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Do not buy a pig in a poke



The Association of Cement Producers estimates that in 2013 on the market went about 700 thousand tonnes of „similar to cement” products, including a significant quantity of products with reduced quality parameters. Their application may end by catastrophe.



Dawid Hajok


   Counterfeited cement goes on the market under different trade names, and very little can be done with it. One can only educate and warn about a consequence of their use. The history of our hero perhaps will become a warning and will let to guard against a mistake for the others.



   For that story, we will change a little bit a hitherto form. Our story has a few characters, and the narrator is Danuta Wojtyniak, the manager of constructions in dolnośląskie voivodeship. Specialisation of floorings. At the turn of 2010/2011 year the company, in which they work, it was a victim of wrong information. After over two years since the execution of assignments, in the next investments which were realising, floorings started to crumble. When Mrs Danuta began figuring out what is the cause of the problem, it established that the cement has an unknown origin. However, piecemeal.


Drama in four acres.


   Our story is kind of drama, and it all is taking place in four acts. Its actors are:


1) labourer – what they will give me, I will pour

2) entrepreneur (more precisely two: leader of lady Danuta and colleague from a competitive company, both of them have over ten years in Floor Matting)

3) A trader, here commercial agent – from a business point of view, the most often – a professional, who knows what he exactly sells.

4) Work manager – Mrs Danuta – the new one in floor matting, no idea about concretes but she has always been hungry for knowledge.

5) Cement: CEM I 42,5 that is real Cement and CEM II 32,5 that is mix cement-similar. The best is CEM I 42,5 Górażdże


Act no 1. 2013


   For the first time, Mrs Danuta must make an order for cement on her own. She asks her leader what they need to order? Then he replies briefly: „Take Górażdże at this building” (Gorażdże is a brand name). – After that statement, I realised that the cement needs to have good quality. When I asked how thoroughly, I did not get any precision response. Before I started to investigate it turned out that in a popular building market there is only one type of cement, so there is no problem with the choice – Mrs Danuta relates.

   While in the shop she goes to the technical adviser and asks what are the differences which occur between the leading producers? In response, she only hears that Górażdże is the best. – That was the whole feedback that she got from the technical adviser. When I read a little bit it turned out that reportedly better Górażdże is CEM V and from opinions, that inferior Lafarge is CEM II, ironically – adds Mrs Danuta. Confusion is getting even bigger. However, being unable to find the response to the affecting problems, she calls to colleague from the competitive building company. She follows up questions about what kind of cement they get. Respons is again sparing with words: „the best is Nowo-Hudzki” (still the brand name).

- When I begin to dig this topic, asking for details, nobody could answer with a precision response. A dealer from a warehouse in which is supplies competition whether not. Overheard opinion becomes a dogma. Colleague really believes the long time that the product which he uses is reliable – Mrs Danuta replies. – However, a few months later, while I know something more about cement, I’m going to go to his building and look over the package of „Nowo-Hudzki”. It turns out that CEM V/B – Mrs Danuta states.


Act no 2


   The following months have passed. Mrs Danuta knows now what kind of cement she is looking for but does not actually understand why. Her choice confined merely to the CEM II A-LL or CEM II BM-V LL. From the report of our narrator, it is clear that answers of distributors on building material stores, asked about what kind of cement they use are still unclear: 42,5 and 32,5. Some people also know the name of a cement factory. Naturally, they also know trademarks like „cement Standard”. – When I ask the question „what kind of cement it is?” for that better-acquainted person, he replies that 32,5. Hence I continue by asking what kind of cement? He goes to a computer trying to find some information. He replies: You know what… there is only info that it is for concretes, masonry and plastering mortar, OOOO!!! It will be useful for you – states an employee and I want to yell.


Act no 3.


   Mrs Danuta is after coaching SPC. – I am a little broken about what I have learned from there. After all, I know realities being at the buildings. Obviously in a fast way I order my leader to select cement diligently. Henceforth each bag need to have my approval. I recommended the same proceeding to my colleague competitor – Mrs Danuta says.

