IMSTALCON: in Word and Deed!
It is almost two years since we last published an interview with Vladimir Khoroshilov, Deputy Director General of the Imstalcon Joint-Stock Company. Today he is once again answering questions from our magazine about how things are going in this country’s largest manufacturer and assembler of steel structures.
First of all, I have to say that much has changed since our last meeting. The number of services provided has more than doubled and the production capacity of the company has increased because of equipment upgrades. Today Imstalcon has six plants, 15 assembly enterprises and a R&D office. In addition, we have founded 11 daughter companies engaged in manufacture and assembly of construction metalwork as well as in construction operations generally. While two years ago our facilities were working at just half their capacity, today we have to buy additional equipment and master new technology to cope with the growing demand for our products and maintain their high quality.
All this is a result of the high quality changes in our relationships with customers–foreign companies implementing major investment projects in Kazakhstan. The problems in the first phase when we and our partners literally ‘spoke different languages’ due to incompatibilities in production management and application of standards have now been left behind. We introduced the ISO 9001 system in 2001 and it has been undergoing audits annually. The next step was to study the international Project Management System standard and set up a special department responsible for introducing it. The results are more than encouraging: Imstalcon is working successfully on the Tengiz, Kashagan and Karachaganak projects and has a nearly full order book for 2005.
What major contracts has Imstalcon completed, or is currently implementing?
At Tengiz we have finished manufacturing metalwork for buildings, pipe bridges and tanks at the facilities within the framework of the Sour Gas Injection Project. This two-year undertaking was praised by the customers, evidence of this being the Outstanding Achievement Certificates awarded to us by Tengizchevroil and Parsons Fluor Daniel. Currently Imstalcon is working on Second-Generation facilities. The value of the project (expected to be completed by June 2005) is five times higher than that of the previous one, the SGI.
Over 9,000 tonnes of pipe bridges and pipelines and 58 building frames represent the result of the tremendous work done by Imstalcon at Karachaganak.
We have successfully passed Agip’s qualification procedure and are supplying metalwork to their Bautino base for the second year in a row. Five turnkey facilities have been completed there and handed over to the customer. About three months ago, production of pipe bridges for Kashagan began, the total amount of which will exceed 15,000 tonnes. In fact, we have high hopes for Kashagan: we expect the approximate demand for metalwork (including offshore sites) to reach around 1 million tonnes.
I want to stress that whilst Imstalcon has already made its mark as a reliable supplier of metalwork and tanks for the oil and gas sector, it is now mastering a whole new segment: the construction and assembly industry.
This is not surprising, as you have vast experience of assembly operations at unique industrial and civil engineering sites. What are your recent projects in this area?
Municipal engineering is one of the key strands of our work. For instance, the construction of Astana is currently underway. We took part in building an administrative complex, the Parliament building, the Palace of the Republic, the Eurasia shopping mall, the Palace of Sport, the airport building, the Cinema City film theatre and the bridge over the Ishim River. Together with Marubeni and Alsim Alarco we are constructing a new international terminal at the Astana airport. Imstalcon has built several metal-frame multi-storey buildings in the ‘southern capital’, Almaty. Among those are the fifteen-storey housing complexes and civil buildings on Timiryazev and Sain streets.
As for industrial construction, I would like to mention a Pepsi Cola plant that we are building in Burundai and supplies and assembly of metalwork for the Atyrau Refinery upgrade project. There is also a unique contract with Ispat-Karmet for the construction of a steel-casting floor: we are carrying out the entire engineering and assembly cycle from design to turnkey commissioning. When this floor becomes operational, the factory's output will increase dramatically.
Today the company’s affiliates cover the entire territory of Kazakhstan. What about Imstalcon’s presence abroad?
Over our long period of operation we have manufactured and assembled over 5 million tonnes of metalwork. This includes construction sites in the 'near abroad': Russia, Turkmenistan and the Baltic States. Of course, the transitional stage resulted in a long-term lull in our activities abroad. However, there has been a certain amount of progress recently. In 2003-2004 we supplied around 10,000 tonnes of metalwork to Tajikistan. This year, we set up an office in Kyrgyzstan, a launch pad for our expansion into this promising market, which we will begin in earnest in 2005.
In your opinion, what is the secret of Imstalcon’s enduring leadership in the market?
Above all it is our excellent quality and accuracy in meeting deadlines. Our words always match our deeds. The key factor is careful mastery of new technology and production enhancements. For instance, in 2003 a line for hot-dip galvanizing of metal structures was assembled and commissioned at the Zhambyl plant, Thanks to this, several tonnes of metal structures have been already protected against corrosion. The Polimermetall-T company has purchased a line for manufacturing metallic three-layer wall panels with sandwich-type mineral wool insulation. Korean specialists are currently assembling and setting up this line, which is considered the world’s best in terms of its technical capability, at the Almaty filler structures plant in Kapchagai. Previously Kazakh companies had to purchase sandwich panels in Russia, Finland and Slovenia, but very soon we will be able to supply to 1 million sq metres of panels per year (this is the capacity of our line).
Through co-operation with Japanese companies in technology upgrades, we have installed programmable drilling machines nearly at all the Imstalcon plants. We are also using welding equipment from Sweden’s ESAB, one of the leaders in this sphere. To make Imstalcon products corrosion-proof we use the world’s best coatings manufactured by Carboline and Hempel International Paint.
This approach did not go unnoticed by our customers. Last year, the specialists who visited our plants in 1998-1999 were also present at an Imstalcon presentation at the British office of Parsons Fluor Daniel. They were highly impressed by technological changes that have taken place in the meantime.
Up-to-date equipment and production facilities are only half the success story. What can you tell us about the company’s human resources?
Our stable team of highly skilled engineers and technical personnel is something that we can be truly proud of and rely on. Our continuity of experience is also one of Imstalcon's strong points: there are many 'dynasties' working at the company. To maintain the required professional level, we run our own courses, train new staff and co-operate closely with institutes and vocational colleges. Of course, there are a few problems in this area, too. A general trend which is clear throughout Kazakhstan is the lack of skilled specialists. The higher the economic growth rate, the more acute the problem becomes. For instance, given today’s level of orders we could have hired additional 300-400 skilled specialists to work at the Zhambyl and Karaganda plants. But it is impossible to find so many specialists here. Moreover, our best professionals are pirated by foreign companies working in Kazakhstan. This situation is characteristic not only of our company, but the majority of Kazakhstani enterprises. Therefore, I believe it is crucial that the problem of training skilled technical specialists be solved at the national level.
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