Ahmad Wassin Al Gendy is Corporate Supply Chain Director for Hepworth in the UAE, an organisation that produces integrated piping systems for the construction and civil engineering industries. It is part of Corys Building Materials, a holding company based in Dubai, which manages two other leading regional construction and building materials businesses: Corys Build Centre and Corys Geosynthetics.
Al Gendy is responsible for the end-to-end supply chain operations and deals with a global network of suppliers, as he explains: “We source our raw materials from within the region as well as importing from Europe, India and the US. If we don't have a secure raw material supply source with good supplier relationship management in place we are risking our business.” To avoid this risk, Al Gendy says, Hepworth works with a diverse list of suppliers. He adds: “We have primary, secondary and tertiary suppliers and usually we are working with the three supplier lists. Each with a percentage based on the supplier control management, so we are always minimising the risk of supply issues from our raw material suppliers.”
The company currently has one factory in Qatar and one in Dubai and is in the process of expanding its manufacturing facilities. Al Gendy says: “We will have two factories in Qatar, one in Abu Dhabi and we already have the land for a new factory in Oman.” This increase in production capacity reflects the buoyant construction industry in the Middle East region, which needs Hepworth’s products to build luxury hotels, hospitals and essential infrastructure, including the work going on in preparation for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. “We have our brands targeting the top tier of projects as the demand is very high in this part of the world. Because of the infrastructure projects and expansion by the government and big projects taking place, we are building our new factory in Abu Dhabi and we are investing in new lines to meet the ambitious focus in the region,” he says. This high demand is in spite of the low oil prices, says Al Gendy: “Projects are not blocked. Maybe the process might be a little bit delayed, but because we are market leaders we are not stopping our investment plans.”
To make sure it stays competitive, Hepworth is making the most of what technology can offer in its existing and new factories. “We are investing in new machines that improve our efficiencies and output with new technology. We have a new extruder that is the first machine of its type in the GCC, which we will commission it in a couple of weeks. We are the market leader for this technology.” Hepworth is also a market leader in fittings technology and its socketed pipes have a special design that gives another competitive edge. It covers all market sectors with its product range, focusing on the top tier segment of the market. But, Al Gendy explains, new product developments mean it is increasingly working on second tier projects. He says: “It is the same high quality but we had some value engineering in the product to reduce the cost so we can be competitive in the second tier segment. We are trying to work some value engineering projects to reduce our costs that makes us competitive against the lower market players. Not everyone has seven-star hotels, so we need to have good market influence in other tiers.”
Specialised products and innovation are clearly important to Hepworth and, says Al Gendy, it offers a service that simply isn’t replicated by any similar company in the region. “We have the edge of technology. We have the edge of know how. And because we don't just sell pipes or fittings, we sell these systems plus service. You don't find this complementary approach in any other GCC companies.” He is particularly proud of the company’s key partnerships with European and American organisations such as Georg Fischer, Wavin and Filmac, which help it stay up-to-date with industry innovations from across the globe.
The added service Al Gendy talks about means that the company works very closely with its clients. He says: “We work with the consultants at the design stage of the project to give them a better understanding of our products and systems, we go the extra mile. It’s an education service. As an example, I'll give you one of the great successes we have had recently – we have a partnership with the number one oil and gas company in GCC and we are the only approved supplier to install seven kilometres of pipes under water for gas supply in Abu Dhabi.” Hepworth was the only company in the region with the expertise needed to produce this underwater system. “It’s very difficult technically, it might sound easy but it took nine to ten months to make the design and we were the only approved company to take the project because we were part of the design process, so we understood all the ups and downs that can happen. We understood the risks and how to mitigate these risks.”
Al Gendy says that developing the technical capabilities of Hepworth’s people has been critical to its success. “It's a great place to work, the culture is very good. We have a lot of great management around the people and we offer the best technical training on a regular basis. So every newcomer who joins the company will have technical training every month. We also have companies coming from Europe giving us new technologies and we are funding our people to develop further skills. Our staff turnover is low.”