to set up more company locations?
We will continue to pursue growth in the Alps-Adriatic region, with the aim of further consolidating our market position here. This includes horizontal growth in the cement business as well as strengthening vertical integration within the value chain. The integrated management of the Alpacem Group will continue to grow in importance, and with it the specialisation of the production sites and the exchange between our manufacturing plants.