CATERING TO GROWING CEMENT DEMAND

Panama 2018 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Andrés Jiménez, General Manager of CEMEX Panama, on 24 years of operations, the benefits of concrete over asphalt, and maximizing efficiency in the cement sector.

How has CEMEX evolved in Panama setting up operations in the country?

CEMEX has been in Panama for 24 years and is nowadays the leading and point of reference company in the cement and construction business here. We have grown with the country. Panama experienced significative changes when it took over control of the Panama Canal in the year 2000. Importantly, in 2005 we expected the country to continue its growth path, and therefore CEMEX made an investment of USD300 million on our operations here. CEMEX is the only clinker producer in Panama, which is the main raw material for the cement industry in the country. We are very proud to participate as suppliers in some of the largest and most emblematic infrastructure projects in the history of the nation: the Panama Canal Expansion project, the Panama Subway Line No.1, and three other large projects that will have a positive effect on the development of the country and the quality of life of its people: the Panama Subway Line No. 2, the City of Colón Urban Renewal, and the first liquified natural gas electric generation plant in Central America, which is being constructed in Colón Province.

CEMEX is present in many countries in Latin America. How important is Panama to the company?

Panama is one of the most important countries for CEMEX worldwide in terms of business, volume, growth and for its geographical position. We have invested in various business lines in Panama. We are the only clinker producer and are in the cement, concrete, ready-mix, and aggregate fields. In 2017 we also started in the cement additive—admixtures—business. In the last 24 years, CEMEX has invested around USD600 million in the country.

How has the last year been for CEMEX's new additives plant in Panama Pacífico?

CEMEX works to align itself with the country´s economic development vision and plans when it comes to our own business plan. Panama's Ministry of Commerce and Industry has been looking at how the country can export more products, and our new admixtures business can be an export hub for Central America and the Caribbean. We currently export our admixtures to our Caribbean and Central American operations from Panama. We are extremely proud of this because it has allowed CEMEX to contribute to Panama´s exporting of non-traditional products. . . We also export admixtures for third-party customers in Central America and the Caribbean. CEMEX has another admixtures plant in Colombia that just produces for the Colombian domestic market.

CEMEX Panama will build 40,000sqm of sidewalks in Panama North and East. What are the main highlights of this project?

We have built half a million sqm in the last five years, as part of our innovation strategy, we have a business line called Growing the Pipe. This involves putting all our efforts into finding new ways to grow our cement business, for example, identifying new ways builders and public entities can use cement products, such as using concrete instead of asphalt to construct paths and roads. In countries with high rainfall, asphalt has to be replaced every two or three years, while concrete roads last for 20 years. This saves on maintenance costs. Concrete is also better for fuel consumption as well as driver comfort and safety. We also have special colored, shaped, and stamped sidewalks that can be used to beautify cities and are more comfortable to use. In the long run the cost of using concrete 25% cheaper than using asphalt. Our innovation department has designed innovative concrete solutions that make it cheaper and of higher quality. We also use specialized machines to create concrete roads that provide better comfort for drivers.

Can you elaborate on CEMEX's initiatives to be environmentally friendly in Panama?

We have a sustainability committee that meets once a month and is responsible for developing and guaranteeing the effectiveness of our programs and initiatives. We have several sustainability initiatives in progress here in Panama. First, we are part of the Million Hectares Alliance and are making a major effort to reforest more than 50ha of woods in ten years. In addition to being part of this initiative, we are working extremely hard with the government and other private companies to help create a cleaner city by contributing to overcoming challenges such as waste management. We have the know-how to process and recover energy through our kilns from alternative fuels in a responsible way, such as municipal solid waste, tires, and biomass residues. In addition, we are making changes in our ready-mix plants to reuse water in different parts of our processes. We are also taking steps to rehabilitate our quarries once we finish using them. CEMEX shares best practices across all the countries the company works in. These projects are part of CEMEX's global green initiatives to reduce our CO2 footprint by 25% in the next three years.

What are the main challenges for the cement sector in Panama and what needs to be changed in this market?

Our biggest challenge is maintaining the growth we have had in the last 10 years. The economic model of the country is changing, and this is a challenge for both the government and the private sector. The way people used to build is also changing and this will affect our industry. For example, 3D printing is significantly changing design and construction. CEMEX has been preparing for the challenges ahead, and one key initiative is CEMEX Go, which is a best-in-class digital platform aimed at providing a superior customer experience. Fundamentally, customers expect more of us. With the rise of seamless experiences like Uber and Netflix, customers expect instant and easy access to information, products and services. As a result, speed, transparency and responsiveness are more important than ever. CEMEX Go allows us to meet customers' needs in ways our competitors cannot, and sets the foundation for us to add new value to our customer relationships in the future. CEMEX Go is a multi-device offering that provides a seamless experience for order placement, live tracking of shipments, and managing invoices and payments for CEMEX's main products, including bagged and bulk cement, ready-mix concrete, aggregates, and multi-products. It delivers real-time, detailed information that customers need to get more done in less time, enabling them to have more control over their businesses and increase value to their stakeholders.