The E&C Division has not only consolidated itself as one of the main references in the European and American Tall Structures market but has also entered Asia and is starting to exploit the new DOMO structures technology. This effort is led by Guillermo Álvarez, Head of the Tall Structures area of the E&C Division of Dominion in the United States, where he has lived since 2004.
Guillermo Álvarez-Director of Tall Structures and Head of Dominion E&C in the USA
What does the División of Engineering & Construction specialize in? How does it fit into Dominion Global?
In the E&C Division we are experts in the management of specialized engineering projects and the provision of services in an industrial environment, using technology to ensure the highest levels of efficiency. Among our capabilities are the construction of any kind of tall structure and gas and combustion systems, end-to-end services in cladding and maintenance and general industrial assemblies.
In my case, I head the tall structures area, which includes all types of constructions with these characteristics: concrete and metal chimneys, concrete silos -including the DOME type- and solar and cooling towers, among others. We work on a continuous basis with other areas of Dominion, for example, to offer end-to-end-solutions that also include operation and maintenance services, or with the digital transformation area, which supports us in technological aspects.
What’s the market like at the moment?
The tall structures market varies a lot from one area to another. There is an unprecedented boom in India and southeast Asia, while the European and North American markets are more mature and Africa is almost untapped. We operate globally, so we always find opportunities; in Asia we are working on industrial development while we are doing dismantling projects in the more mature markets.
What differentiates Dominion E&C from its competitors?
We stand out through our technology and the possibility of designing and constructing in any place in the world; we are not limited in geographic terms. Thanks to the digitalization of our processes, which is one of our distinguishing features, we are able to monitor projects in 20 different countries from three or four locations. The management tools we have implemented in Dominion E&C give us a technological advantage that our competitors do not have. On top of that there is our design capability and the high technological level of our professionals, who have many years’ experience behind them.
What are the outstanding recent projects of the E&C Division?
We are on the point of completing the Opole project, which consists of the construction of the two tallest cooling towers in Europe in a power plant in Poland. We have also demolished and rebuilt four chimneys at Battersea power station in central London. As for volume of business, there is a lot of demolition of concrete chimneys in the USA; in just six years we have demolished 30 structures.
As for the latest novelties in the Division, which ones would you highlight?
We have acquired Bygging India, a well-known company in the area of tall structures in that country, and this has opened up the doors of the Indian market to us. Furthermore, thanks to the incorporation of DOMO structural technology, we have been awarded the first projects on the island of Guadeloupe and in Russia. This technology opens up a new and promising line of business, as it is a new product at world level. We believe that it will be a very important line of business because the concrete chimney market in Europe and the USA has already been explored, and we can now apply this new technology in other fields.
You have been living in the USA for quite a few years. How did the Engineering & Construction Division start off?
We entered the United States in 2004 to take advantage of the boom in sulphuration processes that were going to be carried out in that country. We acquired 35% of a company based in Buffalo called International Chimney Corporation (ICC) and at the same time created another called Karrena International, to be able to attack the US market through the two. We did it that way because you have to remember that the USA is rather complex from the labour point of view: there are sectors in which companies can only operate if their personnel are trade union members. That is why we needed a company with unionised personnel, and ICC is one of them, but we also wanted to take advantage of the boom in the market as the spearhead for our entry into the country, the US market is too big for us not to be there.
What structure does Dominion have in the United States?
We currently employ over 300 people, including office staff and on-site workers. Our head office is in Buffalo, in the State of New York, and we also have offices in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Chicago, Houston, Washington, Alabama, Pittsburgh, Missouri and Connecticut.
What is the current economic situation and how does it affect E&C’s business?
As people tend to say, the US economy is forging ahead, and that is good for Dominion. Despite the fact the main market of coal-fired power stations has slowed, there is still a lot of activity around it, for example the maintenance of chimneys and also other major activities such as the demolition of these plants. Many of these structures have fallen into disuse and their maintenance costs money, which is why many companies prefer to demolish them. We also taking advantage of the positive economic situation to incorporate other Dominion activities in the USA through our sales network, for example, applying our operation and maintenance capabilities to the utilities or telecoms sectors, in which we have extensive experience in other locations around the world.
What is Dominion’s value proposition in its activity?
Clearly, the use we make of technology, both to improve working processes and to apply the most advanced solutions available. In the refractory area, for example, the in-house technology we have in Europe is more developed than that used in the United States. We are adding value for our clients with specific designs for their furnaces that did not exist in the market until then. As for management, we have implemented platforms that enable us to organize and carry out our work in a more efficient manner than other sector companies.
From a more personal angle, what’s it like living in the United States?
Well, I’ve never worked in my native country, Spain. When I finished university I went to Germany, and since then I have been in Brazil twice, Venezuela, Germany again… always working abroad. I’ve been in the USA since 2004, and as it is such a big country there are enormous differences from one place to another. Alabama is not the same as New York or Chicago. The best thing about Buffalo is the people: they are very hospitable and kind to anyone who comes from elsewhere. The only problem is the winter, which is very long and cold, particularly the period from December to March, and that’s what I find most difficult to handle.
After having worked around the world, is there anything you would highlight?
What I enjoy most in my work is the possibility of getting to know different countries and cultures and, above all, exceptional people everywhere. 99% of my colleagues, clients, subcontractors or supplies I have had the pleasure of working with are good people who want to do a good job and support their family.
And something you are particularly proud of?
What makes me most proud, by far, is working with my brother Fernando. He has a major disability but he shows me every day that with tenacity and hard work you can achieve any goal. Never give up!