• Friday, July 12, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

‘All cement grades have specific applications’

businessday-icon

LANRE OPAKUNLE is the general manager, industrial performance, for Lafarge WAPCO, Nigeria. He has managed a cement plant in the United States of America and has spent over 24 years in the industry. He spoke with ODINAKA ANUDU on the outcome of the cement stakeholders meeting and other sundry issues. Excerpts:

You have spent hours with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) deliberating on the way forward for the cement industry. What are some of the resolutions?

We started off with a briefing with the director-general of SON, and at the end of the day, he gave us a term of reference. In terms of presence, we had professionals from the industry, manufacturers, professors from various universities, engineers and other stakeholders. One general agreement is that cement is not responsible for building collapses. We also agreed that poor or low design as a result of non-inclusion of professionals in building construction, poor construction practices, poor supervision and corruption on sites are mainly responsible for building collapses.

We also agreed that it is important to review the standards to align with what is seen in Europe. We agreed that all cement types – 32.5, 42.5 or 52.5 – have their specific applications. Engineers and professionals need each type because of their specific applications.

Another critical outcome is the need for more enlightenment of artisans and block makers. For instance, 32.5 is a multi-purpose type, generally used for block making, concrete works and plastering, whereas 42.5 and 52.5 are used for heavy concrete work such as high-rise structures. The use of 42.5 for low heat applications could produce cracks in concrete. So, it is important to engage the right professionals for construction works.

It was emphasised that in the Northern part of the country, where there is high temperature, anybody who uses anything above 32.5 is only laying a foundation for disaster.

All manufacturers will now indicate the cement type and applications on their bags, as it has always been done by Lafarge. The labelling will have to be legible and provide the right information and guide to the consumers.

Dangcem recently launched 52.5 grade. Does Lafarge WAPCO have any intention of following suit?

We have the capacity to produce that, but I think we need to first understand cement and its use. Each class of cement does a different job. When you use 52.5 on the concrete where you are not supposed to use it, it will crack. That is why it is normally specific to certain construction companies, who have batching plants and know exactly what it is going to be used for. When it comes to multi-purpose applications; if you want to do a mass concrete, a block, plastering, use 32.5. On the other hand, 42.5 requires high rise structures – concretes, beans and pillars. That is why it is important to engage professionals. So, in terms of cement grades, if you look at the standards generally across the world, you find out it is derived from the concrete codes, which fit into the building codes. You have the building codes and length of the building codes, part of which is the materials. It is the execution that matters. In terms of materials, cement is just one leg of it, so we need to understand this. It is like a drug, which if you misapply or abuse, you get the consequence. So, it is not that you cannot produce different grades, but you have to use each of them for specific applications as recommended by professionals.

If construction firms demand 52.5 from you, will you manufacture it?

I will do it, but I will not just do it because, in-house, I have a specialist in product development. I will ask my specialist, who is also a Nigerian, to visit the site, understand what he wants to do and what is best for him, do a laboratory trial and ensure it is OK. In Europe and other parts of the world, they produce for your specific needs. If you want to do plastering in a country like the United States, you will not use 42.5 or 32.5. You will not even find it. Rather, you will use 12.5; if you get into the next stage, you may use 22.5, and things like that. We as a professional manufacturer will always tell you that it is about applications and we will support you in those applications.

As a multinational company, is the cement produced by Lafarge in Europe and other continents the same as that manufactured and marketed in Nigeria?

Quality in Lafarge is the same across the world. We have 180 years experience in cement making. If you take the bag of cement produced here to France, Germany, you will find out it is the same quality, because in Lafarge there is tight control. And we send our samples to our laboratories in over 16 countries for testing. It is meant to ensure we are complying.

Does SON come for periodic inspection in your factories?

Yes, they come regularly. That is why the director-general came out to say there is no substandard cement in Nigeria, because if they find anything wrong with you, they will shut you down. And we appreciate the role of the SON in bringing together stakeholders to discuss the way forward on this sensitive issue.