Quality has a key role in the corporate philosophy of the Colas Group. Consequently – besides construction works –, it is important to carry out quality control, technological planning and engineering activities appropriately, in accordance with the relevant specifications and strategic objectives. The technological coordination and standardised, cost-efficient implementation of Group-level tasks constitute a challenge that can only be tackled by ensuring the proper resources, and by operating a suitable technological organisation and central laboratory.
With regard to the entire Colas Group, it is crucial whether the Hungarian market is open to new technologies, and requires quality work performance. In such an environment, the additional value carried by the local adaptation and application of the Group’s worldwide technologies can manifest as a competitive edge. High-priority duties of the Technology Directorate include the Group-level implementation and coordination of quality testing procedures, technology transfer and consulting services.
From the second half of 2011, the Hungarian technological and laboratory units of Colas have been operating – with the exception of laboratories belonging to Colas Északkő Kft. – within the organisation of the Colas Hungária Technology Directorate.
In the past years, the Colas name has become synonymous with quality, eco-friendliness and innovation in Hungary. While minimising costs and adapting to the economic environment, we constantly strive to enhance quality and spread the application of new technologies, which enables Colas to maintain and improve its position in the Hungarian construction sector. The accomplishment of these ambitious objectives is guaranteed by the devoted professionals forming the team of the Technology Directorate.
The Technology Directorate keeps seeking technological possibilities for realising higher standards pertaining to various subfields of road construction. Public motorway and road network development assignments and our position on the European market lead to an intense competition between Hungarian contractors. The limited possibilities of the country’s budget is becoming an increasingly significant factor, which implies that:
1. The Hungarian public road network is in a critical condition (particularly in terms of surface defects, rutting, load bearing and surface roughness).
2. The unavailability of financial instruments has made a negative mark on technological developments. The desire to rely on sophisticated solutions has been replaced by half-measures (e.g. the installation of surface coatings of wearing courses in cases when complex pavement structure reconstruction would be necessary).
3. In the future, technological planning, submitting alternative pavement solution proposals, and reducing maintenance costs must gain more ground on the side of contractors. To put it another way, contractors will have to take on additional responsibilities.
4. Adding new elements to the transport infrastructure network and the operation/maintenance of the existing public road grid highlight the significance and necessity of technological planning.
5. Due to a rapid growth of traffic, the country’s main roads are to be reinforced to withstand axle loads of 11.5 tonnes, which makes the further development of asphalt mixtures a pressing issue.
The Hungarian market should be open to new technologies, and require quality work performance. Moreover, calls for public tenders should open the way for various construction technologies, and proposals for alternative pavement structures.
Without going into detail about the Hungarian practice of designing and qualifying asphalt mixtures, specifying pavement structures for very broad traffic categories (sometimes with three-fold differences between the lower and upper thresholds of a given category) is a clear and present problem. As a result, some pavement structures start deteriorating relatively quickly, while others are unnecessarily “over-designed”.
Nevertheless, experience shows that high-performance asphalt mixtures and more expensive technologies may prove to be the cost-efficient option, especially when considering the total sum of costs over the life-span of the road. By broadening the use of developments concerning asphalt technologies and testing technologies, we aim to improve the condition of Hungary’s roads, to slow down the deterioration of roads, and thus open the possibility of using resources in a more efficient manner.
Innovation and the related research and development are among the key duties of the Technology Directorate. Such activities are pursued through the cooperation with Hungarian universities and research institutes, the implementation of joint R+D projects, and applying for subsidies.
Our own research and development activities are carried out in cooperation with the central laboratory (CST) of our parent company, which entails efforts to adapt proven French and international products and innovations to Hungarian circumstances.
PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT AND NEW TECHNOLOGIES
One branch of innovation activities is represented by the development of new products. Development efforts concentrate primarily on asphalt mixtures.
So far, we have adapted several proven French asphalt mixtures to Hungarian conditions. Such mixtures include the high-modulus COLBASE base and binding course; the high-modulus BETOFLEX binding and wearing course; the RUFLEX wearing course mixture and the RUGOSOFT noise-reducing wearing course. The construction of the aforementioned mixtures was not limited to trial fields: tens of kilometres have been performing well on the M5 motorway under heavy traffic loads for years.
The Group is also devoted to protecting the environment. To this end, we are engaged in studying and testing asphalt mixtures produced and installed at low temperatures (so-called LT asphalts), as well as warm and cold recycling options for milled-up and reclaimed asphalt pavements (VALORCOL technology).
Further to conventional asphalt-testing equipment, the laboratory of the Technology Directorate owns rutting testers, two- and four-point bend fatigue testing devices, a gyrator sieves shaker, Duriez device, and a DSR device for the rheology testing of bitumen.