Bashar Abou-Mayaleh on CIC’s plans for 2018
Technology is the name of the game in the UAE’s rapidly growing concrete sector, according to Bashar Abou-Mayaleh, managing director of Concrete Industries Complex, which includes HPBS, HBF, and EB
Bashar Abou-Mayaleh, managing director of Concrete Industries Complex (CIC), is a happy man – and rightly so.
In the last quarter of 2017, Emirates Beton (EB) and Hard Precast Building Systems (HPBS) – two of the three companies under CIC – respectively increased their production capacities by 20-25% and 15%, respectively. Abou-Mayaleh says this was driven by market demand, adding that 2018 appears to be another busy year for the multi-product concrete specialist.
“We are highly satisfied with our results in 2017, both in terms of turnover and margins,” he tells Construction Week.
“Market challenges are always there, but we are always adapting, with a lot of new practices and planning expansions. We had a period of high activity last year, so we expanded HPBS and EB in order to satisfy our customers with larger capacities. In general, 2017’s was our best [performance] in the last five years.”
A key business component that CIC focussed on last year was technology. Abou-Mayaleh says HPBS was “the first precast provider to bring automated lines” to the industry in the Middle East. As a result, today HPBS can produce and install four units of four-bedroom villas in a day, and according to the managing director, more tech investments are expected in the year to come.
He explains: “We are really focussing on more optimisation. The market is competitive, which means that you have to be much more optimised in each and every part of your operation.
“Automation is very important to us, as are a lot of technologies that can be deployed in the concrete itself. For example, we are now using steel fibres in many of our products as an alternative solution to normal steel reinforcement, which typically consumes a lot of workers. But if you start using steel fibres, it will encourage much more efficiency than using steel reinforcement would have.”
He adds: “Meanwhile, in the ready-mix segment, we are using the latest and most advanced concrete pumps and transit mixers, and we are trying to get the best key performance indicator (KPI) figures from those machines. It’s not about having very advanced machines – you also have to monitor your KPIs while you’re operating those machines.”
The good news, according to Abou-Mayaleh’s feedback, is that clients are now more conscious of the benefits related to implementing technology in their operations: “When you have a reliable brand, people will listen to you much more and they will understand the value added to their projects by technology.”
He continues: “It isn’t only about finalising the price – price is just one parameter of the total service you are providing. More importantly, it is about implementing the right information technology (IT), not just automating the machine.
“CIC is the first company to provide access to its customers that would allow them to control their orders, measure the performance of their projects, and track their deliveries. For example, in the ready-mix segment, every customer could monitor the transit mixers while they are going back and forth between the batching plant and their sites, control the performance of their concrete pumps, or place an order from their mobile while they are at the project site. This is very important to us.”
The mobile app for EB is currently in the trial period, and is due to be launched in two weeks, and another app, under development for Hard Block Factory (HBF), will be launched in a soon. A concept is in the pipeline for HPBS, which will require a slightly different app that focusses on the functionality of the company’s services, which include full-scale project delivery.
“In some ways, IT is perhaps one step ahead of automation in terms of its significance. In 2018, our motto is that CIC will be an IT group that provides concrete,” the managing director says.
A sign of CIC’s steadfast commitment to innovation is that there is no fixed budget for tech initiatives in the company. As Abou-Mayaleh explains, for a forward-looking and dynamic tech adopter such as CIC, financial limits should not lead to delayed uptake: “You may budget for 12 months, but halfway through the year, you will be surprised by many new ideas and concepts. In the world of IT, you can’t just stop innovating because you didn’t budget for it.
“The benefits of IT outweigh the risk of delaying its implementation based purely on budgets. We are spending a good amount of our resources on technology without hesitation, because we know that the return is always very good. Ultimately, we want more interaction with our customers, and we want them to feel that they are in full control of the process.”
Indeed, Abou-Mayaleh has a firm plan in place for CIC’s future, and the company may well begin to reap the returns of its long-term vision as early as this year. After all, for a company working on developments such as Dubai Arena (pictured), and with high-profile clients such as Gems Education and Dubai Creek Harbour, the outlook for the year ahead seems promising.
For one, combining EB, HBF, and HPBS under CIC’s common umbrella has strengthened the company’s position as a holistic supplier of concrete products.
“It was a good idea to put all the concrete products under the same umbrella – we now have a good management structure that includes five young, enthusiastic general managers that are highly qualified and knowledgeable,” Abou-Mayaleh explains. “We are now the only entity in Dubai that provides total concrete solutions – block, paving, precast, hollow core slabs, and ready-mix.”
The company also has much to look forward to this year in terms of projects as well. Abou-Mayaleh tells Construction Week that EB has achieved its booking targets for 2018, as has HBF, the company’s blocks and paving arm. HPBS is continuing to book new projects, and the managing director says that CIC’s booking performance in percentage figures for the beginning of the year is “very satisfactory”.
“The recent expansion of our factory – we also added a batching plant at EB – will also help us to be slightly more aggressive in the market,” Abou-Mayaleh says.