Ceramic Industry

INSIDE CI: A Perfect Stagecoach

August 1, 2006
Perhaps you've seen this quote attributed to Edward de Bono: "Removing the faults in a stagecoach may produce a perfect stagecoach, but it is unlikely to produce the first motor car." I can't help but think that a savvy stagecoach manufacturer could have tried to accomplish both, and that's what most companies in our industry are attempting today. Modern ceramic and glass manufacturers face a dual challenge-how to cost-effectively manufacture high-quality standard products while simultaneously developing new products and services to remain competitive and meet increasing customer needs. Luckily, many innovative tools are available to help them succeed.

R.A.K. Ceramics, headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, has invested in state-of-the art technology and modern manufacturing methods to help it become a world leader in tile manufacturing. Founded in 1991, R.A.K. produces over 105 million square meters of tile per year-as well as sanitaryware and porcelain products-and enjoys sales that top $400 million. The company's innovative processes for mixing, pressing and decorating have helped fuel its success. To read more of the company's story, please see our "Modern Marvel" feature.

The outstanding research and development work performed in universities and laboratories around the world continually helps fuel new opportunities for industry. From a new ceramic building material for low-cost housing and nanomaterials for enhanced building products to corrosion inhibitors for military coating systems and a new technique for carbon nanotube analysis, research is under way to advance technology in the ceramic and glass industries. Our "R&D Overview" provides the details on several of these exciting projects.

Today's regulation-filled world requires manufacturers to be continually aware of the environmental rules that apply to their locations. Keeping abreast of the various methods of compliance is a necessary evil, but innovative processes can actually help keep costs in line. The use of sodium sorbents in dry injection scrubbers, for example, has been shown to minimize waste, providing reduced costs when compared to wet scrubbers (see "Reducing Emissions with Sodium Sorbents").

In the brick industry, several manufacturers have discovered that firing with petroleum coke, an inexpensive energy source, can provide significant cost savings vs. natural gas. Compliance issues regarding the sulfur content of the coke need to be addressed on a local level, but nevertheless, this existing technology offers a variety of potential benefits (see "Petroleum Coke: The Fuel of the Future?").

One brick manufacturer recently undertook a modernization plan that has resulted in added capacity, along with reduced fuel and labor costs. Check out "State-of-the-Art Soft Mud" to find out how the company revamped its forming, handling and firing processes to achieve a faster firing cycle and significant fuel reduction.

Manufacturers are taking advantage of a multitude of modern manufacturing methods to help them meet today's challenges and ensure their future success. If that old stagecoach company had had as many tools at its disposal, who knows what it could have achieved?