A first step: offer CO2-reduced cement
Cement producers will have to move from a commodity focused, volume production strategy to a more differentiated and diverse production approach, which changes the investment economics for production plants. They will also need to switch from a commodity go-to-market approach to a differentiated offering that leverages and monetizes carbon-consciousness optimally:
- A pull from owners and builders for carbon reduced cements needs to be created
- Cost-plus pricing must evolve into value- and usage-based pricing, which implies a major shift in thinking
- R&D, product management and sales must master the increasing complexity of a broader offering, both technically and commercially
Cement producers will have to transition from a manufacturing-centric perspective to a customer- and market-centric perspective.
- Active and customer-group specific marketing will become crucial
- An active and professional addressing of legislative bodies and political decision-makers will become an important key element
- Producers’ footprint strategies must begin to consider access to carbon capture infrastructure (e.g., pipelines)
A next step: more pre‑fabrication
The industrialization of the cement industry will essentially be driven by two factors:
First, the move of the overall construction industry toward industrialization: modular building. An increasing need for speed, a shortage of skilled labor, the growing relevance of digital tools and increasingly demanding customers, as well as efficiency potential, are driving this development.
Second, industrialized (i.e. prefabricated (pre-cast) cement/concrete modules have significant potential to contribute to decreasing CO2 emissions: Industry experts estimate that pre-casting can reduce the amount of required cement by approximately 10% or more.
- Pre-cast modules require less concrete, and therefore less cement
- High-tech, low-CO2 cements can be used more often and more effectively
- The manufacturing process is more efficient and scrap rates are minimized
With cement compositions and production capabilities improving constantly, these savings potentials are expected to increase further.
All players along the cement value chain should adapt to essentially two new key challenges:
- Overall reduced demand
- The need to reconsider the value chain coverage cement players are aiming to achieve (e.g., should they restructure to become the perfect supplier for existing or new precasting business models? Should they integrate forward, occupying the value chain control point that will have shifted to prefabrication? etc.)
A broader value chain coverage implies a major business model leap with four key challenges:
- Make the product and service needs of architects, planners and investors the starting point of all strategic and go-to-market decisions
- Add a second, more end-to-end business model that is able to master such as product development, product consulting, facility management, etc.
- Manage the complexity of entering competition with own customers
- Restructure their own footprint and operations to retain profitability at reduced cement demand
To achieve this, cement suppliers should consider both the make and buy approaches, but also entering into partnerships to integrate crucial capabilities. This would enable an integrated solution that covers the value chain from cement production to recycling and re-usage. Such a broad value proposition would not only contribute to further decreasing cement production but enable cost savings.
Other players should consider their strategic options:
- Today’s cement and concrete users (e.g., construction companies) should consider integrating backward and precast concrete modules, thereby gaining control over the value chain control point
- Existing players and investors should consider the potential for new business models/startups that focus on the precasting of concrete
Established players will face increasingly strong competition from players who will optimize their business model to succeed in these changing times. Also, new players are likely to enter the industry with innovative business models. Ultimately, this will lead to market share losses for established players.
There are many ‘right’ decisions
In this evolving and challenging environment, it is apparent that there is no single right direction.
The key question becomes what value chain coverage to aim for? Bottom line: doing nothing is not an option.
Special thanks to Björn Reineke and Otto Schulz for co-authoring this work.