Brick kilns are cold across the Czech Republic
The heart of every brickworks is the kiln. It has now gone cold and production has stopped. Such was the demand for bricks last year that planned shutdowns at most brickworks did not happen. Now the situation is different: warehouses are full, demand has fallen due to higher prices, inflation and mortgage interest, and production lines need regular maintenance. However, as members of the Brickmakers’ Association of Bohemia and Moravia report, this is the first time that production has stopped across the country.
“All repairs and shutdowns are scheduled for the winter months. Firstly, it is necessary to bring the machines into perfect condition, to make planned service interventions, and also the brickmakers are responding to the government’s appeal to try to find gas savings for our plants. This measure will save the whole sector around 15 per cent of its annual gas consumption. The market is beginning to consolidate. We already have enough goods in stock both in assortment and quantity,” says Jan Fiala, secretary of the Brickmakers’ Association and representative of Brickworks Sterboholy.
“This year was really turbulent and offered us many challenges. We are living in times that bring many uncertainties as a result of the development of energy prices. Our production costs will increase by 40 per cent year-on-year, so we do not expect a significant drop in the prices of our products. Stability is helped by the strength of the Group, which has enabled us to plan strategically and buy gas in the long term, so the crisis has not affected us to such an extent. In view of current events, it is more than obvious that 2023 will be a challenging year, not only for the construction segment. It must be said that even our company has scenarios that foresee a shutdown in order to reduce overall gas consumption in the critical winter period. The second reason is the planned investments in innovation and maintenance at the individual plants after this turbulent period. In the planned shutdowns at the individual production plants, we want to improve technology and production equipment. We believe that investments in production lines will increase our production capacity and thus improve our ability to meet our customers’ requirements. For our partners, we want to continue to be a stable partner that delivers a complete portfolio of products to our customers in the coming year. For 2023, we are also taking on new challenges in the form of ESG projects and new innovations,” says Kamil Jeřábek, CEO of Wienerberger Czech Republic.
“Next year we will build photovoltaic power plants for the Stod, Jezernice and Novosedly plants. Their combined output will be 3.5 megawatt hours, the cost is in the tens of millions of CZK. We are looking for savings: we have started heat pumps that return part of the energy back for the dryers and we are using waste heat from the furnaces,” adds Kamil Jeřábek
We compiled the other responses into a poll, in which took part:
Marek Žídek, Managing Director of KM BETA, a.s.
Petr Porubský, Sales and Marketing Director of HELUZ cihlářský průmysl v.o.s,
For how long do you plan the shutdown?
Marek Žídek: The duration of the shutdown will depend mainly on the volume of stock. Since we started the shutdown earlier this year, we can start production at any time from February according to the needs of the market.
Petr Porubský: The technological shutdown is planned across all production plants in the range of 2 to 3 months.
How far in advance do you have to order spare parts? What has changed compared to previous years?
Marek Žídek: The lead time is gradually getting shorter, but it is still in the order of months and longer than it used to be before 2021.
Petr Porubský: We keep essential parts in stock. The goal is to minimize unexpected disruptions in production. We have arranged service partners at least six months in advance.
Do you have sufficient stocks of goods in your warehouses for the downtime? Don’t customers have to worry about supply disruptions?
Marek Žídek: Yes, we do. We have sufficient stocks. As soon as they are exhausted, we are ready to start production.
Petr Porubský: We were one of the few companies that did not restrict order intake during the whole year and we met the announced delivery dates within the framework. We manage the same during shutdowns, which are planned with regard to stock capacity in accordance with customer requirements. Customers therefore do not have to worry about supply interruptions from HELUZ.
What do you focus on during a shutdown?
Marek Žídek: There will be extensive modifications aimed at both improving quality and reducing energy costs. We are currently in the process of tendering for a supplier of a solar power plant that will be used to partially cover our energy consumption and whose connection to the grid has already been approved.
Petr Porubský: During the shutdowns, we will focus on replacing wear parts. Preventive inspection and maintenance are reasonable measures after a busy period.