From dams to airports, Supermix has been providing the concrete for important civil construction projects throughout Brazil, Lee Weingast reports.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that a sizeable part of Brazil is built with Supermix concrete. From highways to subways, from dams and ports and from museums to mines, Supermix ready-mix concrete is used in civil construction projects across the country. Supermix concrete is poured into the subways in the major cities of Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and São Paulo; iron mines built by Vale do Rio Doce Company in the mineral-rich state of Minas Gerais and into the paving of main highways and roads in São Paulo, among many other projects. Nearly 90,000 cubic meters of Supermix’s architectural concrete was used in the construction of the City of Music in Rio de Janeiro, which highlights the building’s exterior in flowing French arcs. Roberto Perez, one of the four directors of Supermix, praises the building as one of the most beautiful he has ever seen and predicts that it will earn worldwide recognition.
Supermix’s success grows out of the true entrepreneurial spirit and abilities of its founder, Juventino Dias, who came from very simple origins to start various business ventures until establishing himself as one of the premier cement producers in Brazil in 1953. The concrete company, now known as Supermix, was established in 1976 in Belo Horizonte, the capital city of Minas Gerais in central Brazil, with 15 concrete mixers and 40 employees.
In addition Supermix™ has become the largest privately owned and independent ready mix concrete company in southeast Florida. It was established in 1989 and is a well organized company with seven locations, 10 concrete batch plants and 135 trucks supplying ready mixed concrete to commercial, residential and FDOT as well as various city and municipality projects throughout the area.
Superblock™, the company’s new state-of-the-art masonry concrete block manufacturing plant, also delivers masonry concrete block to customers with block trucks and flatbeds with attached Navigator forklifts to better serve their projects.
Perez reports that Supermix’s clients include business, heavy industry and government entities involved in civil construction. Supermix has been positioned to take part in some important aspects of Brazil’s development with involvement in hydroelectric dams, a major source of the country’s electricity, and iron mines, which are part of a well-established and growing extraction sector. The company’s ready-mix concrete is also poured into roads, residential and commercial structures, including shopping malls and even airports. Expansion and flexibility mark Supermix’s work in which it has the capacity to accept large-scale jobs. “We set up 12 plants for special jobs like dams, iron mines and marine ports. Because these projects are often situated in isolated areas and may require special needs, we work out of plants specifically constructed for these purpose,” Perez says.
The organization of Supermix is somewhat unusual. While some functions are centralized at the Belo Horizonte headquarters, each plant is a mini-business where every aspect of its workings is overseen by a local manager. In addition, Supermix combines the commercial and operational aspects of the business. Therefore, management must be somewhat familiar with the aspects of logistics, maintenance, technology and transportation. Perez points out that concrete is not part of an engineering degree, and the work requires organization and speed: “With only three hours, while the concrete cures in the forms, we need people who can think on their feet and perform well in all areas,” explains Perez. Thus, much on-the-job training is required.
The 2,200 Supermix employees work at 95 plants in 22 states throughout Brazil. They also operate the company’s fleet of 850 concrete mixers and 160 pump trucks. This gives Supermix an annual capacity of five million cubic meters. Perez reports that production is currently at 80 percent of its capacity. Sustainable and environmentally friendly practices are more than just platitudes at Supermix. The company is taking active steps to incorporate LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) into various aspects of the business. Perez boasts, “We won first place in the Ouro Azul (blue gold) competition for water treatment in our plants. All the water we use is returned clean to the environment and we manage to reuse approximately 55 percent of the water used in our plants.” He goes on to explain, “We can’t emit dust into the atmosphere so we use water to lessen dust. This water is collected and the dust is filtered out so that the water can be utilized for irrigation, to wash trucks and again for dust reduction.” Supermix has already earned the ISO: 9001-2000 certification for its operations in Belo Horizonte, which represents 10 percent of total volume, and expects its São Paulo location, which accounts for 25 percent of volume, to be certified in the first half of 2009. Supermix of Brazil has also attended various industry events such as the World of Concrete; ConAgg; FIHP and is a member of ABESC (Brazilian Association of Ready-Mixed Concrete Companies). ABESC represents approximately 75 percent of the total Brazilian market.
Supermix is not content to rest on its laurels and continues to seek ways to improve and expand its products and services. It has recently come out with special products such as SCC (Self-Consolidating Concrete), self-leveling concrete that increases the viscosity of the concrete while still allowing the concrete to flow without segregation. The company also produces High-Early strength concrete. Perez boasts, “We even produce a special concrete mix that is used with aluminum forms that permits rapid residential construction.
Perez sums up the company’s attitude toward growing and improving: “We don’t worry about being the biggest, only the best. Growth comes as a consequence of this approach.” Perez explains that the company’s policy is now to establish a clear vision three years into the future. A shorter-term perspective allows the company to deal better with rapid market changes in today’s world than the 10-year plan previously in place. He adds, “Although no one knows how globalization will affect Brazil in the coming years, we know that by Brazil currently undertaking steps to improve its infrastructure for future demand in segments such as residential construction, mining, agriculture, petroleum, the automobile and ethanol industries, these sectors will require the use of ready-mixed concrete”. He adds that although Brazil is financially healthy, Supermix is “moving quickly but cautiously because things can change very fast.”