   Someday the problem with cement delivery occurs again. A director of the building offers his support. He promises that he will order it on his own. – Perfectly, I think. I ask what kind of cement they order? In response, I hear: „32,5”. One heaves a sigh. I thought that only those (uneducated) distributors see it in this way. After fast coaching finally I ordered what I wanted to (CEM II A-LL) – adds Mrs Danuta.

Finally, the shipment was realised – 14 palettes. The building is going into the best and cement pours in bags. – I come back after three days. I cast a glance from which cement factory is that product. I look how boy flows CEM V into screed finish unit. I do a quick investigation, and it is clear that in a warehouse there is no more „two” so they added five palettes of „five” cause… what is the difference between them? The employees thought that a package was changed (here I am sounding breasts because it is my fault that he was not well informed) – relates a narrator of our drama.


Act no 4.


   Here is a phone to Mrs Danuta from a competitor and he says that they had a problem with the transportation of cement, so his guardian sent him another one, as good as the old one. Mrs Danuta looks at a photo of a label on the bag which was done by her colleague. – In the warehouse the had to have powerless mines while there came back 28 of unaffected palettes of product with „Cement 32,5” trademark.


   This situation shows how purchases of cement look in practice on our buildings. Believe me when I say that these are not individual incidents. Every day I am on this building sites, and I talk with their directors, with foremen, owners of companies and their employees. I can assure that such ignorance is unfortunately standard – deplores the fact, Mrs Danuta.



   A company in which I work now also bears consequences of lacking information. Two years after the end of construction work, in investments where they were supervisors, floorings started to crush massively.

- When the next complaint appeared, I was even richer by the knowledge about cement and how the shopping was looking like. Fastly I have found invoices from that period, and it was clear that we were taking the cement of only one, well-known building market. I was surprised that after giving the code of a product on a hotline, the employees were not able to provide the name of producer and a type of cement (if my memory serves me well, on the invoices was position „code of the product” and as a name of product „Cement 32,5”.

Only after e-mail correspondence gentleman stated that „according to a supplier (who does not drive for them for a long time) it is exactly a mix with the trademark of „Cement 32,5” Fortunately, they were only floorings. Certainly, the cost of servicing is enormous, but there was no tragedy.



Check how it works


 Available for sale products which after checking a code turn out to be fly ash and cement mixes, are not a good material for concrete production.- Calls prof. Jan Deja, The Head of the Association of Cement Producers office. Those less expensive products we can often call „similar-to-cement”


SPC regularly monitors the marketplace, but the scale of the phenomenon is difficult to manage. It is necessary for clients to check what they buy. According to the analysis of Association in 2012, when prosperity in the building was better than in 2013, on the marketplace may go even 900 thousands tonnes of products „similar-to-cement”. Andrzej Ptak, the chairman of Association of Cement Producers highlights that Poland is currently on the 4th place in Europe in terms of the size of cement production and meaning of cement industry for the national economy is enormous.


Thirteen of cement factories operating in the area of the country belongs to the most cutting- edge in Europe. Those factories within last, dozen years were updated of the cost 10 billion pln. Cement industry in Poland employs directly over 24 thousand people. Each year pays in form of different taxes from 1,5 to 1,7 billion pln.

   For the time being, the Association was established in extreme cases  65% of air ash content in counterfeit cement. The persistence of such material, instead of required in standards at least 32,5 MPa, it was stated at 14 MPa.

   In 2013 there were produced 14,45 mln tonnes (decrease about 7,5%), and it was sold 14,61 mln tonnes of cement (decrease about 7,6%). Export in 2013 year was increased approximately 48,7% – to 373 thousand tonnes, and import decreased about 36,5%. – to 179 thousands of tonnes. In 2014 year, an industry expects of growth in sales of cement at the level from 3% to 5%.

