Bathroom products manufacturer, Roca Group, has invested in the world’s first electric tunnel kiln for sanitaryware. In an effort to decarbonise the inherent energy and carbon-intensive production of ceramic goods, the company has taken a decisive step towards electrifying its production processes at its Laufen plant in Gmunden (Austria) thanks to the cutting-edge technology from Keramischer OFENBAU, world technology leader in the manufacture of ceramic kilns.
The German kiln manufacturer has been focusing on sustainable innovation for over 25 years and is a market leader in energy efficient ceramic kilns, making it the ideal partner for Roca Group’s decarbonisation project. After two years of development, the first electric tunnel kiln for sanitaryware has successfully started production of complex ceramic pieces in Gmunden. The Laufen plant, which already uses electricity from renewable sources, was chosen for the first implementation of this pioneering technology as it is particularly conducive to the manufacture of the latest products of the highest quality. The innovation of the electric kiln has already been registered by the European Patent Office.
Given the kiln is highly efficient, decarbonised, and automated, it provides a valuable alternative to conventional production dependent on fossil fuels and is a key milestone in ensuring that Gmunden becomes the world’s first net-zero sanitaryware production facility by 2024. This investment is also central to Roca Group’s decarbonization strategy. The Group closed 2022 with a 39% reduction in direct CO2 emissions compared to the 2018 baseline, approaching its SBTi target of carbon neutrality by 2045.
The first production results of the new kiln system show great potential for the entire industry, because not only sanitaryware production can benefit from this new technology, but also other ceramic sectors such as structural and technical ceramics or tableware. This kiln proves that the complete decarbonisation of ceramic production is not only possible, but also realistic and economically feasible.
Albert Magrans, CEO at Roca Group, said: “We have a long-term goal to decarbonise our operations and we have been working hard to find solutions that will help us achieve this. This new pan-European partnership not only helps us on our way to net-zero but is also a clear step forward for the industry as a whole”.
Günter Halex, chairman of the Advisory Board at Keramischer OFENBAU added: “This electric kiln proves once again, that our advanced technologies are fit to decarbonise even the CO2-intensive ceramics industry. Our electrically heated kilns provide our customers with increasing independence from the energy market and allow for sustainable and economical production today and in the decades ahead. This groundbreaking and innovative project shows that our technology can maintain maximum quality in ceramic products while making a positive contribution to our planet”.
European success story for decarbonised ceramics production
With Roca Group with the headquarters based in Spain, the Laufen plant in Austria, and Keramischer OFENBAU in Germany, this joint project is truly a European success story towards a future-proof sanitary industry production in Europe and the world. Further driving the decarbonisation of the entire industry requires intensive development and bold innovation. Through Roca Group Ventures, Roca has acquired a majority stake in Keramischer OFENBAU Holding GmbH, which owns Keramischer OFENBAU GmbH, and is investing in the company’s ability to innovate for the benefit of the entire ceramics industry. The Group is also committed to supporting the company with additional funding to further develop, implement, and market this cutting-edge technology that will shape the future of the industry.
While both businesses will remain fully independent, this long-term collaboration will strengthen the innovation capabilities of both companies towards their respective decarbonisation goals with a common goal: the sustainable ceramics industry of the future.
 According to Cerame Unie, total emissions from the European ceramic industry amount to 19 million tonnes of CO2 annually, which is roughly 1% of Europe’s total industrial emissions covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). Sanitaryware industry represent only 2,7% of the total above. https://www.ceramicroadmap2050.eu/chapters/continuing-our-path-towards-climate-neutrality/