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Face to face: Robert G Hogan, Readymix Abu Dhabi

Robert G Hogan explains why there is no room for complacency at Readymix Abu Dhabi, even after supplying concrete to the Middle East for four decades

INTERVIEWS, SPECIAL REPORTS, Projects, Abu dhabi, Face to face, Middle east, Readymix, Uae, United Arab Emirates

When it comes to the regional supply of concrete, few outfits can match the heritage of Readymix Abu Dhabi. The company entered the market back in 1976 with a clear mission, as general manager Robert G Hogan explains.

“Readymix Abu Dhabi was one of the first – if not the first – to offer commercially produced concrete to the UAE market,” he tells Construction Week. “At that time, it was common for local contractors to make their own concrete, but as you can imagine, there was little in the way of quality control.

“We were pioneers in this region,” Hogan continues. “Readymix concrete had been around for many years in Europe and North America, but it simply wasn’t available in the Middle East. Our company’s founders wanted to spearhead advancement within the field, and capitalise on opportunities in what was, and still is, a growing nation. This proved to be a wise move; just look how the UAE has developed since.”

Indeed, Readymix Abu Dhabi’s regional activities have matured in tandem with the Emirates. Four decades on from its establishment, the company boasts a 350-strong workforce, a multimillion-dollar fleet of concrete batching and placement equipment, and a portfolio of high-profile projects across the UAE and the wider Middle East.

Although Hogan is not old enough to remember the earliest days of Readymix Abu Dhabi first hand, he is certainly no newcomer to the company. Since relocating to the UAE in 2001, he fulfilled the roles of sales manager and operations manager, prior to his current position as GM.

As Hogan points out, the length of his tenure has been sufficient to witness significant change in the market. “The main thing I’ve noticed during my time here is an increase in competition,” he notes. “When I came to the UAE just 15 years ago, there were around 10 serious competitors that could support large-scale projects. Today, there are probably 25. This isn’t the case in many other parts of the world; typically, you’d expect to find three to four major readymix outfits in a given territory. The UAE is an extremely tough market.”

So how has Readymix Abu Dhabi managed to thrive in such a competitive environment? Hogan splits his answer into two parts: equipment and employees. “First of all, we use top-quality batching plants and equipment,” he explains. “The main thing when it comes to quality control is the operating system (OS). We use computerised plants, and our OS is the best that money can buy.

“In this game, it’s all about consistency. Readymix Abu Dhabi produces huge volumes of concrete, so we cannot afford to make mistakes. If we produce a batch for a large-scale building and that batch fails, everything else around it fails. For this reason, we have invested heavily in quality-control systems.”

But, as Hogan warns, the best equipment and processes are all but useless without the right personnel. He elaborates: “In order to succeed as a concrete supplier in the Middle East, you need to live your job. We have a number of key people who can cover multiple functions. I think the days of senior employees who only perform one role are gone. It’s vital to have a multi-skilled workforce. It’s also important to retain that workforce.”

He adds: “I’m very lucky in that most of our senior management team – particularly on the technical side – have been with the company for more than 10 years. Readymix Abu Dhabi invests heavily in its people. We look after our employees, and I think the fact they stay around for so long proves we’re doing something right.”

Unsurprisingly, Readymix Abu Dhabi’s unwillingness to compromise when it comes to quality means the firm is positioned firmly within the premium segment of the market. “Everything we sell could be bought at a cheaper price somewhere else,” Hogan admits. “With this in mind, we have to deliver the best. Our clients are willing to pay that little bit extra for our quality and expertise.

“In the past, when price has been an issue, some of our customers have used other suppliers.

“I’m pleased to say that the vast majority returned to Readymix Abu Dhabi. That’s what sets us apart: a solid reputation built on quality of delivery,” he remarks.

This ethos is reflected in the make-up of Readymix Abu Dhabi’s portfolio of projects, both historic and contemporary. In the years following its establishment, the firm supplied much of the concrete used to build Abu Dhabi’s infrastructure, with contracts such as the Corniche, and the Airport Road Underpass.

More recently, Hogan and his colleagues have worked to maintain their footprint within the large-scale horizontal domain, with developments such as Raha Beach and Yas Island. However, Readymix Abu Dhabi has also cemented its presence in the vertical segment, catering to a number of the Emirate’s high-rise landmarks.

“The most challenging project I’ve worked on is The Central Market Development in Abu Dhabi,” Hogan says.

“Our scope of works was to deliver concrete, with a strength of 80N, right to the top of Burj Mohammed bin Rashid, which is 382m tall and features 92 floors. For that, we had to invest in some of the most powerful concrete pumps anywhere on the planet.

“We also supplied readymix concrete for the Financial District at Sowwah Square. This was during the boom when nobody was willing to wait for anything. I know it’s a cliché, but we were genuinely working 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he continues. “Round-the-clock supply was required and we were pouring the rafts at the weekends.”

Despite the valuable experience gained from mammoth jobs such as these, Readymix Abu Dhabi has made efforts to consolidate its operations during the recent years in a bid to secure long-term sustainability options.

Hogan concludes: “The boom was a once-in-a-career phenomenon. It probably won’t happen again, and perhaps that’s a good thing for the long-term stability of the market.

“Like everybody else, we had to downsize in the post-crisis era; not to do so would have been suicidal. Nevertheless, our employees have worked on megaprojects and learned from them. Consequently, Readymix Abu Dhabi is stronger than ever,” he adds.

“We are ready for the next 40 years.”

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