Qatar Concrete Company: Laying the Foundations for Innovation

April 9, 2013 in Construction

In a progressive, competitive market place, companies must always strive to find a unique advantage. When that edge comes in the shape of a unique source of technology, set to revolutionise the industry world-wide, then marketing the product effectively, can become the pathway to success.QatarConcrete01

At Qatar Concrete Company (QCC), demand is already at high levels, given Qatar’s rapidly expanding infrastructure programme. The company has its main Qatari operation based in Lusail and was formerly established in 2007 as part of the leading Lebanese construction group. The Lusail-based operation has quickly made its mark on the domestic market, as Antoine Abboud, Executive Director, describes:

We produce ready mix concrete which we supply to local contractors. Qatar Concrete Company undertook a lot of planning and development. It was effectively towards the end of 2010 and early 2011 that the business commenced production.

Initially there was an international drop in the whole economy but we could see that Qatar was focussing strongly on developing infrastructure and this worked well with our launch.”

Whilst Abboud says the concrete market is hugely competitive within Qatar, the company had adopted new production technique right on their door step, which was not being utilised anywhere else – and now offers the company exciting opportunity:

The technique involves a unique form of cooling and produces a concrete that is ideal for the many infrastructure and commercial projects (like roads, bridges, tunnels and high rise buildings),” he explains.

We began as a hybrid business and discovered new technology being deployed in a prototype factory here in Qatar. It was truly one of a kind; in hot countries the concrete has to be made using ice flakes with an end result of certain qualities according to standards. However we are using a process that does not need ice flakes for cooling and reduces the use of other chemicals.

This new green cooling technology reduces the consumption of energy, chemicals and other natural resources, such as water, by an average of 25 per cent, while improving the quality of the concrete in terms of consistency, durability and sustainability.

Concrete is a mix that is highly sensitive to temperature and can easily cracks as it hardens, if laid in temperatures above 32 oC. Given the thermometer can climb to well in advance of 50oC in Qatar’s hottest periods of the year, this has traditionally caused delays in the construction process and angst for concrete suppliers.

A mixture of ice flakes and chemical additives have conventionally been used to achieve the required temperature level, however as Antoine Abboud outlines, the new solution is greener and more efficient:

QatarConcrete02This new technology enables us to produce the concrete without the need for ice flakes and fewer chemicals, by cooling the coarse aggregate, which drops the temperature significantly, so that the mix is achieved to the right effect without compromising the water cement ratio.

At the time, people thought that this process was costly and not feasible but we looked at it from a different perspective in conformity with the vision of State of Qatar towards Green Building concept.

We believed in the technology and felt that it gave us an edge on existing concrete technologies around the world. Our approach was to look at the feasibility from an ethical rather than a financial angle and we were confident that we could help in the international effort of reducing CO2 emissions.

Those hopes were quickly realised and the company, conveniently based in the fast-growing new city of Lusail, has enjoyed tremendous success over the intervening two years.

With so many projects underway, the eyes of the world are looking at Qatar and the opportunities here and this has created enormous demand for low temperature, mass concrete, used on the construction of the underground rail system and the many infrastructure projects here,” Abboud affirms.

The green application of technology has given us a great advantage as the lower temperature concrete reduces energy consumption and the waste of natural resources like water, improving the cost margins not only for us but also for the contractor at the next stage.

We are able to produce the concrete at 22 / 23oC, even when Qatar temperatures are at their hottest during the year – and without the need for ice flakes. No ice flake factory can achieve this.”

Abboud says that a sample of every batch of concrete is tested at the in-house laboratory, before it is delivered to the contractor, where further tests are carried out externally. Every stage of the production process is rigorously monitored. “Even the cooling system is 100 per cent monitored and remotely linked to the manufacturer in Europe, who is able to trouble shoot any problems and direct our maintenance teams if necessary,” he adds.

Abboud says that demand has been spectacular, with the state-of-the-art factory, with a capacity of 2,500 cubic meters production of concrete per day, running at around 70 per cent of capacity for much of the time.

QatarConcrete03There are times when we are running the factory for over 24 hours consecutively and whilst we cannot cover the whole market (in terms of market share), we can look at our capacity as an indicator of our success. We may well look to increase out capacity in the future, either at the existing site or in a new location, depending on opportunities,” he states.

Of course with added demand, comes additional pressure on supply chain – and that can prove a logistical headache, as Antoine Abboud explains:

“In Qatar there is high demand but logistics are an issue. We have a support fleet of vehicles but we rely mainly on outsourcing logistics. In terms of storage, we are able to stock pile about 7 days worth of supplies and we often have to import raw materials.

Projects come in a manner of shapes and sizes, with Abboud indicating there are broadly three types of work:

‘horizontal buildings’ are regarded as “filler” projects which are quick and easy to complete; ‘towers’ incorporate the high rise buildings and are trickier – at 50 storeys, pumping the concrete becomes an issue, whilst the quality of the concrete mix is more stringent.

Infrastructure makes up the third Aspect of QCC’s work and is increasing in the Doha region. These are the so-called ‘mega-projects’ which consume hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of concrete and require strict temperature controls.

In the other hand, with the support of highly qualified team and constant pursuit for an effective business strategy, QCC is successfully certified in compliance with ISO Integrated Management Systems:

• ISO 9001:2008- (QMS) Quality Management Systems
• ISO14001:2004- (EMS) Environmental Management Systems
• BS- OHSAS 18001:2007- Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems
• ISO/ TS 29001:2007. Petroleum, Petrochemical and Natural Gas Industries Sector- specific Quality Management Systems

In concrete terms, this implies intensified customer focus, reinforced a continual improvement process aimed at meeting the productivity goals of the company, increase in people motivation and with a result of traceable increase in the corporate value.

Moreover, QCC is also a member and certified by National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) founded in the USA. This ensures that QCC ‘s ready mixed concrete plant and delivery vehicles are in compliance with the industry standards and are capable of furnishing quality concrete. Antoine Abboud is proud to say that QCC Plant Manager is also a certified member of NRMCA, as well.

QatarConcrete04The year ahead promises further investment in the Lusail ready mix batching plant, with the addition of new pumps and mixers to an already highly automated set-up. Expansion to new premises is unlikely during 2013, but Abboud admits may be necessary in the longer-term, as demand soars:

The Qatar 2022 Fifa World Cup(TM) will offer us lots of opportunities, there are huge plans for stadiums and infrastructure development, while Lusail is developing as new modern city here and is keeping us extremely busy already. Everything is still happening underground right now, but at any moment the buildings will start to rise and they will of course need concrete,” he concludes; while they strive to be one of the leading providers of high quality concrete and capable of delivering best results on time.