homepage_name! > Editions > Number 114 > Interview - Dimitrije Knjeginjic

Dimitrije Knjeginjić, CEO Lafarge Serbia

180 years of tradition

Lafarge Serbia has been in business since 2002 when it entered the market by taking over the cement factories in Beočin. With the arrival of Lafarge, Serbia gained a serious partner and leader in the construction materials industry that is still, just like the former BFC, recognized as a pillar of industrialization in Serbia. I would like to start by emphasizing our pride in our history. We are part of an impressive tradition dating back 180 years when our cement factory in Beočin was founded. The first available records are from 1839, when marl from Beočin was used in the construction of the chain bridge between Pest and Buda. Next year, we are going to celebrate this significant anniversary by offering numerous activities. For us, this event is a huge inspiration to apply our knowledge and experience in order to continue our success story and make history with the oldest factory in the Balkans.

Dimitrije Knjeginjić, CEO Lafarge Serbia, talks about Lafarge Serbia and its activities in Serbia for PROFIT magazine.

1.Mr. Knjeginjić, where were you born? Where did you grow up and go to school?

I was born in Tuzla, where I grew up and went to school. I am qualified as a technology engineer and additionally, I possess a diploma from the IEDC-BLED School of Management.

2.How did your career develop before you reached the position you are in today?

I was appointed as CEO of Lafarge Serbia in September 2013. Before that, I held the position of Vice President of the organization and human resources for the industry on a group-level. I started off my career at the cement factory in Beočin in 1996 as a trainee. Only three months after the arrival of Lafarge in April 2002, I was appointed as a production manager. That was a major turning point in my career. The company placed confidence in me and entrusted me with great responsibility. I became the line manager of numerous engineers who had much more experience than me. I took charge of the mines, of the production and shipping of clinkers, and cement - the heart of the factory. In 2004 I was invited to interview for the position of process manager at Lafarge´s biggest factory on the American continent. I spent two years there and I came back to Serbia as the technical director for the factory in Beočin. This was a position offering greater responsibilities and new challenges. While in this position, I additionally took on the position of director of human resources for Central and Eastern Europe with an office in Paris. I spent two years in this position in which I was responsible for the entirety of staff in eleven countries, ranging from Germany to Russia. My career developed further, advancing to the position of Vice President for the organization and human resources for the industry on the group level for all 177 factories of Lafarge and the six technical centers: Lyon, Vienna, Beijing, Cairo, Atlanta, and Montreal. I held this position for the next 2.5 years. I travelled around the world several times, established numerous friendships, and got to know new areas and cultures. It was from this position that I came to Serbia and took on the position of CEO of Lafarge Serbia in September 2013.

3.When did the Lafarge company enter the Serbian market and to which extent are you satisfied with the results achieved till today?

Lafarge Serbia has been in business since 2002, when it entered the market by taking over the cement factories in Beočin.With the arrival of Lafarge, Serbia gained a serious partner and leader in the construction materials industry that is still, just like the former BFC, recognized as a pillar of industrialization in Serbia.

I would like to start by emphasizing our pride in our history. We are part of an impressive tradition dating back 180 years when our cement factory in Beočin was founded. The first available records are from 1839, when marl from Beočin was used in the construction of the chain bridge between Pest and Buda. Next year, we are going to celebrate this significant anniversary by offering numerous activities. For us, this event is a huge inspiration to apply our knowledge and experience in order to continue our success story and make history with the oldest factory in the Balkans.

I am very satisfied with the results we have achieved. The arrival of Lafarge ensured the means of modernization of the factory and, with the exception of that, provided us with the experience and knowledge of the Group collected across the world. There was a time when we were equipped with just three kilns and outdated technology, which we abolished completely. We invest in new technology every year. Our significant investment program, worth over 120 million Euros, promoted us to become one of the most successful companies in Serbia and made us a leader in innovation, quality, and the establishment of standards in the field of construction. In 2010 we entered the world of alternative fuels, as we want to develop in a sustainable way. In that respect, we are pioneers in Serbia. Our goal is to reduce the amount of fossil fuels being used as an energy source. We have been an active manufacturer of concrete since 2011. We contributed to major projects such as cement manufacturing in the past. Tens of millions of tons of cement manufactured at our cement factory in Beočin has been used for the construction of numerous objects and buildings in our country and across the world. Today, we are active as a manufacturer of concrete as well. We built the Ada Bridge, the Pupin Bridge, the Avala Tower, the Beška Bridge, Corridor 10 and 11, the furnishing house IKEA, the largest wind farm of the Balkans “Čibuk 1”, and the service roads and plateaus of the wind farm Kovačica. We are part of almost all significant infrastructure projects. At the moment, the largest projects we are working on are the Belgrade Waterfront, the reconstruction of the tracks between Belgrade-Budapest, the motorway bypass around Belgrade, Corridor XI, the Clinical Center of Serbia, as well as numerous residential and office objects.

