INNOVATION AND LONG-TERM THINKING

Abu Dhabi 2019 | CONSTRUCTION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Felix Moral, CEO of Exeed Industries, on changing its business model, trends in industrial construction, and building material demands in Abu Dhabi and the UAE.

With a long-term perspective, how is Exeed Industries redefining its business model to increase efficiency in its used material and ensure a sustainable line of business?

Industry in general is going through an important transformation and the construction and building industry is not insulated from this revolution. Today there are countless new building materials, or reinterpretations of existing materials that are bringing dramatic improvements in manufacturing processes, transport or installation costs, and of course in their quality and properties. Its novelty and competition is deeply transforming our industry, therefore at Exeed Industries we understand that the time has come to take advantage of its facilities. Of course we will continue using cement, steel, and chemical admixtures; however, for example, new nano-materials are filled with innovative possibilities in terms of design and performance. In terms of cost, five years ago it was impossible to think about producing at industrial scale, but today it is economical enough to design and manufacture products based on these materials. One interesting example is the Graphene. This nano-material manufacturing is based on graphite, whose biggest producer is China, who controls the flow of supply of this raw material globally. But new technologies are allowing for the production of graphene with other raw materials like oil coke. We are in a country that is rich with oil; therefore, if we can collaborate with and control the downstream areas of this industry, then we really have a major opportunity to produce innovative materials at a competitive price.

How do you expect the supply chain of the industry to adapt to technologies such as 3D printing?

Although it seems surprising, 3D printing has been around for 25 years and a relevant number of important industrial companies around the world are already employing to manufacture spare parts and consumables, with major impact on the traditional supply chain processes. It might have come a little late to the UAE, but recently there has been a serious political push to keep these technologies at the fore. However, for 3D printing to have an impact, it must support operations and reduce costs in a sustainable way, which is not always that easy. For example, if we talk about the building materials industry, 3D-printed concrete is an interesting new technology, meaning its effectiveness is yet to be proven. Undoubtedly, these technologies will dramatically reduce the amount of labor input required to produce concrete, and this labor reduction will be a major change in the whole industrial and economic model of countries. This is the future, but there is a great deal of trial and error left to work through. Right now, we have to invest in order to be prepared for this change. Invest in equipment and invest in people to change the mindset. Management should start to get used to think laterally in order to transform the business with the same speed to which it advances the technological development.

What are your thoughts on how economies should adjust to the trends you mentioned in industrial construction?

The public and private sectors have to shift from thinking about only efficiency to consider effectiveness as one of the main drivers of our future. The coordination and communication between the government and the corporate stakeholders is essential to make sure that change is effectively implemented. Simplifying communication, coordination and processes. In the absence of this, things will still change but it will be a much slower process. Education is another important area that requires much better coordination. Universities and institutes are a precious source of talent and we have to ensure that they are an active part of the process of affecting change on the ground. Only being leaders in innovation and adapting quickly to changes in the needs of the market we can achieve the goals that we have set ourselves. Investing in talent is investing in our future.

How do you expect demand to evolve in Abu Dhabi and UAE market as far as building materials are concerned?

We do use indicators such as market size and expected development, with some reports predicting around 5% growth in the construction industry over the next five years. However, I know that our target market will remain largely the same in the next few years and that the completion of projects will be higher. This means that even if the economy grows well, it will not be easy, and we must change our operations and our focus, which is why we are looking at exports that can grow the market substantially. There are good potential markets for our products in Africa, for example, and we will shortly go there to get a real feel for the business dynamics there. Africa is a vast continent in developmental terms, and we are eyeing opportunities in East, West, and Central Africa specifically. We are also keen to develop key partnerships with Companies who offer good synergies with the Exeed family. These are challenging yet exciting times to be in our business sectors. And whilst we look to the export markets for the future, we also note that the UAE construction industry continues to surprise the world with new and innovative solutions and designs. Exeed Industries is proud to be part of the industry in our home nation. And we remain confident that the UAE will continue to provide growth opportunities as more and more new developments are announced here.