1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
A block industry is a going concern like any other small firm set up for the purpose of
block production/manufacture in small or large quantities for commercial venture. Ekpenyong (1995, P. 23) this concept was born out of the need to save time, cost and professional torch in block production. To produce and deliver good quality blocks require good cement with the correct weight bag, clean water that is not salty or hard but suitable for drinking, sharp and clean sand devoid of clay or lumps, preferably river sand. Use of correct dosage, measurement and careful mixture to be molded as fast as possible especially when the weather is sunny and dry. Allow curing properly before delivery and always delivering the blocks produced first (FIFO). Production process of sandcrete block involves composite material made up of cement, sand and water mixed in their correct proportions to produce blocks in different dimensions. Unicem Journal (2011 P. 34). One should buy only the quantity required for the week or for a fortnight, Store the cement in a dry area and away from the wall, Use wooden plank/pallets or waterproof sheets. Handling requires one to always adopt first in first out approach (FIFO), cement that conforms to standard if not properly stored will be exposed to moisture in the air resulting to caking therefore cement in normal polypropylene bags should be stored in such an environment that will ensure satisfactory performance after 2-3 weeks. Enquobahrie (1997, P. 88). Use of cement lumps due to poor storage should be avoided and use of partially caked cement, considered usable, should be increased by 10-20% because of the strength that has been lost. Good sand should have no clay, loan or dirt, mud, silt, no organic or chemical impurities. Different sizes of sand, more stone, the better. Sand from gutter, lagoon or sea to be washed properly to remove the salt. River or sea dredged remains the best standard requirement. SON (2010 P. 38). It is important that the sand from these sources are clean and well graded. Sand needs to be carefully stored to avoid getting dirty on site. Water requirement for making sandcrete blocks shall be fit for drinking. Salt contaminated water shall, as a matter of good manufacturing practice be avoided, as it will give low strength sandcrete blocks. Fancy blocks, balusters, interlocking stones are new developments in the block industry. The choice of workers should be those that have at least first school leaving certificate that can be trained on the job for at least three months to acquire the skills. The job does not require much skill but requires other variables like Energy/Age, Contact and Location. One requires a lot of energy to lift the mould or pallet housing the produced block to the place for curing. To achieve efficiency/effectiveness within a given time period requires wage earners between the ages of 18 to 40. For an entrepreneur to breakeven or operates at a profit margin in a highly competitive undifferentiated business as block industry requires contact. Location wills also playa pivotal role as this will go a long way to determine the entrepreneur’s turnover, workload and such other sensitive decision like Outsourcing.
A block industry strategically located in urban area provides the owner the opportunity of outsourcing haulage for sand, water and even delivery of blocks to customers/consumers. Here there are varieties to choose from unlike the rural area where there maybe little or no such opportunity thereby leaving the entrepreneur at the mercy of the haulage owners or the option of acquiring such trucks at the early stage of the business even when it does not fall within his schedule for the period. This might bring about the death of such industry as the owner/manager may be forced to allocate the fund meant for running cost to purchase fixed assets. To produce block involves two methods. Hand mould and machine vibration. The hand mould involves 100% manpower- cement; sand and water are mixed in a given proportion through the aid of a shovel. The same shovel is used to pour the mixture in an iron mould that looks like a top open metal box. The mould containing the mixture is lifted so as to deposit the mixture in a place for curing after vibration and compression which then comes out as block. This is a one man show.
The machine vibrated blocks are of various types. We have the semi mechanical/manual method, and the complete automation method. The semi mechanical/manual method involves manual use of shovels by two or three workers to mix the sand, cement and water after which the mixture is poured into the mould machine (rescometer) at a proportional rate and interval with the aid of a shovel to produce the blocks. Here the rescometer is either powered by a plant/generator or electricity. The complete automation method involves a concrete mixing machine that mixes sand/cement/water and pours the content into another highly sophisticated mobile machine that moulds the blocks and lays them on the concrete floor as it moves at intervals through the aid of a driver.