The Middle East’s construction community is abuzz with anticipation at present over the raft of mouth-watering projects that lie on the horizon.
In truth, this excitement isn’t purely anticipatory. Plenty of lucrative contracts have already been announced – and awarded – across the length and breadth of the GCC and wider Levant. An economic recovery, it seems, is in full swing. The region is expanding, both upwards and outwards.
Of course, the Middle East is not renowned for its bricks and mortar. If the region’s construction sector is in the midst of an uptick, you can guarantee that the concrete is flowing. In turn, the local penchant for building skywards will have contractors hunting for kit that can make the grey matter flow uphill. The time has come for some serious pump action.
“During the first half of 2014, we have experienced a twofold increase in concrete pump sales, compared to the same period of last year,” explained Haythem Wahab, product manager for Schwing machines at Dubai-headquartered distributor, CMC.
“Believe it or not, we’re having to dip into our 2015 stock. CMC has already passed the number of Scwhing concrete pumps that it expected to sell during the current year. Business is really good for us at present,” Wahab told PMV.
As the exclusive UAE distributor for Schwing concrete pumps, the CMC team is enjoying the benefits of a buoyant market. However, Wahab was quick to point out these sales figures aren’t purely market driven. Units are selling because they are right for the region.
“We supply four-section Schwing booms in the UAE,” he explained.
“These pumps are better suited to this market than their five-section counterparts. Four sections mean that the pump itself is stronger and more stable during the erection process. Plus, there are fewer components, which makes maintenance easier,” Wahab added.
One person who shares this assessment of the region’s concrete pump market is Jens Bawidamann, regional director at Putzmeister Middle East. However, the pair’s opinions diverge when it comes to Wahab’s preference for four-section booms.
“Business is very good at the moment,” Bawidamann told PMV.
“This is true across the whole of the GCC. However, things are going especially well in Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” he explained.
Putzmeister recently introduced the BSF 56-5.16 H to the Middle East market, a five-section concrete boom with a 55.1m reach height. It certainly didn’t take long for this unit to find its feet in the region; Al Ghurair Construction – Readymix LLC became the first UAE owner of a 56-5 during the first quarter of 2014.
Another manufacturer benefitting from increased regional demand for concrete pumps is equipment supplier, Juma Al Majid Establishment (JAME). As the Hyundai’s channel partner in the UAE, the company has enjoyed considerable success of late, not only with booms, but with transit mixers also “We’ve been working with a huge project in the form the nuclear power plant that’s currently being built in Al Sila’a, UAE,” revealed Walaa A Diab, national manager for Hyundai’s heavy commercial vehicles.
“JAME has supplied trucks, transit mixers, and concrete pumps for the build. Consequently, more than three quarters of the vehicles working on this project are from Hyundai. We’ve sold more than 60 units for the build so far.
“As you’d expect, the ratio of sales is stacked towards transit mixers. This is because one concrete pump can cater to around 10 to 12 mixers. The majority of the units have been supplied by JAME, but some pieces of specialist equipment have been provided directly from the manufacturer,” he added.
Whether you’re talking about booms or mixers, demand for concrete equipment seems to be on the up and up in the Middle East at present. However, this is not solely a game of numbers for manufacturers. Providing kit that’s sufficiently robust to operate in such an unforgiving region is no mean feat.
“We have to produce machinery that is able to cope with heat, dust, and humidity,” Bawidamann explained.
“Putzmeister concrete pumps use closed-circuit hydraulics systems, which generate less heat and require less oil. On top of this, they feature a second oil cooler to cope with the Middle East’s extreme temperatures. Our units also offer ease of maintenance. We have minimised the number of parts that comprise our pumps, and we’ve made it very easy to access all of the major components,” he added.
Schwing and CMC have also collaborated to ensure that their regional line-up of concrete pumps is as user friendly as possible. The companies have focused on maintaining parts compatibility across multiple generations.
“Most concrete companies choose to store parts so that they can conduct preventative maintenance when appropriate,” said Wahab. “If an owner of a Schwing unit has a spare part that he acquired a decade ago, he will probably still be able to use on one of today’s models.
“This approach, which makes life easier for companies with in-house maintenance teams, is an example of Schwing’s commitment to looking at things from the customer’s perspective. In turn, CMC relays feedback from UAE end users in relation to any upgrades that are made,” he explained.
If demand continues to rise as anticipated, manufacturers and distributors simply need to continue to provide concrete equipment that suitable for Middle East operations. As Bawidamann says, if Putzmeister looks after its clients, the business will take care of itself.
“Our promise is to take the best possible care of our customers,” he said. “We must always stay focused on their needs and requirements.”
Wahab is also confident about the ability of the market to sustain itself during the course of the coming years.
“CMC’s market observations suggest that there will be huge demand for concrete pumps in 2015, especially in the UAE,” he told PMV.
“Next year will be a busy period in terms of the country’s strategic initiatives. For example, we expect that work on major projects such as Dubai Waterfront to begin in 2015. For programs of this magnitude, huge quantities of concrete will be required. Moreover, companies will look to source new pumps to attract the biggest contracts.
“Here at CMC, we believe that concrete pump sales could return to 2003 levels during 2015. The growth that we’re experiencing currently certainly indicates that we’re moving in the right direction,” Wahab concluded.