HIGHEST STANDARDS

Colombia 2016 | INFRASTRUCTURE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Felipe Otoya Domínguez, President of Forsa, on the company's early days, Forsa's unique methodology, and the importance of being located in the Cauca Free Trade Zone.

Felipe Otoya Domínguez
BIOGRAPHY
Felipe Otoya Domínguez received a degree in mechanical engineering from the Universidad Autonoma de Occidente, Cali, as well as a degrees in manufacturing technology from the Carl Duisberg Centren in Colonia (Germany) and finance specialization from the Universidad del Valle, Cali. His career has been based in the commercial and engineering areas, with extensive experience in team management, business development, sales management, client prospecting, customer loyalty, and customer satisfaction, contributing to maintaining the sustainable growth of the organization. Domínguez has been the CEO of Forsa since June 1995. From 1986-1995, he was the Operations Manager of Conciviles.

What is Forsa's background?

Forsa is a pioneering company that has operated in the commercialization and development of construction systems with aluminum formworks in Colombia, South America, Central America, and some countries in Africa and Europe, since 1995. We were first established in Colombia and we now operate in more than 25 countries. The company started as a group of Colombian businessmen and engineers with the goal of transforming the construction sector and developing a more practical, specialized, and efficient system for the benefit of builders. The goal was to improve profitability in the industrialized construction of housing and civilian infrastructure. We were one of the few companies established in the mid 1990s, thanks to some tax advantages in the Cauca area. We have invested in our operations through training people and establishing partnerships with universities, tech centers, and sector associations. Our people are highly specialized and that has been something we have always considered one of our priorities. Today, we employ more than 800 people, 70% of whom are from the region.

What are the main characteristics of Forsa's construction system?

It is a formwork system that is 100% aluminum and complying with high standards. It also guarantees good performance in housing construction. Building housing units using the Forsa system achieves organized, fast, and progressive processes, maintaining more balanced inventories, reducing labor, contributing to a cleaner, greener construction process, and increasing the productivity and profitability of the construction. With this system, we can develop innovative projects of high-quality architectural design. One of the main challenges we face has been to change the construction culture in the region. Our system allows the industrialized construction of housing, building housing units like a production line, one housing unit per day.

Which foreign markets does Forsa operate in?

We started exporting in 1999 when we saw the opportunity as a way to balance the situation locally. We started with neighboring countries in Central America and Mexico. The late 1990s and early 2000s were challenging years for the Colombian economy and in 2001-02, 40% of our sales were in Mexico. This was a common trend up until a few years ago and Colombia now represents 40%, Mexico slightly less than 10%, Brazil less than 15%, and Central America (the Dominican Republic, Panama, and so on) making up the remaining part. On top of that we have had projects in Iran, Spain, South Africa, and other markets abroad. At the moment, we are also considering establishing a plant in either India or South Africa; these are our main targets in the short and medium term. However, this project is still at an early stage of development.

How important has being located in the Cauca FTZ been for the success of the company?

The Cauca FTZ represents the large majority of exports. This FTZ has generated many employment opportunities and industrial development. Throughout the years, we have been able to generate a true associative network between all companies operating here, giving every company more stability. This FTZ has certainly been instrumental for us to reach current levels of performance. Public authorities have developed much-needed infrastructure along with the FTZ, which was key for companies like ours to export. Security levels have also increased since the construction of this FTZ. Cauca has developed significantly in the last decade and made several key infrastructure projects possible, and has increased collaboration between local and regional authorities.

Where do you see Forsa in five years?

I see Forsa even more consolidated than today, with a strong product portfolio in which innovation plays an even more important role than it does now. I expect the service of renting out formworks expanding to other Latin American countries after it further consolidates in Colombia. We target Peru, Mexico, and Chile first and then other countries in the region.