Ceramitec 2009 – platform of the international ceramic sector

Despite a drop in attendance, this year’s Ceramitec in Munich remained the sector’s international rallying point, as evidenced by its high percentage (~ 60%) of visiting professionals from outside of Germany. In a market environment rendered rocky by the economic crisis, the participating plant and machinery producers and suppliers to the heavy clay industry presented their product assortments in halls A5, A6 and B5.

1 Overview

As expected, the 11th International Trade Fair for Machinery, Equipment, Plants, Processes and Raw Materials for Ceramics and Powder Metallurgy reflected the tense situation in the industry. While the number of visitors was down compared to 2006 (roughly 15 000 trade visitors from more than 90 countries – compared to 22 000 that time around), the share of foreign visitors increased to nearly 60%.

A total of 656 companies (up from 612 exhibitors last time) from 35 countries showcased their products, new developments and innovations. With 33 participating companies, China made its biggest appearance to date at Ceramitec. Nine research institutes, colleges and universities advertised their own activities at a joint exhibition stand for research and higher education. The Ceramitec Forum provided an extensive supporting programme composed of the following events: Energy and Cost Efficiency, Technical Ceramics and Powder Metallurgy Day, Heavy Clay Day, and India Day. This latest Ceramitec included a first-time special exhibition on “Energy and Cost Efficiency”. Situated immediately beside the forum, it‘s purpose was to present technological solutions to trade-fair visitors and to offer food for thought. Speaking of “thought”, the new “ThinkIng” initiative gave school children a chance to meet and talk to leading companies from the sector and find out about the working world of mechanical, electrical and process engineers. The programme was rounded out by further going information on fields of study and job prospects. ThinkIng was initiated and organized by the VDMA Ceramics Machinery Section.


2 The situation in Germany‘s plant and machinery sector

Paul Eirich, managing director of Gustav Eirich GmbH & Co KG, chairman of the Ceramitec exhibitors‘ advisory board, and chairman of the VDMA Ceramics Machinery Section, made it clear at the main press conference that it has become practically impossible to name some sort of sector average that could even come close to presenting a realistic impression of the typical ceramic engineering contractor. With some topical data, Eirich sketched out the present situation of Germany‘s plant and machinery sector:

› new orders through August: 43% lower than last year

› domestic business: down 45%

› foreign business: minus 41%

VDMA, however, is proceeding on the assumption that the new-orders situation has bottomed out, even though there are still huge differences among the various subsectors and individual companies:

Like in the present economic crisis, different companies fared differently during the boom years that preceded it, mainly because they served different customer segments. Most ceramic products used in metallurgy, for example, are consumables, and an incipient pickup in that branch is already having some positive results. By way of contrast, recuperation in the heavy clay and/or construction industries is only yielding positive effects in terms of spare and wear parts. Until the mothballed production facilities are reactivated, little new investment can be anticipated.

The number of German producers of machinery for the ceramic industry (between 35 and 50, depending on whose data is used) remains unchanged, despite the crisis and with no government assistance. Why? Because most German companies in the sector did their homework:

› They have been pressing ahead with the internationalization of sales and services and expanding their immediate presence on the main markets of Asia and Eastern Europe. That has brought them geographically closer to those customers in recent years

› The question of “life cycle costs” has been expanded to encompass “life cycle service”. An increasing number of companies are now offering condition monitoring services in connection with maintenance contracts and 24h/7d availability

› Many companies have acquired or strengthened a second leg to stand on by tapping into new areas of application bordering on, or even far beyond, their traditional ceramic technology

Eirich stressed his view that the global challenges concerning policies on energy and the environment will pose major opportunities for the sector: “Our technologies are what makes sustainable growth possible. Between 1995 and 2006, Germany’s manufacturing industry expanded by 30% but still managed to reduce its overall industrial energy consumption rate by 20%. That corresponds to over 50 million tons of CO2, and we machine builders account for well over half of that.”

