Rio Grande Valley
What do the Golden Gate Bridge, and the interchange at Highway 83 and Bicentennial have in common? Concrete. Yes, that construction staple is used in virtually all structures built these days, and is even found in many craft projects. You may wonder what can be interesting about a bumpy or smooth glob of every shade of gray matter. Remarkably, the multi-faceted business of concrete is fascinating to learn about.
“Cement is a powder substance we use within concrete,” Jairo Razo, vice-president general manager of CEMEX, Rio Grande Valley, said. “We manufacture concrete in four of our plants in Mission, Edinburg, Harlingen, and Brownsville. Our concrete mixes are like cake mixes so we can modify our mix designs to whatever our customers want.”
Using cement, rock, sand, admixtures, and water, CEMEX creates any form of concrete for a particular project.
“Depending upon the ratios of materials, we can achieve what the scope of work requires, from a simple residential sidewalk to bridges or commercial high rises,” Razo said.
When he joined the company in 2010, Razo went through a rigorous five interview process and then an intensive 4 month training with quality control to learn about the concrete, understand the products, and accompanied ready-mix drivers on ride-alongs, all to become knowledgeable on every aspect of the business.
Even so, there are yearly conferences to learn more.
“There is a lot to the concrete world, from the concrete mix designs and batching it into the ready-mix trucks, to testing the compressive strength of the concrete at our quality control laboratory,” Razo said. “There’s always new technology offered. In testing concrete for strength, we make cylinders and take samples every three, seven, fourteen, and twenty-eight days to test the compression and level of strength.”
Maybe playing with those ready-mix trucks when he was a kid should have been a sign to Razo. Starting out in the sales end of the business, after a few years he was offered a unique opportunity. Since CEMEX in Houston dedicates itself to large projects, Razo saw the small business – small contractors, and home owners – as a neglected side of the business and began developing it.
“My goal was to help the small but rising customer become a leader in this high demanding and competitive industry,” he said.
Watching the division grow, as it expanded across the Houston metro area, he was excited when he was approached with the opportunity to manage CEMEX’s entire business in South Texas in 2016.
“I wanted the chance to run the operation down here,” the Houstonian said. “I saw so much potential for growth for CEMEX in the Rio Grande Valley. When you drive around the RGV, you see a lot of construction work going on, which is an indicator of the robust growth the region is currently experiencing.”
Learning about concrete and how it is batched at the completely computerized plant, and how it gets to the job, is a story in itself. Every aspect of the concrete business, from the ready-mix trucks to loading concrete into the mixer to how many revolutions the concrete needs before going to the project, is also computerized. Protecting other vehicles’ windshields by washing the trucks down thoroughly before they even leave the yard is an important part of the process as well.
These days CEMEX, which began in 1906 in Monterrey, Mexico, is a global company with branches in over 50 countries. Starting little and, acquisition by acquisition, spreading its wings, CEMEX keeps its eye on the forefront of the concrete business.
Developing the CEMEX Go app now allows customers to place orders, track their ready-mix trucks, get invoicing, and make payments, all at the tip of their fingers. The process of ordering concrete can now all be done on a smart phone.
“CEMEX understands that how people do business is always evolving, and we want to be ahead of the curve in order to continue to push for a better experience for our customers,” Razo said. “It’s a challenging but very rewarding business. We know we are helping to build communities.”
In that sense, Razo is quick to affirm that CEMEX feels giving back is an all important aspect of the business. One way is to offer college seniors a one-year program of work where they rotate through every aspect of the operation, getting to know each area in full detail. Once they graduate, they will have a job opportunity in whatever division they wish.
“We like to be heavily involved in giving back to the community, locally and beyond,” he said. “In the Big Bend area, we have the 27,000 acre nature reserve called El Carmen Nature Reserve that just introduced buffalo to the area.”
With 40 trucks and 65 employees in the Valley, customer service is at the top of the CEMEX business plan.
“Customers, whether big or small, want quality concrete and they want good service,” Razo said. “My belief, and CEMEX’s philosophy, is that the magnitude of the project does not matter. We want to make sure that our customers have a great experience when it comes to the delivery of their concrete.”
As one of the top cement/concrete companies in the USA and globally, CEMEX is making a firm stand in this industry, from serving everyone from the little guys to the global giants, and helping create everything from massive high-rises to back-yard patios.
“Making sure our customers get the quality concrete they need at the time they need it, that’s the ultimate goal,” Razo said.