Established in 1998, Litecast Ltd has since become a leading manufacturer of precast concrete floor beams in the United Kingdom. The formation of Litecast – a precast concrete business based in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, and specializing in the manufacture of concrete floor beams – came about in somewhat unique circumstances. It was brought to life by four individuals who had previously worked together at a company by the name of Earthspan, but who were collectively made redundant following its acquisition by Tarmac. With their redundancy money, the group set about creating Litecast, which made a similar, but vastly improved, lightweight T-beam for the residential building sector.
Precast concrete floors for the whole United Kingdom
Litecast located centrally in Warwickshire can supply precast concrete floors throughout the United Kingdom. Previously, Litecast had manufactured 42,250 linear meters of beams each week and the products can be found on housing developments across the UK. All of Litecast floor beams are wet-cast in precision-made steel molds, giving a smooth profile for ease of handling and accurate casting (minimizing sideways bow and upward camber). Litecast produce 150 mm and 225 mm deep joists which have been developed to provide a low-cost, easy-to-install flooring system.
New concrete plant
The key component of this new factory, the new complete batching plant to feed the entire operation, was studied in depth throughout the development process within Litecast, selecting MCT Italy as the best partner for this important step for the group, which should also strengthen their presence in the United Kingdom construction business by starting a proprietary asset for the manufacture of precast elements.
Complete batching plant to feed the entire operation
The plant itself includes a receiving hopper where the trucks discharge their materials and these are then taken via a bucket elevator to the aggregate storage hoppers. The materials are then distributed into the correct compartment through a reversible shuttle belt, and all of these functions are controlled by the MCT aggregate feeding system, which runs independently from the main control system.
Six aggregate hoppers with a capacity of 60 m3 each, i.e. 360 m3 in total, then receive the materials, and these are monitored via laser probes to ensure the precise volumes are both checked for materials used and materials being properly discharged when filled from the aggregate feeding system.
Mobile aggregate weigh batcher
When a mix is called, the materials are collected by MCT’s mobile aggregate weigh batcher with a capacity of 2 m3, the ‘mobile scale’ travels under each compartment and receives the correct material volumes, and it also allows the materials to be discharged in any order allowing a ‘premix’ of material prior to arriving in the mixer. There were several reasons why this was used over a conventional batching /weigh belt arrangement, primarily the greater accuracy of materials being weighed, lower investment costs, and elimination of material spillage.
Optimum delivery around the entire site
The ‘skip hoist’ then takes the materials to the 3000/2000 planetary mixer, which provides the factory with concrete. Upon the mixer platform are the usual components such as cement weighing, water distribution, and admixture and dust extraction.
The mixer has two doors allowing further expansion to a second traveling bucket line if required in the future. Cement is fed from three silos with a capacity of 3 × 100 tons (80 m3) to the mixer. The concrete is discharged into MCT’s traveling bucket, of which two were supplied serving bays 1 and 2, overcoming a total distance of 200 m all of which is controlled via MCT’s own control system, providing the optimum delivery around the entire site in automatic mode. The rollover buckets each have a capacity of 3,000 liters and can travel at speeds of up to 200 m per minute.
The mixers and traveling buckets are washed via MCT’s own-designed washing heads and all the washed water and materials are gathered below the plant where they are separated. The water is recycled back into the plant, while the waste material can also be recycled.
All of the dosing, mixing and concrete distribution is controlled via MCT’s proprietary Compumat system, which is intuitive to use.
Twice the production capacity of its old place
Litecast’s new factory in Ansley Common, Nuneaton, is a 5,400 sq m (58,000 sq ft) building on a 60-acre site that the company has purchased. Production capacity is 72,000 linear meters of precast concrete beams per week, compared with 42,000 linear meters at the old site situated a mile away on the town’s Purley Chase industrial estate. Excluding the cost of the freehold land, Litecast has invested £10m in the new facility. Managing director Jonny Leroux said that the new factory was originally intended to be a replacement for the old site when planning began five years ago. “However, with sales as strong as they have been in the last year, we’re now thinking we may keep some of the old site operational as well,” he said. Litecast, in fact, is now able to double-cast every day and it is aiming to be carbon-neutral.
