JAMAL AMRHAR

Saudi Arabia 2022 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Jamal Amrhar, General Manager of Construction Material Chemical Industries (CMCI), about sustainability in construction, innovation in Saudi Arabia, and priorities for the coming year.

What strategic changes has the company adopted to capture the new trend of sustainability in construction materials and practices, as well as to be in line with Saudi Vision 2030?

Vision 2030 is about implementing sustainable development goals as a top priority. At CMCI we are implementing major changes toward developing new sustainable construction materials. We have launched several products in reengineering as a part of this. First, we developed the exterior insulation finishing system a few years ago. This reduces the energy consumption of a building to a measured degree. We have done considerable testing through third party laboratories. We also won a major housing project in Riyadh with 2,500 villas, finished in 2017. We have undertaken considerable reengineering through the use of special raw materials to develop our new waterproofing range of products, as well as traffic coating. We do this closely with the suppliers of raw materials, which insist on using special items such as castor oil-based polyols in this new technology. We also reengineered many products to use less solvent in the formula, replacing it instead with water. The majority of products have shifted to water-based products to limit the VOC content. While for the majority of products we are able to use the same equipment, we have invested in new technology and specialized equipment to produce the new line. We took into consideration how to reduce VOCs and the loss factor, as well as how to use less packaging materials in the process. At our sister company Arabian Vermiculite Industries, which I also manage, we have a lot of waste from large bags, notably the 25kg (paper packing) format, from materials. Now we have shifted everything to a fully automatic plant with all raw materials stored in silos, which has had a huge impact on waste reduction. In AVI, we also work together to reduce the waste from some of our formulations. In some we achieve reductions of 10 to 20% in paper waste.

How has CMCI been embracing the new landscape changes in terms of innovation and technology in the Kingdom?

This is a part of our main long-term goal in shifting to smart facilities. It leads to higher productivity and improved quality because of the reproducibility of batches, while automation prevents operator error. We have invested significantly in CMCI to the point we have semi-automatic plants to produce our materials. AVI has recently finished fully automating its plant and it will soon be up and running. We are always looking at how to reduce waste by improving the production process, and today have real time data thanks to the new ERP system that we implemented in 2020. This is how we can improve the quality in all the departments, not only at manufacturing facilities, but also for logistics and warehousing. In terms of logistics, we are still working on the project. We are looking for contractors that supply state-of-the-art trucks with reduced emissions. The government has already taken action to prevent vehicles older than five years from use in transportation. We also encourage this, no matter what the cost will be, because we will see the return over time.

How do you evaluate your presence in the Kingdom? How do you work to build partnerships in the different cities of Saudi Arabia?

When CMCI and AVI started, the first target was to have our facilities in Dammam. At that time the development was with Aramco in the eastern province. As we watched the development within Saudi Arabia, we decided to have a manufacturing facility in Jeddah and a warehouse in Riyadh to supply our customers in the central region. We are now also present in other regions in the South and North. Later, with the development of Jazan and the South, we opened a branch in addition to a warehouse in Khamis Mushait. We also have branches in the North in Yanbor and Tabuk. We are in discussion with a distributor that we would be using for the northern facilities, while we target the Red Sea Project and Neom. We try to be close as much possible to our customers and to the projects to ensure timely supply of materials.

What moves has CMCI made to promote the 'Made in Saudi' brand, and how are you working to expand into other GCC countries and beyond?

We take pride in being a completely Saudi-owned company, as part of the Khalifa Al-Gosaibi Investment Group. We produce locally and promote this local brand and manufacturing. We have agreements with our regional distributor who also sells our products in many areas within the GCC, including Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the UAE. We also are at the final stage of having a sales point in Morocco, although the coronavirus pandemic has delayed that process. Nevertheless, we are targeting North Africa and West Africa. We bought a company in France a few years back, which is a market we are also targeting. We already have a distributor there for AVI, and are promoting our products in Europe. Currently, we are working to update our packaging to reflect and highlight the Made in Saudi brand. We have registered both CMCI and AVI with this green logo brand.

How do you evaluate the construction sector at the moment, and which sectors and projects will be driving demand forward in the future?

In our opinion the Saudi market is huge. While there is a boom, the coronavirus pandemic has inevitably delayed a number of projects. And yet we are still able to supply projects. We have also received approval for all mega projects such as the Red Sea, Qiddiya, Neom, and Souda. We have also received approval for projects from the Ministry of Housing. There are some delays in supply, and yet we remain highly optimistic about moving in the right direction, and are seeing good orders coming in. The future is indeed bright for Saudi.

What are the priorities for CMCI over the next year?

We are working on a few short-term projects, and are also increasing the Saudization level in all departments. We have done a good job in recruiting Saudis for Admin, HR, Sales, Finance, EHS and Operations over the past years. And meanwhile, we are empowering Saudi women by creating the best environment possible at our company. We have been able to bring on board quite a number of qualified women, which is a top priority. Elsewhere, the expansion plan with West Africa, Northern Africa and Europe is other main concern. We continue seek approvals for all the major projects in the Saudi market. Additionally, we are focused on the manufacturing of innovative products. We introduced few innovative products, and today R&D efforts are working to develop many alternative ones. We have already started production to supply these to the market.