Fri, 29/09/2017 - 08:20
Bound by Excellence
Mombasa Cement Limited’s core foundations of operational excellence, product quality and CSR continue to result in large-scale industry success
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Vivek Valmiki
Mombasa Cement Limited has leveraged its personable and reliable family-owned culture to become a construction operator bound to succeed.
Headquartered in Mombasa, Kenya, the Company’s almost unrivalled acumen in manufacturing and marketing quality cement at affordable prices has taken the business to the very top of its field over the past 10 years, but while its products’ quality speaks for itself, it is actually the internal principles of the business that continue to set MCL apart.
Bound by principles, bound by technology, bound by innovation, bound by brand identity, and bound by excellence; the business can celebrate a decade of development as one of East Africa’s top cement manufacturers.
“Founded to cater for the building construction segment, MCL currently sells 95 percent locally into Kenya,” the Company’s CEO, B.T. Shah introduces, emphasising MCL’s ongoing commitment to its origins. “Cement is a very bulky product and difficult to transport over large distances thus sales are mostly limited to around 500 kilometres from our plants.
“By introducing bulk cement we could sell directly to contractors’ sites and offer better logistics and customer service. By increasing the proportion of sales to distributors we can capture a larger retail market.”
The products referred to comprise three offerings which are sold both in bags and bulk.
Its KP Silver and KP Gold products concern Portland Pozzolana Cement (PPC), which cover all general purpose applications, while its KP Diamond Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) product hones in on the high strength sector.
“In the beginning, only bags were offered but due to demand from customers we started bulk deliveries and offered bulk silos to customers who only used our products; and this really pushed bulk sales,” Shah explains. “We have since increased the number of packers to load more trucks and this has helped customer trucks’ turnaround times.”
Healthy growth rate
Recent strives for innovation have included the testing and development of 52.5MPa grade cement, also known as KP Platinum.
Not only does this represent the latest in a long line of continuous improvement strategies for MCL’s product range, but it also serves as the latest significant milestone in the overall rise to prominence over a relatively short space of time.
“We started cement manufacturing with a grinding capacity of 800,000 tonnes per annum in 2009 at our Athi River plant in Machakos County, using imported clinker,” Shah recalls. “We then started clinker manufacturing with a capacity of one million tonnes per annum in 2011 at our Vipingo plant in Kilifi County to substitute the imported clinker.
“In 2012 our Athi River plant’s grinding capacity was doubled, and in 2013, we started grinding cement at our Vipingo plant with a capacity of 100,000 tonnes per annum. This was a first of its kind containerised mini ball mill plant.”
By 2016, MCL had tripled its cement grinding capacity at Vipingo with the help of another market-first in the form of a modular mini vertical roller mill. And one year on, the business still refuses to rest on its laurels as it turns attentions towards an expansion across all aforementioned plants by 2020.
Shah continues: “MCL has also invested in state-of-the-art technologies which allows for very efficient and safe operations. Continuous monitoring of product quality and plant equipment is at the core of our business.
“At this moment, most cement producers are expanding in the EAC region as it has achieved a healthy growth rate for cement sales due to the Government’s commitment to develop infrastructure and the vibrant private sector.”
However, while more aggressive expansion isn’t a differentiator or a sole trait, MCL is setting itself apart through the manner in which it is growing; expanding its remit in line with its role under the ‘NYUMBA’ brand which means ‘house’ in Kiswahili and revolves around a quality product and long-term customer relationships.
The Company’s role under the NYUMBA umbrella, and the subsequent, groundbreaking introduction of its 52.5 MPa grade cement has allowed MCL to enter the premium high strength market, and on to the radar of numerous large-scale infrastructure projects.
Similarly optimising its production processes and sustainability factors such as energy consumption; the business also sources the best quality raw materials in order to achieve excellence at every stage of the value chain.
“It also ensures consistency in our final products,” Shah adds. “Currently we replace part of our coal consumption with cashew nut shells as alternative fuels in the clinker manufacturing process. We are also looking into the generation of power by renewable means - mainly wind and solar - and have been planning to integrate waste-heat recovery into our system once our project is complete.”
The modular mini vertical roller mill, new quarry mining equipment, a new pre-crusher and the implementation of an ERP system address power consumption, excavation, grinding capacity and internal project managing improvements, respectively. It also sets the tone for a vast array of skilled, local, business partners who have enjoyed positive working relationships with MCL over the years.
“We outsource our entire logistics requirements to local contractors. Since we have our own mines, most of the quality raw materials are sourced with the help of local mining contractors and medium sized enterprises. All our distributors and customers are locally based,” Shah says. “We only use local civil and steel contractors for upgrades and enhancements. Whichever parts we cannot source locally we import through the traders.
“We have long-term suppliers of materials, parts and services and prefer to deal with honest and straight forward suppliers. We regularly do plant audits in various fields to continuously improve.”
Skills and experience
The final piece of the puzzle revolves around human resource optimisation, and the formulation of a loyal, experienced and skilled workforce. Once again showcasing strong levels of localisation, MCL offers intensive and extensive onsite training so that each individual is equipped to manage the delicate processes of a plant, while staff are also sent for local and regional seminars on new products, technologies and maintenance requirements.
“95 percent of our staff are local employees and our first priority is to source qualified local staff; but if that’s not possible then we can think about recruitment of an expatriate who will, in turn, train more locals. We also work with interns to develop their skills and experience,” Shah says.
Local adherences and commitments contribute to a much wider sense of corporate social responsibility (CSR) within the Company; Shah earmarking the concept as one of the core foundations of the business’s progression since inception.
“We have feeding programmes which distribute bread, juice and water to the hungry and poor. In the rural areas during the drought times we distribute water through the “Water is life” programme, and bread to all villages and schools in the neighbouring areas of the plant. To date, we have distributed millions of litres,” he lists. “We built and now sponsor one of the largest disabled schools in the region - Sahajanand Special School - and we also built a large primary and secondary school as part of our CSR.
“We have helped build infrastructure for some of the educational institutions in the region.”
As one of the previously attributed “core foundations” of Mombasa Cement Limited’s success, CSR will continue to play a large role in the Company’s growth moving forward as well, alongside other core foundations of quality, value for money and excellent customer service.