The cement industry is the building block of the nation's construction industry. Few construction projects can take place without utilizing cement somewhere in the design.
U.S. cement production is widely dispersed with the operation of 107 cement plants in 36 states. The top five companies collectively operate 49.6 percent of U.S. clinker capacity with the largest company representing 14.2 percent of all domestic clinker capacity. An estimated 76.7 percent of U.S. clinker capacity is owned by companies headquartered outside of the U.S.
Cement consumption is dependent on the time of year and prevalent weather conditions. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. cement consumption occurs in the six months between May and October. The seasonal nature of the industry can result in large swings in cement and clinker (unfinished raw material) inventories at cement plants over the course of a year. Cement producers will typically build up inventories during the winter and ship them during the summer.
The majority of all cement shipments, approximately 70 percent, are sent to ready-mix concrete operators. The rest are shipped to manufacturers of concrete related products, contractors, materials dealers, oil well/mining/drilling companies, as well as government entities.
The domestic cement industry is regional in nature. The cost of shipping cement prohibits profitable distribution over long distances. As a result customers traditionally purchase cement from local sources. Nearly 98 percent of U.S. cement is shipped to its customers by truck. Barge and rail modes account for the remaining distribution modes.
According to PCA’s Labor-Energy Input study, labor efficiency, measured in cement tons per employee hour, has more than doubled in the past 30 years. This spike in labor efficiency is the result of industry efforts to increase efficiency by automating production and closing small kilns. The average kiln in use today is capable of producing 89.9 percent more clinker than an average kiln produced 20 years ago: 678,000 metric tons in 2012 compared with 357,000 metric tons in 1992.
The cement industry has boosted efficiency by concentrating new capital investment in plants that use the dry process of cement manufacture, and by phasing out operations that rely on the more energy-intensive wet process. Since 1974, the number of wet process kilns has dropped from 234 to 25 -- a decline of 89 percent -- while the number of dry process kilns has only been reduced from 198 to 124. Well over three quarters of existing U.S. clinker production capacity has been built since 1975 -- all utilizing the dry manufacturing process. Currently, about 93 percent of the cement produced in the United States is manufactured using dry process technology.
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