In the special international exhibition on „Energy and Cost Efficiency“, information on the following topics of relevance came to light:

› New preparation processes in which conventional wet preparation is replaced by semi-dry or dry preparation

› Various steps of thermal processing help reach conservation goals by reducing losses and improving heatup efficiency

› A holistic approach to production facilities, including all subsystems and auxiliary equipment, is becoming increasingly important. Coupled processes and an integrated energy concept with full utilization of exhaust heat have substantial conservation potential

In technological terms, the industrial sector is excellently positioned, Eirich said -  knowing quite well that the technologies in question are still unsellable in some parts of the world. In many countries that buy from our equipment manufacturers, energy awareness has not yet reached the same level as in the more seasoned industrialized countries. Often, the cost of the requisite initial investment exceeds the potential savings. Even in mature industrialized countries, energy efficiency is still no go-getter when it comes to sales arguments. In most cases, energy conservation measures are implemented when existing production equipment has to be converted or replaced anyway. Plant contractors are aware of the fact that companies‘ propensity to invest remains limited as long as the return on investment consists solely of energy savings with no additional advantages or fulfilled needs.

Finally, Eirich called attention to the ThinkIng initiative. On Wednesday, some 70 secondary school students with a penchant for the natural sciences paid a visit to the trade fair, where they met with various companies and young engineers and became acquainted with study contents and job perspectives.


3 European Ceramic Technology Suppliers (ECTS)

Luca Caramelli, member of the board at European Ceramic Technology Suppliers (ECTS) and CEO at Bongioanni Macchine SpA in Fossano, Italy, explained the work of ECTS. Companies based in Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Italy - 24 members in all - are organized within ECTS, where they pool their strengths and pave the way for joint initiatives and activities like:

› promoting the establishment of competitive production conditions for the industry in Europe

› representing the sector‘s interests vis-à-vis public authorities and institutions at the European and international levels

› informing policymakers and the public about things of relevance to the sector, in particular with regard to planned or altered legislature and/or

› evaluating future markets and technologies

In view of today‘s complex, challenging economic realities, Caramelli is convinced that all ECTS members should concentrate their activities on the following three principal priorities:


3.1 Continue to build together a common, strong and structured working organization

The ceramic industry can be regarded as a niche market, where special equipment and solution features are geared to satisfying specific market needs. This “specific”-based approach means that all players act on their own, thereby creating favourable conditions for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) but not encouraging the emergence of a collective spirit. Most of the time, the various players in the ceramic market are mutually complementary, and sometimes they are each others’ competitors, but they would always benefit from a structured working organization as the cornerstone of a more comprehensive approach to our business.

3.2. Proactively network and be prepared to actively influence the conditions of the market in potential ­future growth areas

Around the world, the ceramic sector is confronted with a strong decline in market volume. Undoubtedly, the crisis we have now been facing for nearly a year is accelerating certain market developments. In a brief, general assessment by region, the well-established European and American markets, for example, are seen to have slowed down very rapidly, and the same applies to Eastern Europe and Russia. Today’s growth markets are located in Northern Africa, the Near East, China, India and South America.

As European ceramic suppliers, we can draw benefit from our long-standing technological expertise and from our sense of innovation. It is our job now to assume an active, key role in promoting the development of ceramic industries on those markets. New building industry standards pertaining both to architecture and to the environment are imposing stricter demands on building materials. European experts facilitate the elaboration of such standards and help customers in those regions meet the criteria. In Caramelli’s view, ECTS can and should help connect local networks and systematically promote their awareness of European technologies. That, he says, is the key.

3.3 Promote sustainable development and work to­gether on the Climate Action Package initiated by the European Union

The European Commission has put forward a package of proposals that will deliver on the European Union‘s ambitious commitments to fight climate change and promote renewable sources of energy through the year 2020. That package, which is intended to help transform Europe into a low-carbon economy, was defined in December 2008. The EU has made a commitment to reduce its overall emissions to at least 20% below 1990 levels by the year 2020. The Climate Action Package and all standards related to carbon emission reduction and sustainable development should be viewed as an opportunity to innovate and make new technologies available to customers. All actors should work together and coordinate their efforts to demonstrate the exceptionally innovative capacities of European ceramic technology suppliers. This will require that ways and means of lowering energy consumption be identified at every step along the way in the life cycle of any end product, starting with efficient kilns with lower operating costs and less impact on the environment, and continuing all the way up to dedicated equipment for ceramic products that meet the requirements of sustainable development. ECTS members should pool their know-how and expertise to better understand and anticipate new and different legal requirements and to strengthen their own activities within the framework of the EU programme.