   On the other hand according to the newest database, in January of 2014, production of cement in Poland was about 521 thousands of tonnes in terms of 384 thousands of tonnes year ago, what means 34,4% more than a year ago. The sale was also more significant – it was about 553 thousands of tonnes in terms of 407 thousands of tonnes in the January 2013 year, which means a growth of approximately 35,7%.


 We want to protect buyers against very unfavourable occurrence, which is the counterfeit cement. Half of the unreliable producers thrive on a positive connotation of the „cement” word which is associated with a high-quality product. On the bag is written by big letters „cement” and under it – with tiny handwriting – mix of fly ash and cement.


   Research in Demoskop has shown that the average client does not pay attention to those inscriptions.


   We caution against buying a  pig in a poke– Jan Deja highlights – The Head of Association of Cement Producers.


The cement industry is a serious part of building production in Poland, and their representatives want to talk about their good and also those bad sites openly. – We operate responsible companies by investing tens of billions pln, and it is understood that we can not look at business in point of view of the company which today works and tomorrow it does not exist – Jan Deja says.

As he adds, we produce a product which is usually „hidden” in concrete. Outside the building composition, we see it very rarely. We are satisfied only then when provided by us product will be correctly used in the production of concrete.

Jan Deja highlights that Association of Cement Producers is interested in buying by clients only those products with certified quantities. – It primarily concerns the cement in the bag, whereby few nice years we are observing a wave of manufacturers who offer counterfeit products which do not follow criteria of prescribed to cement, hence those who should not be used in concrete constructions. We want to defend consumers against negative occurrence which is counterfeit cement – says the Head of Association of Cement Producers.


Choose  „Reliable Cement”


   It is worth to pay attention and know what product you buy. – For a few years, we conduct a campaign „Reliable Cement” of which sign is an orange arrow. That sign has also products subject to not only monitoring at the stage of production but also it is a subject of the on-site verification at the phase of distribution. Accredited laboratories occurs in a building composition, it buys bags with cement, who is doing research and determine if a producer supplies exactly that product which he declared – finishes Jan Deja. To help users of cement to make an informed choice we decided to compare the features of concrete prepared with cement coming from cement factory, marked on the bag logotype of „Reliable Cement” Company and concrete made from the similar-to-cement product. The cement which is produced in cement factory is a material meeting the requirements of an actual standard – hence a material foreseen for preparation of concrete elements and construction mortars. The cement-similar product is a mix of cement with additions, often in a quantity which does exceed the permitted standards. Considering what kind of components is used, the products do not meet with the requirements of actual standards for cement of common usage. Hence they do not provide a guarantee of the right level of security in case of their usage like traditional cement.

Both – the cement and products cement-similar are available in supermarkets and building warehouses.

   We have bought a few bags of each product. Then we wanted to prepare concrete mixes and investigate and compare their features, so we went to an accredited laboratory.

As the first parameter, we compared the workability of mortars.

We have made from the bought concrete and the cement-similar product the standard mortars. We took the same ones – predicted by standards – quantities of cement and the similar-cement product, standard sand and the batched water.

Preparation of mortar with standard cement mortars content we have undergone a consistency assessment by the method of table flow.

Mortar on cement from cement factory showed flow about 19 cm, what from the builder’s point of view or a person preparing a concrete mix it is a very beneficial consistency.

Mortar prepared on a cement-similar product characterised with definitely lower consistency or lack of it.


If you want to get the same consistency which we got on cement from the cement factory to mortar on the cement-similar product we need to add about 20% more of water.

Unfortunately, the necessity of adding the higher quantity of water to mortar prepared at the cement-similar product affect on reduction in resistance both in the initial period of hardening, like also after the standard period – after 28 days.


Let’s sum up the first research.

Standard mortar prepared at a cement produced in the cement factory has an excellent workability – characteristics for this type of binder.

Mortar prepared as the standard mortar at the cement-similar product characterises by lack of workability. The assurance the workability of cement or concretes on this product, by adding more quantity of water, will associate with reduction of resistance and sustainability. And this can lead to catastrophe.

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