Shift in environmental policy and technical progress at VDZ Annual Cement Conference 2016

On September 27/28, 2016, more than 350 experts from the cement and concrete industry and related sectors met in Düsseldorf for their traditional VDZ Annual Cement Conference. This time around, the gathering focused on national and ­European industrial and environmental policy and on the multifarious technoscientific aspects of ­cement processing and concrete technology. The program offered numerous technical reports on such ­topics as the challenges of emissions trading or construction sector developments with impact on the demand for cement and concrete. The award of the VDZ annual Safety at Work prizes and of the 5th Klaus Dyckerhoff prize were the conference’s main highlights.

“Codes and standards concerning such environ­mental-policy issues as emissions trading, energy policy and emissions reduction are becoming increasingly complex,” asserted Gerhard Hirth, president of VDZ – German Cement Works Association, in his opening address. “We therefore must ask ourselves how this is going to affect our business locations in the long term. It means that we will have to look beyond the ends of our own noses to find out which challenges the plant engineering and lime industry will be facing.”

Referring to the changes that are taking place within Germany’s cement industry, Hirth appealed to the country’s political decision-makers to provide “a reliable political context that will increase our planning security and convince us that we, as an industry, are still wanted in this country.” The cement industry, he said, is now, and intends to remain, a dependable counterpart at all policy levels. Moreover, he noted, the branch can take pride in its own performance. “We are building the world with our products. Without cement or concrete, a modern society like ours would not be possible,” declared Hirth.

Later, at the conference’s festive evening event, Gerhard Hirth conferred the VDZ 2015 industrial safety prizes. In addition to 10 first places for mill works, 15 clinker factories were honored with a first prize for accident-free operations. The 2015 accident frequency rate, at 9.45 accidents per million hours worked, again fell below the pre­vious year’s level (10.6). Ever since 1977, the VDZ has awarded its annual Safety at Work prize to honor the commitment of its member companies, thereby helping to motivate the workforce and promote general workplace safety consciousness. Hence, since 1969, the member plants have reduced their accident frequency rate by more than 70 %.

The other aforementioned highlight was the presentation of the 5th Klaus Dyckerhoff Prize to Prof. Dr.-Ing. Siegbert Sprung. That distinction is awarded by the Dyckerhoff Foundation as a way of honoring special achievements in the field of cement production and application. The Dyckerhoff Prize counts among the most widely recognized international awards of relevance. In his laudation, VDZ CEO Dr. Martin Schneider emphasized the outstanding importance of Siegbert Sprung’s achievements. “Much of what we now know about cement and its properties,” Schneider noted, “stems from the work he has done.”

VDZ is the umbrella organization of ­German cement producers. Its current membership of 19 cement companies operate a total of 49 cement­ works in Germany and employ a workforce of around 7900, who together generate an ­annual sales volume of nearly 2.5 billion euros. Three ­German firms and 27 the businesses are also associate members of the VDZ. Since the association was founded more than 135 years ago, the results of its research have helped ensure competitive, environmentally friendly cement production and high-quality concrete construction methods.

The 2017 VDZ Annual Cement Conference will take place in Düsseldorf on September 19/20, 2017.

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