4 Heavy Clay Day

Together with the trade fair organizers, the trade journal Zi Brick and Tile Industry International hosted Ceramitec‘s first “Heavy Clay Day” on Thursday, October 22. The focal theme “Energy Efficiency” ran like a red thread through the entire well-attended event. For a selection of presented papers, please go to www.zi-online.info.


5 TBE Annual Meeting

TBE – Tiles & Bricks Europe - took advantage of the trade fair to hold their annual general assembly in Munich this time. After paying a visit to “Heavy Clay Day” and the various product group meetings on Thursday, the heavy clay branch got together at the BMW Museum on Thursday evening, where they were able to exchange views and experience in a very impressive vehicular setting. TBE President Dr. Heimo Scheuch was happy to welcome as new members the representatives from Lithuania and Cyprus.

The general assembly followed on Friday, opening with activity report by Christophe Sykes. Then, guest speaker Frank Appel of Hans Lingl Anlagenbau und Verfahrenstechnik GmbH & Co. KG surveyed “Global Savings Potentials by Utilizing Modern Engineering Ceramic Building Methods”.

Next, representatives of the various product groups informed the audience about their present activities and upcoming tasks and responsibilities.

Dr. Heimo Scheuch once gain urgently summoned his brick-and-tile colleagues to work together in solving problems that call for joint efforts. After that, reports from the various member countries were given by B. Martinet from France, and J. van den Bosche, who surveyed a number of current topics. Van den Bosche’s statement that the construction industry is the economy’s workhorse – not its dairy cow – was particularly well received.

For Gerhard Koch from Austria, the brick house of the future is an optimized low-energy structure that optimally utilizes energy from sustainable sources.

Next, C. Vieira-Paschoalique gave some general information on building centres, accentuating the great benefits of home construction for the economy in general. Private home construction, she said, accounts for a large share of the gross national product, but governmental assistance programmes are, unfortunately, all too frequently devised strictly for the financial sector.

Finally, Dr. Scheuch recapitulated the current situation: global markets are shrinking, and home construction is collapsing. The brick and tile industry is competing with other products – not with itself. The sector must not stand still, but keep moving ahead with high-quality, sustainable, energy-efficient heavy clay products and ushering in new solutions and improved goods. The common goal is to get bricks and tiles anchored in the hearts and minds of architects as modern building materials.

The next general assembly will take place in Vienna in 2010.


6 Products and innovations

Spread over 44 000 m² and four halls, products and innovations from all corners of the ceramic industry were there to be seen and admired at this year’s Ceramitec. Hall A5, for example, housed the exhibitors of refractory materials, kiln furniture, kilns and appurtenances, plus the research community and the Ceramitec Forum. The producers of raw materials and additives, powders and operating resources/auxiliaries exhibited in Hall A6, while heavy clay plant, machinery and equipment were to be found in Hall B5 and the fine ceramics, refractories, industrial ceramics and powder metallurgy in Hall B6.

Most of the old-familiar heavy clay companies were on hand again – despite the crisis. The Keyria joint exhibition stand, however, was populated only by Germany‘s Keller HCW and the French company Ceric. In the meantime, creditor-protection proceedings have begun for parent company Keyria SAS, and several subsidiaries in France are now subject to reorganization insolvency proceedings. Conversely, a number of new firms and enterprises that have expanded their product array to include heavy clay equipment debuted this time around.

Although we have already reported at length about new products and innovations at Ceramitec in Zi9/2009 and Zi10/2009, we nevertheless wish to touch upon an additional selection of innovations and relevant information here, too.


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