Made of Steel
It’s been three years since Remco Afrique established a presence in sub-Saharan Africa and within that short period, it has already provided over 85,000 square metres of steel pre-engineered industrial halls. The company is now expanding its business to become an industrial service provider by adding various services and products to its scope of work.
Remco Afrique is a division of the Dutch company, Remco Ruimtebouw, a leading European constructor of industrial property and was founded in 1972 as a construction business of steel industrial halls.
“When you consider a new market or like in the case of entering the African continent, stepping into a number of new markets at the same time, you either should do it passionately and wholeheartedly or not at all,” says Jan F.J van Vulpen, General Manager of Remco Afrique. “In our case, we were an export driven company over the past few decades, so after successfully conquering markets in Western Europe, followed by Central and Eastern Europe and the Caribbean, when the opportunity arose to become active in Africa, we did not have to think twice to grab that momentum.”
One Stop Shop of Solutions
In the short time that Remco has been on the continent, the company has already completed 17 projects and is currently working on several exciting ventures, to further extend its African track record.
“We are designers, engineers and builders united in one company, cooperating under the same roof,” explains van Vulpen, “Based on our 40 years of experience and involvement in industrial buildings only, we have a library of pre-engineered solutions for basically any type of industry.
“We offer comfort and convenience for the client. They only have one company to talk to. We are simply ‘un-worrying’ the client and as such keep them stress free. After all building should be fun.”
Remco’s uniqueness is that it offers complete solutions from the design, engineering, production, transportation and installation of the building. The company engages carefully selected subcontractors and suppliers in the production of the prefabricated steel halls. Remco Afrique then ships the building to the nearest port in the country where it will be set up.
“In order for the client to have the most efficient cost level, we work with local erection companies whereto we add, depending on the volume of the project, two to four supervisors from our Dutch headquarters to ensure speed and quality of erection,” says van Vulpen. “As our projects are built according to the light metal building principle with low weights of the superstructure the client maximizes his financial advantages when the substructure design is matching the efficiency of the steel structure is has to carry. And as on a local level the knowledge on that aspect not always is available we often add such design to our scope of works.”
The advantage of Steel
Van Vulpen says that there are many advantages for using steel instead of wood, brick or concrete. One of the most significant is that if steel structures are properly maintained, for example by adding anti-corrosion layers, the lifetime of the building is unlimited, whereas the lifetime for a concrete structure regardless of maintenance is limited.
“Furthermore a pre-engineered metal building has significantly less weight of mass to be considered in a seismic event as compared to an industrial concrete building,” he says. “These buildings are considerably more flexible than concrete because the metal skin façade is less sensitive to building movement than typical architectural facades.”
He adds that the steel units are produced in a factory under a controlled environment which ensures quality. Because steel structures are less heavy, the number of interior columns can be reduced significantly therefore creating additional space. Also steel doesn’t limit the size, shape or height of a building.
“The reduced weight of the steel structures is translated in low volume of earthworks and foundations works,” says van Vulpen. “This advantage is transferred both in terms of financial and planning aspects. The installation can take shape independently from the weather conditions. Making connections by using high resistance hardware allows us to proceed under all-weather circumstances.”
Since steel is fully recyclable, this allows for the creation of ecological friendly buildings. They are not polluting, they are non-toxic and steel combines well with other building materials.
“The production of steel structures involves a dry technological process,” he explains. “Concrete structures however are polluting, starting with the cement factories and continuing with the concrete production process. It is a process that consumes a lot of energy and water.”
Remco also works with its clients to select insulation programs that substantially decrease the costs of electricity used for climate control and lighting. The company is also in the process of incorporating solar panels into its halls and is refurbishing older buildings in order to improve energy consumption.
Commitment to Staff
As a large multinational construction company, the staff at Remco Afrique has the added bonus of being in an environment where they can develop and be able to move throughout the company at an international level.
“We give them the possibility and the infrastructure needed in order to improve their skills and performances,” he says. “Remco focuses on customer centricity which translates into an equilibrium relation between the needs of the company and the needs of the clients. Here the major role is played by and lies with the employees.
“We empower our employees to improve these experiences in the front line as they represent the central pillar in the customer engagement and collaboration processes. The secret stays in the synergy of the team, their proactivity and sense of responsibility, taking initiative, innovation and collaboration.”
With the exception of Supervisors, Remco Afrique employs talent locally and works to foster relationships within the country where the project is taking place.
“We make as much as possible the use of local talents,” says van Vulpen. “By now, hundreds of Nigerians, Gabonese, Congolese and Ethiopians have been trained by us and have enjoyed working on our sites. Before recruiting, ample attention is given to the understanding and acceptance of our health, safety and environment standards that are applicable on all of our sites. Zero tolerance and no compromise in this respect.
“Around the world our clients must be able to rely on our high standards and should see their investment realized without fatal injuries for the workers.”
Spanning the Continent
Remco Afrique is currently working on various projects that span the continent from Ethiopia to Nigeria. In Ethiopia, it is working on production facilities and warehouses in various locations for a well-known multinational in the FMCG sector while in Nigeria; Remco Afrique is working on what is destined to become the largest air cargo terminal in West Africa. The complex in Lagos is scheduled to commence operations in early 2014. The company is also due to deliver a series of five buildings for an entertainment and exhibition complex which is also in Lagos.
“Regardless of the size of the ordering company, each one deserves our respect for their efforts and achievements whether they ordered 2,500 or 25,000 square metres from us,” says van Vulpen.
He adds that Remco Afrique was able to successfully navigate around the Global recession because they were proactive and acted right away at the first signs of the crisis in Europe. Along with the company’s projects in Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Gabon, Remco is in advanced talks for works in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mozambique and Guinee.
“We have developed an active approach of the African market,” he says. “In fact the crisis has been a blessing for us as now the fundament under the Remco Group is stronger than ever before and we are ready to add further to our workload.
“It is our firm desire that by 2018 our annual business volume on the African continent will be between 15 to 20 Million Euros. In order to achieve that we intend to extend partnerships and add local agents to our network. At present we have representative offices in Ethiopia and Nigeria and are in advanced talks for local representation in Ghana.”
With attention to every detail in its project scope and support of staff, Remco Afrique is not only stronger than ever but it is a company of steel built for the global market.