AlRashid-Abetong - A Saudi-Swedish success story with a Finnish twist
As in many other parts of the world, the use of precast has grown tremendously in Saudi Arabia during the past few years. This means that an increasing number of companies make their way into the precast sector, and ARA intends to stay one step ahead. “Our goal is to be the most successful precast company in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” says Mathias Andersson, Production Manager at ARA. “We produce a full range of precast concrete elements, including hollow-core slabs, double-T slabs, solid slabs, columns, beams, external and internal panels, and in fact all types of precast structures in addition to the unique Swede Beam System. We are well-known in the market for our good quality and our capability to manage large, complicated projects. Our production capacity is around 250 000 cubic meters of precast concrete elements per year.”
Old blue alongside yellow new
The cooperation between ARA and Elematic has been ongoing for more than thirty years. Elematic-delivered battery molds that date back to those first years are still in use at one of ARA’s four factories. And some of the old but still fully functioning “Elematic-blue machines” have been sold to make way for newer technology. Says Markku Marikko, Service Engineer at Elematic: “ARA, as well as the previous Mabco, has relied on Elematic as their one-stop-supplier. I feel a sense of pride seeing those old machines still going strong alongside the modern production equipment we have delivered. In its time, Mabco was the first precast company in Saudi Arabia to manufacture sandwich wall elements, and today the manufacturing of wall elements is an important part of ARA’s production.”
One million square meters of hollow-core
A few years ago, ARA was producing at full capacity at all of their four factories in Riyadh, but that still was not enough to satisfy the rapidly growing demand for precast products. The company turned to Elematic for a new factory. The goal was to equip a factory to produce a massive amount of hollow-core slabs on 16 beds. Among the equipment delivered were Elematic Extruders, shuttles, and overhead bucket gantries. In June 2007, ARA opened its new hollow-core factory, now the largest in the region, with the impressive capacity to produce more than one million square meters of hollow-core slabs of various thicknesses yearly. “Elematic has always been a good partner and supplier, and we have been very happy with the cooperation between our companies. I’ve even been to Finland once to visit the Elematic headquarters,” says Mr. Andersson.
TOP-service agreement ensures profitability
The need to invest in more technology was obvious, but the always pioneer-minded company also knew that every circumstance has to be considered to avoid stoppages in production and to improve profitability. Therefore ARA, though a long-term, experienced operator, signed a TOP-Service agreement with Elematic for flexibility and added value. The service agreement ensures that all machines are constantly kept in shape and up-and-running. It guarantees the immediate delivery of spare and wear parts, regular inspections of machines, and annual maintenance engineer visits, as well as modern troubleshooting. “The new factory, ARA 5, is working smoothly, and three hollow-core beds can be cast simultaneously. The intention is to cast 16 beds of 150 meters per day, seven days a week. ARA has realized that the TOP-service agreement improves their operations. Together we have inspected and tuned up their production and looked for those possible bottlenecks that could cause trouble in the future,” describes Mr. Marikko. ”We discussed in detail how to improve the cooperation between maintenance and production to avoid unscheduled maintenance stops during production. Stoppages can become very expensive, and so wear and spare parts must be exchanged in due time before anything breaks down. An important task of the service package is to improve preventive maintenance and yearly maintenance measures. Alongside the investments in new machinery and preventive maintenance, work safety and the cleanliness of the factory environment have improved considerably.” Says Mr. Andersson: “Without the Elematic service agreement, it would certainly be a daring venture for us to aim for one million square meters of hollow-core yearly, as this means running the machinery every day of the year. Any stoppages in the manufacturing process due to failure of the machinery would threaten these production goals.”
Customers pay for the right products at the right time
In addition to offering a full range of precast concrete products, ARA cooperates with its customers in the development of buildings, from the first contact until the project is completed. “Currently, we have approximately sixty projects ongoing, of which the largest is for 400 villas and 12 apartment towers, staff residences for King Saud University. We plan to cast 150 000 cubic meters of precast concrete elements for this project alone,” says Mr. Andersson. “The biggest difference here in Saudi Arabia and this region compared to Europe is the size and design of the projects. We have clients here that are willing to pay whatever the cost, if they just get the right products at the right time. In addition, when projects are as big as this one, it provides the possibility to utilize all the advantages of precasting. We never leave a project before we are fully satisfied with the work. In many cases, the quality level we ourselves demand surpasses our customers’ expectations. Today in Saudi Arabia, the private sector is slowing down construction investments somewhat, but at the same time, the government is increasing the building of schools and universities,” continues Mr. Andersson. “The near future looks very good for ARA. We have a lot of projects signed, and it will just be a matter of starting them up and executing them in the correct sequence. We already see now that we have to increase our capacity for wall panels,” concludes Mr. Andersson.