Consumer habits are always changing. In some industries, this change is obvious. For example, retail shoppers have stop flocking to malls and now make their purchases online. But in an industry such as concrete, the shift can be much slower for a number of reasons.
However, consumer habits when it comes to concrete are changing and a new foundation is being laid. Bagged concrete, which has been a staple of building for as long as most people can remember, is on the way out. Ready-mix concrete is now becoming the product of choice for consumers of all sizes in Southeast Asia with Thailand taking the lead.
“We have seen a change in consumer behaviour in Thailand. Everyone is starting to move away from bag concrete to ready-mix concrete,” Supachai Tirawattanakul, Siam City Cement Mini RMX Project Manager, explains. “The issue when it comes to ready-use concrete is in rural locations. In these areas, local distributors lack the knowledge and quality control needed to make it a viable option.”
It’s estimated that nearly 800,000 cubed meters of ready-mix concrete was used in Thailand last year. To put this into perspective, a small project, such as a one-storey house, requires between 30 and 50 cubed meters of ready-mix concrete on average. Larger projects obviously need much more.
However, ready-mix concrete was mostly used in Thailand’s urban areas. That is now changing. Local distributors in Thailand’s rural areas are being trained and provided with the support required to offer ready-mix concrete to consumers as an alternative to bagged concrete. Supachai notes this could be huge for provinces such as Samut Nakhon, Chang Mai and Udon Thani, where lots of building is currently happening but ready-mix concrete infrastructure hadn’t been in place.
“The use of bag concrete will decrease as more users, both individuals and construction companies, move to ready-mix concrete,” Supachai says. “We’re actively training distributors on the products to ensure it is available more widely throughout the country. That’s because ready-mix concrete is easier to use and provides much more consistent quality.”
But there is another reason ready-mix concrete is needed in rural areas. According to Tanit Sorat, Vice-Chairman of the National Labour Development Advisory Council, new local workers are insufficient to support the country’s business and industrial sectors. This means it is difficult to find the labour needed for projects that use bag concrete, especially as more people migrate to urban areas
The amount of labour needed for ready-mix concrete is far less when compared to bag concrete. But this is far from the only benefit.
“Firstly, ready-mix concrete is cleaner than bags. People don’t realize just how much dust bagged concrete creates. The bags themselves are waste that needs to be disposed of too. The mess between the dust and bags can be significant. Additionally, ready-mix concrete is exactly what its name implies – ready to use. This is different from bag concrete which requires mixing with sand and water along with the labour required to do it,” Supachai details.
And while education and training on ready-mix concrete continues in the rural areas of Thailand, some people and companies in urban areas haven’t completely let go of the bag. The story is similar throughout Southeast Asia with pricing remaining a key issue. Ready-mix concrete costs more than bag concrete initially, but when you factor in other considerations, the price ends up being the same, if not cheaper in some cases.
Supachai concludes, “In addition to reducing time and manpower needed, ready-mix concrete can eliminate inconsistencies that using bag concrete can have. The result is a better overall product at a competitive price.”