PPC Zimbabwe is PPC’s wholly owned subsidiary in Zimbabwe, acquired in 2001 but dating back to 1913 when the factory 15km east of Bulawayo was the first cement company in Zimbabwe under the name of Premier Portland Cement (Pvt) Ltd. Packed in jute bags, its products initially went on sale to the public in September 1914, with exports to Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and the Belgian Congo beginning in 1916.The factory at Colleen Bawn was established in 1946.
PPC Zimbabwe's core brand is Unicem, cement made at the Bulawayo factory from high-quality raw materials and found in virtually every key structure in the region - from Harare International Airport to mighty dam walls, such as the Kariba Dam.
A second manufacturer, Rhodesia Cement Ltd (Rhocem), was established in 1946, and work on a new factory was begun at Colleen Bawn. Opened by Prime Minister Sir Godfrey Huggins (Lord Marlven), Rhocem came into production in 1949 with the capacity of 80 000 tonne/annum. Premier Portland followed up with a new 80 000 tonne/annum kiln at Cement Siding in 1950.
The early ‘60s, however, saw demand plunge by almost 50% and by 1963 Premier Portland and Rhocem were working uneconomically at one third at their capacity. The two firms merged their cement-making assets into a joint holding company to rationalise production and United Portland Cement Co. (Pvt) Ltd (UNICEM) was born, with a 50/50 shareholding in 1965.
Acquiring PPC Zimbabwe was identified as another step in the development and growth of PPC’s geographic footprint - part of a focused growth strategy to catapult PPC from a South African business to the leading supplier of cement in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, steadily increasing our exports across the continent.
That rationale is unchanged. Despite the numerous challenges of operating a business in Zimbabwe over the past decade, members of the team at PPC Zimbabwe have repeatedly demonstrated their initiative and willingness to develop innovative solutions to maintain their plant in the absence of parts, retain their skills base by working with their employees to address individual needs, and empower their communities through a range of projects that spans clinics, schools and vegetable gardens.
Today, PPC Zimbabwe operations can produce 760 000 tons of quality cement per annum for customers in Zimbabwe and into Africa through Botswana and Zambia. Working with some of the most sophisticated plant in the region, the 580-strong workforce typifies the resilient, professional ethos of the PPC group.This is a team ready for new challenges, ready to act as PPC’s springboard into Africa, and just as ready to play its part as Zimbabwe begins to rebuild a nation and an economy, and resume its role as one of the largest sub-Saharan markets outside South Africa.
The demand for cement rose in the 1970s and the upward trend continued through the ‘80s and ‘90s. Expansion of the production and handling facilities at Bulawayo and Colleen Bawn was required to meet market demand that has been ongoing.
The two PPC Zimbabwe plants in Colleen Bawn and Bulawayo are among the most modern in southern Africa and well located to serve both the Zimbabwean and neighbouring export markets. Combined, they have an annual capacity of 760 000 tons of cement. The Bulawayo plant can produce another 300 000 tons of cement per annum with clinker supplied from PPC’s South African operations, while the installation of a new cooler and upgrade to the kiln at Colleen Bawn increased capacity by around 20% in 2010.
In February 2010 the old Rotary Cooler was replaced by a state of the art hydraulic operated Grate Cooler. This is more energy efficient and ensures a higher grade clinker output. The six months downtime needed for this project was also used to refurbish the kiln and upgrade the computer system.
The new computer system of German origin is highly customised to maximise and optimise the output of the Colleen Bawn plant. The Siemens S5 PLC was upgraded to a Siemens PCS S7, which is unmatched in the Southern African Cement Industry. These developments mean that the output of clinker increases from 1800 tonnes to a maximum of 2500 tonnes per day.