P&Q Profile: Cemex USA’s Eric Wittmann

By |  August 29, 2018

Eric Wittmann; Cemex USA President, West Region

Cemex hosted more than 80 customers in Walnut Creek, California, earlier this year during the inaugural California Building Materials Forum. Attendees discussed industry trends, shared best practices and looked to the future. P&Q caught up with Eric Wittmann, president of Cemex USA’s West Region, to hear more about areas of emphasis at the meeting.

What are some of the ongoing challenges aggregate producers like Cemex – and your customers – face out west?

Each and every customer has the number one headache of having qualified people. That’s a big hurdle. I’ve been in the industry for 24 years. I love the atmosphere, the health and environment. I love that we are building something. We have to try to sell this to future generations.

Also, reserves are a challenge. I’m not just talking about greenfields, but extending our commissions and keeping our reserves alive. We don’t have a lot of sites where there is not a means to engage strongly with the community. I think that’s OK. It’s becoming more of a segment of the business to manage.
You have to keep a good relationship with all of your communities. We are engaging with our communities and making especially sure plant mangers engage with the communities.

Last year, Cemex released a digital integration program called Cemex Go that creates a simpler order placement experience with live tracking of shipments for Cemex’s main products. What impact is this technology having on the customer experience?

Photo courtesy of Cemex USA

If you look at the data, our industry is one of the last to transform with digital technology. We want to take the lead at Cemex. We made a very strong investment to commit to technology. In California, we had two global pilots [with Cemex Go], and one was here in the Bay Area. We have a strong commitment to invest and develop this. I think we are the first company in building materials to pass this along to our customers.

So far on the ready-mix side we have gotten good feedback. Cemex Go is generating value. I think we have plenty of proposals from customers to further [develop] it. This is definitely a path the industry will go through sooner or later.

We are looking at many more [technology] opportunities. It’s simple things like: How do you measure the cycle time of a truck entering your quarry? You can do it in different ways. I don’t want to disclose our secrets, but on the efficiency side we see a number of opportunities for projects.

Why do you think the construction materials industry has lagged behind other industries in adopting technology?

The industry right now is open to change. I think it has changed. I currently see it with our customers. We didn’t have to push our customers’ use [of Cemex Go]. Some customers are teaming up with us to develop solutions. Right now, I would say there is a craving for technology. Our industry has been very traditional. We faced the financial crisis. After that we were probably scared of investment.

California passed a major bill in 2017 in SB-1. Describe this victory for the aggregate industry and producers like Cemex.

We had a good year in 2017. This goes for Arizona, California and Nevada. We are keeping an eye on SB-1 and the industry is very active on it. In California, about 80 percent of all roads need a major refurbishment. SB-1 would make a major difference and will as long as it’s not repealed. That’s something we are looking very closely at with our people and across our customers.

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