The CBA represents the clay brick and paver manufacturers of Southern Africa.

We inspire sustainable, contemporary brick architecture and building design in all areas of the built environment: commercial, residential and landscape.

The 80:20 rule of brickmaking

Dr Garth Tayler, a consultant in Ceramic Science and heavy clay production spoke on the 80:20 Rule as applied to sustainable brick manufacture.

Back in 1906 the Italian engineer, philosopher, economist and visionary Vilfredo Pareto developed the Pareto Principle, later known as the 80:20 Rule. Pareto found that 80% of the land in Italy at the time was owned by 20% of the population. He developed the now well known 80:20 Rule which has evolved into a valuable QA/QC tool.

  • 20% of your customers represent 80% of your sales.
  • 20% of your time produces 80% of your results.

This truth is worth applying in our day to day business practice. It is all about working smarter not harder!

Sustainable brick-making

In my years of experience, I have seen how the 80:20 rule applies to sustainable brick-making. A vital truth is that 80% of our success comes from our management of our raw materials. Yet we often focus so much of our efforts in other areas!

To be sustainable, we need to focus on our raw materials in order to get the best out of the clays we use. This is often one of the last places that is assessed.

Do we really know if we are using the optimum combination of clays and other components in our works-mix? An organised programme of analysis and evaluation of our clays is the best thing we can do to get the best out of our materials.

As an industry, we cannot afford to accept high waste levels. Excessive waste of our precious, carefully blended materials is not a sustainable practice. Furthermore, next to achieving the optimum blend of our clays, the selection of the best and most appropriate technology is vital to our long term success as an industry. The 80:20 Rule can also be applied to our production processing practices.

Raw material optimisation

Apply a proven 3-point procedure for a successful, sustainable outcome:

  1. Use Mineralogical Analyses (XRD), Chemical Analyses (XRF) and Physical Property testing to pin-point the “Bad Actors” and the “Good Actors” in our mix. Then minimise the bad actors - eliminating them when feasible - and working with the good actors to optimise the mix.              
  2. Use a Test Matrix in the Lab, followed by selected production test runs to find optimum drying and firing properties. Use lab procedures first, rather than using your production plant to do tests. A production environment does not always give answers and is disruptive and costly.  
  3. Combine the best findings from this organised, systematic approach to achieve the best product result.

Long term sustainability

It is often thought that going to the detailed efforts I have outlined above is too expensive and not worth the effort. I would suggest the opposite. For our survival it is worth executing a phased action plan.

To summarise, I recommend the following phases of improvement:

  • Raw Material/Body mix optimisation
  • Install technology to increase productivity
  • Install appropriate dryer technology
  • Install appropriate kiln technology
  • Review of sustainability annually
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