Made of (Quality) Steel
JFE MERANTI was set up with a clear mission in mind – to elevate standards in Myanmar’s building industry by providing products based on endurance and long-term affordability
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Kyle Livingstone
“While we as humans have made tremendous progress over the past 10 years in our virtual, digital world, the real world has not progressed that much.
“To the contrary, low-quality building products have flooded the markets, and I believe that we need to dedicate more time and focus on making the real world better.
“Offering quality roofing and walling materials is one way of doing so. The inspiration to set up my own business came from what I saw in the Myanmar roofing and walling market. I thought if no one is seizing that opportunity, then I just have to do it myself.”
The company and person in question is JFE MERANTI and Sebastian Langendorf, a man who is passionate about all things coated steel.
Describing it as a fascinating and unique product full of complexity, from supply chain and engineering through to production and marketing, he saw huge potential to not only create a successful business, but to also uplift standards across Myanmar’s construction sector at large.
And the opportunity is certainly there. Myanmar’s building sector is growing at around 10 percent per annum and is set to continue doing so for the foreseeable future, driven by infrastructure, residential, commercial and industrial projects springing up all over the country.
Langendorf now serves as CEO and Managing Director of JFE MERANTI, a firm whose high-quality coated steel products are relevant in all of the aforementioned construction subsectors.
The challenge? Communicating the message that investing in such quality pays long-term dividends.
“While low quality coated steel roofs might look ok for the first one or two years, colour fading and corrosion set in soon thereafter, making a replacement necessary and costly,” Langendorf says. “Also, under strong winds corroded roofs pose a tremendous safety risk.
“We are aware that very often price is raised as a reason for buying low-quality roofs. But for roofing material we recommend consumers to look at the CYL, the cost-per-year-of-life. Building owners must know that the CYL is much higher for low-quality coated steel because of the short lifetime of those products.
“One of our key challenges in the market is the lack of that knowledge, resulting in an inflow of cheap low-quality imported products which are dumped onto the Myanmar market.”
In response, JFE MERANTI has released its first product, ALZU.
A quality-laden aluminium-zinc coated product for roofing and walling, it comes in 10 colours and with a guarantee against corrosion and colour fading, ideal for constructions in sub-tropical climates such as Myanmar.
Customers also benefit from short lead times (which help to keep their inventory levels low) and technical services and advice, vital if the company is to address the knowledge gap identified by Langendorf. ALZU is also available for export, the JFE MERANTI team in Singapore ready to answer any inquiries.
The product will be produced at the firm’s industrial plant the Thilawa Special Economic Zone near Yangon from December 2019, a site which is sat on eight hectares of land and comprises two processing lines for metal coating and painting, raw material and finished good warehouses, utilities, and an admin building.
Having broken ground in March 2018, the completed facility can produce 90,000 tonnes of painted products and 180,000 tonnes of metal coated products every year, although Langendorf is eager to expand this in the near future.
“We have the space and layout ready to expand production to 360,000 tonnes per year by adding a second metal coating line, and to add a cold rolling mill,” he explains. “By the end of 2019 we will employ around 300 people, with a potential to increase to 500 people in the coming years.
“Around 70 percent of our sales is for the domestic market, mostly to rollforming businesses who buy our coils to form the coated steel into roofing and walling profiles. Our export business is also in the form of coils which we ship to rollforming customers around the world.”
With high quality also comes heightened sustainability credentials, a crucial factor for the CEO and MD who highlights how a longer lifespan inevitably results in a reduced carbon footprint.
“But not only do we produce long-lasting products, we also use world-class processes on our site,” Langendorf continues. “This includes a modern wastewater treatment plant that treats water onsite before it goes into the processes of the industrial zone.
“Furthermore, we are using a technology that is burning the fumes from our painting process and feeding the heat back into the production, instead of just emitting the paint fumes into the atmosphere. Also, we focus on using paints that have high solar reflection to reduce the temperature in buildings that are covered by our coated steel, thereby limiting the need for cooling and air-conditioning.”
Building a safe and solid future
The foundations are therefore set for JFE MERANTI to progress into a sustainable future, one which will see the company offer even greater employment opportunities to local people.
Through 2020, Langendorf aims to increase the ratio of non-expat workers to more than 90 percent, up from the current figure of 85 percent.
To help drive this, the firm is collaborating with two leading universities in the country (Yangon Technological University and Thanlyin Technological University), offering both internships and recruitment opportunities for graduate students who excel in mechanical, electrical, chemical, mechatronics and IT disciplines.
“Skills development is critically important to us, not only for the newly hired graduates,” the CEO and MD adds.
“We provide technical training and guided on-the-job training across all teams. In addition, we have a Future Leaders Program and a Leaders Program with the objectives to develop our highest performers over the longer term, by equipping them with the relevant leadership, business, and strategic skills.”
Worker safety is another key priority for Langendorf, who states upholding high HSE standards as one of the company’s major objectives for 2020 alongside the successful production and selling of ALZU.
Beyond this, JFE MERANTI is also looking to launch three new products and fully upscale production, the ultimate ambition being the recognition of the company as a world-class partner for coated steel, both in Myanmar and internationally.
Asked about the wider impact his company can have on the country’s building standards, Langendorf signs off in upbeat and confident fashion.
“The great thing about quality coated steel for roofing and buildings is the visible impact on the country as a whole,” he says.
“Good looking, long lasting roofs and buildings just make our environments so much more attractive and prompt overseas visitors to speak positively of Myanmar. We look forward to seeing many JFE MERANTI roofs and buildings in Myanmar and beyond.”