When looking at the new factory, Jonny Leroux, Managing Director of Litecast, was clear that they had to seek innovative methods of manufacturing for their wet-cast processes and eliminate all vehicle movements within the factory, so their new facility incorporates both bespoke and brand-new machinery that the company believes will revolutionize its industry. “These machines have been designed by ourselves, and through the combined efforts of individuals such as our Works Director, Andrew Hall, and our Maintenance Manager, Steve Smith, we have come up with three machines that massively reduce the labor involved, as well as improving safety, reducing noise and cutting waste,” Jonny enthuses. “Firstly, there is a machine that sweeps the beds, oils the beds and pulls the wires down the length of the bed all at the same time, operated by one man with a remote. Secondly, there is a machine that lifts the beams from the beds and rotates the beams to stack them, and thirdly, there is a band saw that cuts the wires between the beams. We have also removed the use of pouring concrete from ready-mix trucks with casting machines supplied by MCT. Our staff visited several factories prior to investing and saw the casting machines were reliable and we then had them customized to meet the width of the production beds.”
Jonny goes on to state how the ultimate vision for the new facility is for it to be carbon-neutral. “We aim to achieve this through a combination of sustainable energy and significant investment in insulation. The heat for the concrete molds comes from an extensive ground source array which feeds four heat pumps. Additionally, the ground source heat system is used to heat the water that is used in the concrete mix, which reduces the required cement content levels, further reducing our carbon consumption. We have also installed a massive PV (solar panel) array on the roof of the factory and are hoping to get the majority of our electricity from this.”
“There is no gas to site, mains or tank, and the entire building is well insulated, including the batching plant and aggregate bins. This ensures that we are able to cast all year round regardless of external weather conditions. Improvements have also been made to employee welfare, in that the new facility is warmer, safer, quieter and cleaner than the old factory, and there are number of health and safety benefits, too.”
With the factory now in operation for several months, Litecast have seen a dramatic reduction in operational costs through the many innovative systems in place and are now double-casting thanks to the improvements that the new batching plant has given them allowing them to improve their mix quality. Furthermore, the addition of a well-insulated building, constant supply of heat to the insulated beds, and the addition of hot water to the concrete mix were all factors considered by the company when aiming to double-cast in its new factory which is now a reality.
Added-value partner and long-lasting cooperation
Eng. Alessandro DiCesare, Area Manager for MCT, comments: “The whole plant supporting structures, the aggregates storage and all the conveyors are hot dip galvanized, ensuring a long lifespan of the plant, which being the heart of the main factory meant to develop this UK region, will need to operate at full load and efficiency for a very long time, fulfilling its important role for our partner and for this important market of ours. We at MCT fully understand the importance of our supplies in the assets of private companies as well as in the social fabric of the regions hosting them, so we do not compromise with anything concerning quality, efficiency and support. For this latter in particular, the expertise of our local partner PUK Services is a real added value, and it was a pleasure to engage in this project development with them and with the whole Litecast team. The teamwork and the creation of such partnerships is always paramount for the successful outcome of our projects.”
Looking further ahead, however, Jonny envisions more investment and advances for the business to come. “Litecast is exceptionally well located, being just a few miles from the geographic center of England; however, there are logistical issues when we try and deliver to the more remote corners of the country. Therefore, an obvious progression for us would be to invest in additional facilities (initially just for stocking beams, but ultimately for production as well) in the south-west and/or south-east of England. Working with MCT and the other main machinery suppliers was made a lot easier via PUK Services and we would certainly look to continue with the partnership that has been created between the companies from this project.”
Unit 5, Gamma
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Unit 1, Purley Chase Industrial Estate, Pipers Lane
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+44 02476 356 161
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