Not only is Roodepoort in Johannesburg home to the AfriSam state-of-the-art clinker grinding plant, it is also a hotspot of construction materials expertise. AfriSam’s Centre of Product Excellence is a major driver of innovative cement, aggregate and readymix products and has become a critical point of technical support to South Africa’s construction industry.
Consulting engineers, architects and contractors have all relied on the Centre of Product Excellence’s extensive resources to provide invaluable advice on the use and application of AfriSam’s building materials.
The Centre of Product Excellence is home to 15 technical personnel with almost 200 years of combined experience and a SANAS ISO 17025-accredited laboratory. The laboratory is used to test raw materials to optimise concrete mix designs and test products to help customers build better. This is over-and-above being put to good use in AfriSam’s own product development programmes. It is used to undertake physical, chemical and material tests to verify and monitor its own cement products’ quality
Mike McDonald, manager of the Centre of Product Excellence, says that the facility has recorded many milestones since it started operating in 2012. One of the most important of these is the valuable role it has played in assisting precast concrete manufacturing start-ups.
As he notes, the complexities of working with aggregates and admixtures can be daunting in the beginning for many of these fledgling companies.
Equally important is the role the centre is playing in ensuring quality of concrete works, by using its thorough understanding of cementitious products to investigate the failure of concrete products. It recently started exporting this aptitude to other countries on the continent, such as Zambia.
Last year alone, the Centre of Product Excellence tested 859 external concrete samples, undertook 86 durability tests and crushed more than 13,000 cubes for strength testing, while testing 150 concrete mixes to monitor the performance of other company’s products.
Meanwhile, the Centre of Product Excellence is also focusing on innovative ways of building that challenge conventional brick-and-mortar projects in South Africa, while spearheading ongoing product development into “greener” concrete mixes and construction practices.
The Centre of Product Excellence, for example, continues its work in reducing the CO2 footprint and embodied energy of AfriSam’s products. This includes ongoing studies geared at reducing the clinker content of cement. Last year, the centre undertook 30 comprehensive tests to monitor ash performance in concrete and 90 tests to assess the performance of slag in the material.
Clearly, McDonald and his team are not only at the forefront of new product innovation, but making sure that AfriSam transfers industry-leading skills to keep its customers at the cutting edge of construction.