Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Issues in the World of Cement

At the end of every year, we tend to look back on what we have accomplished in our respective industries. Has it been a year for growth, or have we hit a plateau? What is working for our sector, and what isn't? The global cement industry generated a lot of talk this year – in particular, because its year-end results were so bipolar in the different parts of the world. Europe and the Americas struggle a bit, while the industry is booming in Nigeria. It's an interesting sector to study because despite the fact that cement is a material that everyone needs, the production and distribution process faces many issues. Even big name players in the cement world, like Alex F Bouri, face these worries, despite how rapidly their businesses have grown. 

Energy Consumption
Everywhere you look, someone is discussing 'going green,' 'global warming,' and how to reduce 'carbon footprints.' These buzzwords have been around for the past decade or so and aren't going anywhere. Needless to say, with a bulk product like cement, it's hard to cut back on the consumption of energy due to the need to collect raw materials. This always has, and probably always will, cause issues for cement giants to some extent.

Durability Concerns
We want to industrialize – and fast. The need for immediate gratification means that the formula of cement is always being adjusted so that it will dry more quickly. Of course, cement that dries quickly will have other issues – such higher levels of tricalcium silicate, which makes it crack more easily. As of yet, the perfect formula for cement has not been discovered.

In the same vein of energy consumption is the concern about emissions. One of the main byproducts of making concrete is carbon dioxide, and cement companies are the biggest culprits of CO2 pollution. Regulations have been put in place in many countries in an attempt to reduce these emissions, but hopefully technology advances as such that they will not be such a huge concern some years down the line.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Cement Industry: Why it's Crucial, Crisis or Not

In the past some fifteen years, the amount of cement produced in the entire world has doubled – and then some, to 3.4 billion tons. That's a lot of cement, which is usually reflective of the world's status of industrialization on the whole. But over the past few years, there's been an awful lot of cement talk that's got people a bit worried.

During the financial crisis around 2008-2009, there was a pretty big lag in the cement industry that lasted for about two years. Finally, it jumped back up by almost 10% in 2010. Progress slowed, but continued, throughout the next year.

We keep a close eye on the cement industry, and why? What do industry leaders like Holcim and Alex F. Bouri's Seament Holding have to do with us? What we might not recognize is that cement is quite an interesting – and telling – industry because it's a very local one. As a matter of fact, about 95% of the cement that is produced is used in the same country of its production.

And right now, the sector is downsizing quite a bit in terms of company shares. Some two decades ago, the six industry giants made up about 10% of the cement production around the globe. That number has grown – to 25%. 

The industry depends on emerging markets, which purchase and use the vast majority of the cement that is produced – 90% in comparison with the 65% it was two decades ago. 

When cement production slows, so do local economic support systems. When there's not enough supply to meet the demand, industrialization slows. And when people aren't buying cement, we know there's something wrong. There have been recent problem areas in the industry – not much activity in the western hemisphere, for one – but it's important for those in the industry to find a way to reduce their debts and continue their supply, which may call for new ideas.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Three Tips for Increasing the Size of your Business

Building a business that reaches a national or global audience and starting from the ground up isn't a dream that's unattainable. Yes, it requires lots of hard work, but so many entrepreneurs have done it in the past. Just look at Alex F Bouri, who started his cement company just by trading in Nigeria on a small business loan and soon went global, or any of the many corporate businesses that are still family-owned, like Mars candy. It's not impossible, but with the Internet, technology, and new advertising, you certainly have to get creative. Here are a few tips for bringing in more customers and therefore the revenue you need to expand your reach.

Create an Online Presence
This is absolutely imperative for any business in today's world. If you're not online, you're simply unable to compete with your competitors who are. You're missing out on a huge audience, and this is one of the easiest ways to go global. Not to mention, it opens up a whole new world of marketing. At the very least you should ensure that you have an informative and clean website. To take it a step further, make social media accounts for your company and engage with customers. It's never a bad idea to make it possible for customers to purchase products or services online within reason.

Set Yourself Apart
The only way that you can overcome your competitors is to offer something they don't have. Look at their campaigns and see what aspect of their business they are focusing on. For example, if you're a cleaning service and your competitors are advertising how inexpensive they are, offer competition by advertising that you're thorough and use environmentally-friendly cleaning products. This will help you clinch a new audience and perhaps even win over some customers who are loyal to your competitor.

Do it Gradually
As your profits begin to increase, buy new things little by little. Don't take out a huge loan, purchase a huge new storefront, add to your inventory, buy vehicles, and the like all at once. By doing it as you can afford it, you'll be financially in a better place and the growth of your business will continue to happen naturally.