Servando Valdez Jiménez
Division Manager Mines and New Products
Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua (GCC)
View from the Top

Innovation Key in Concrete and Cement

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 14:39

Q: How do GCC’s vision and philosophy help the company to stand out from its competitors?

A: GCC was one of the first cement companies to really explore the needs of the mining industry and go on to create specialized products based on those needs. We were able to consolidate our position in the national mining industry as a result of our innovative products, but especially thanks to our direct customer attention. There are currently many providers trying to supply their products to the sector, as well as cement companies trying to do things they did not do before, such as visiting the operations and searching for solutions. The difference with us is that GCC has been doing this for 12 years.

Q: What is your strategy to delivering direct customer service efficiently?

A: In 2002 we started providing direct customer service to our clients at their operating sites. When mining companies saw the advantages that our visits and direct consulting could bring, they started to recommend our services to other companies in the region. We understood that mines had a need for integral services like the ones we were providing, and developed a specific project to understand all of the cement product requirements that could exist in the mining industry. Some of the products that helped us to acquire a better position in the market were our fast set cements, which few cement companies in the world provide. We had to survey mining operations to gain an understanding of all the issues. We designed our logistical plans to cover as many mining operations as possible, and started by defining routes and specifying visiting times. During our visits we would generate proposals, presentations and product tests for the general managers and users at the mine. Thanks to our direct customer service and products we were able to gain many clients. The company was restructured in 2011 to launch a new division called Mines and New Products, which I currently coordinate.

Q: Which of GCC’s products are most in demand by the mining industry?

A: An example is the Palmarejo mine that just completed a year with no disabling accidents, which is very unusual. We asked the management team which factors they believed helped them to achieve this success and they answered that using our cement and concrete products to stabilize the building site was one of the main factors because they lowered rock fall accidents, a common occurrence in underground mining. The fatal accident rate in the mining industry is considerably lower now. Previously there were no cement floors and concrete was not sprayed in mines, and though it is not a requirement this is now a recommendation that most mining operations are following. The combination of state of the art technology and increased quality standards are providing safety to the mining industry.

Q: How do the mining industry’s needs differ from those of other industries?

A: Cement and concrete application is similar in all different industries throughout the world. Due to productivity issues, mines would rarely apply concrete inside their building sites. Floor foundations or shafts with shotcrete meant that operations had to be halted for many days until the cement was solidified. This created significant complications for companies because it meant stopping production. However, mining companies have one quality that is rarely seen in other industries: they are open to testing new products and technologies. Mine operators invited us to perform tests on Sundays during night shifts, when they were not operating. When mining companies saw that the product truly met their expectations most of them implemented it.

Q: What are the company’s main objectives in the Mexican mining industry, and what are its plans for expansion?

A: One of our main objectives is to continue growing in Chihuahua’s cement and concrete industry. We recently increased our production at the Chihuahua plant to almost 900,000 tonnes, and our aim is to have the capacity to provide all of the cement required in the state. We also made improvements to the Samalayuca plant, allowing it to achieve a production of 1 million tonnes.

Some of GCC’s most important projects are in the mining industry. We are focusing on supplying all new projects, and are also aiming to consolidate our brand in the US market; once the construction recession has passed, we will be ready to supply our products and services in the US.