by Ana Astillero
It is always the sights and sounds of the Philippines that impress Alonso Lopez the most, but not exactly in the way that you might imagine.
“Everywhere I look, something is being built— a high-rise building here, a condominium there,” said Lopez who is captivated by the construction sites that dot the metropolis.
As a global operations expert of cement giant CEMEX, Lopez sees beyond the buzzing whirr and pounding of big machines tamed by humans and the rows of long steel bars jutting out from concrete pulled up by yellow cranes. For Lopez, construction sites are a promise of economic progress. New office buildings signify more jobs and condominiums are a tangible manifestation of years of saving and dreaming to have a place to call home.
For a company like CEMEX, it is also a chance to be part of this rapid expansion and be the country’s partner in achieving its development goals.
Back in 2015, CEMEX took stock of the Philippines’ potential for growth and announced its commitment to invest $300 million in the country through an expansion project in its Solid Cement Plant in Antipolo City. Prior to the announcement of this expansion project in Solid, CEMEX inaugurated in 2015 its P3 billion finish mill in APO Cement plant which increased its capacity by 1.5 million ton. Additionally during the same year, the company completed the construction of its new marine distribution terminals located in Manila, Iloilo and Davao amounting to a total of P1 billion.
Lopez’s task is to help in the expansion of the Solid Cement Plant, starting with the construction of a new 1.5 million ton integrated cement production line that will double the plant’s capacity.
“This new line will be built as an expansion project of the current Solid plant to address the growing demand for cement,” said Lopez, his excitement over this prospect is evident which isn’t really that surprising. In fact, in his recent visit to the country, Lopez shared that the new kiln for this project arrived at the Solid plant in October 2016, and engineering work can commence as soon as the necessary government permits are released.
Born and raised in Mexico, Lopez has been in the business of building nearly all his life. “Right after graduation, CEMEX offered me a job and well, I’m still here. My father and my uncles worked in cement companies so I guess you can say cement runs in the family,” shared the 47-year-old industrial engineer.
Lopez joined CEMEX in 1992, back when it was just a company poised for expansion in other markets like the US and Europe. Now, CEMEX operates in more than 50 countries around the world and maintains trade relations in approximately 108 nations. As a witness to the company’s growth, Lopez knows that starting out small just means having a vast space for growth, very much like where the Philippines is now.
In over two decades with CEMEX, Lopez has held various positions ranging from operational to managerial, but the most exciting part of his job will always be being at the cement plant.
“Some people may think cement plant operations involves only mechanical repetitive tasks, but that’s not true.”
“Our office is the central control room which is like the brain and the heart of the cement plant.” From this room, similar to a control tower in airports, Lopez and his team oversee every aspect of plant operations and keep a watchful eye on the interconnected machines that keep it running. That means monitoring everything from the massive kiln (a machine where the raw materials of cement are mixed and melted together) to the most teeny tiny nuts and bolts to make sure that they are all operating in sync.
“But you know, plant operations also means manning the production line and ensuring operational efficiency and innovation. Our cement product mixtures are formulated in our headquarters in Switzerland where we also have our research and development facility,” Alonso added.
For now, Lopez has set his sights on getting to know the Philippines better. His hectic schedule of regular visits to the country allows him to get well-acquainted with the Philippine setting and culture. Lopez is looking forward to contribute to the completion of the Solid expansion project, and is excited to soon call the Philippines his own home.