A lot of work and effort was required to get from a low starting position to the top, and I am incredibly happy about everything we have achieved in Serbia with joint efforts, and that we are a modern factory today that is on a par with the newest factories of the LafargeHolcim Group, which we have been a member of since July 2015. For that I owe special thanks to my team and all our employees.

4.You are part of a global company operating on a worldwide level. What are the differences in business in the Serbian market compared to foreign markets?

LafargeHolcim operates in 80 countries throughout the world. When you are working at a global company like LafargeHolcim, you have the power of a global player. But it is very important to consider how you make business at a local level too because that is where our buyers are and every market has its particularities.The Serbian market is open, there is no tax on cement, and we need to be maximally efficient in order to maintain our leading position. What slows us down in Serbia is the speed of convergence with EU business rules, but there is notable progress in most areas relevant to the business.

5.What distinguishes your company as one of the leaders in the construction materials industry from others?

Certainly the quality of our products and our reliability when it comes to the provision of materials as well as our conduct with even the most challenging projects contributes to our stable position at the top of the construction industry in Serbia. Apart from that, we are proud of our ability to adapt the products we offer to the needs of every individual client, our professionalism and adherence to deadlines, our continuous research and effort concerning the improvement of the product and solution range we offer, and the implementation of the most recent global technological advances are only some of the factors making us the first choice for buyers in Serbia.

6.As your business is concerned with the continuous creation of new solutions, can you present some of your innovative products for us?

We support the rise of interest in innovative construction materials in Serbia. In the context of infrastructure, Lafarge Serbia intensely promotes one specific, but wide-spread technology in Europe and the region, which is called ‘the stabilization of soil and road constructions’. It is, for example, used in the construction of new roads and the reconstruction of existing ones, but also in the construction of industrial halls and objects requiring a large surface area.

We applied this method in combination with the hydraulic binder BeoSol 32,5 for the construction of 40km of service roads within the wind farm Kovačica. That way, the construction itself was highly accelerated, while the costs were optimized in comparison to the traditional method, and much better results concerning the load capacity on the road surface were achieved. At the moment, supported by our team in Lyon, we are working on a pilot project for the introduction of a new binder for soils with increased humidity to our product portfolio. The performance of that product will enable us to enter new markets and offer a broader application range. This represents an outstanding global premiere as it is the first time for the Group to work on stabilization with such a binder type.

7.Currently you are taking part in the realization of the infrastructure project “Most na Kalemegdanu“ (The Kalemegdan Bridge). When is the completion of the project scheduled?

The pedestrian bridge which will connect the Kalemegdan and the Sava riverbanks is an interesting project which will round out our rich portfolio of construction ventures. The construction started off in 2017. We are now in the first work phase, which includes the construction of a steel bridge and a concrete spiral ramp. During the second phase, the plateau of the walkway at the Sava towards Ušće will be arranged.

The project realization is in many ways supported by Agilia™, the innovative concrete of Lafarge, which is perfectly suitable for ambitious and creative architecture projects like this one as it provides for problem-free installation and guarantees high-quality concrete with an outstanding finishing layer providing a “sculptural” look with smooth and elegant surfaces. Our experts took part in the project from the project development phase and onwards, providing adequate solutions and ensuring the full implementation of aesthetic and technical standards.

The completion of the work on such a large and complex project depends on numerous factors and I am sure that it will, once it is finished, be on par with some of the largest projects we were part of.

8.Could you tell us more about the other projects you realized?

In recent years, we contributed to numerous projects I would like to mention. One of them is the construction of the wind farm Čibuk, which we completed successfully despite quite difficult conditions challenging us in respect to logistics, production, and quality control. Our mobile concrete base Dolovo produced more than 50,000m3 of concrete, which was built into 57 massive wind turbine foundations. A similar project is the reconstruction of the railway line between Belgrade-Budapest, which is currently running and in use, our integrated offer includes the delivery of over 150,000m3 of fresh concrete and over 130,000 tons of cement for our own needs and the needs of our project partners.

9.What is the volume and growth of sales you achieved during the last year?

In the past year, we achieved a 6% sales growth compared to 2016. The indicators for the current year are good and we are expecting a growth of 10% this year.

10.As a socially responsible company, Lafarge is also supporting the development of the local community. Which areas do you invest in?

The cement factory does not exist without Beočin and the reverse is true. That’s why we are continuously investing in the city where the factory grew for over 180 years. In doing so, we improved the living conditions of all the citizens of Beočin, not only the ones working at the cement factory. In that context, we supported the reconstruction of schools and preschools, the construction of a sports center, and the establishment of good working conditions for more than 1000 registered athletes from 22 sports clubs. We donated towards the repair and reconstruction of the local roads and other infrastructure in the communal territory and we worked on the preservation of tradition and culture and took part in numerous other projects. Amongst the most important projects is certainly the “Beočin Business Park”, an industrial zone we constructed in order to attract new investors to employ the workforce from Beočin. Today more than 300 employees work in companies that settled in our Business Park. We expect even more as some investors who bought property still have not started their investments.

11.What are the business plans of your company in the coming quarter? What are the long-term, primary and strategic goals and expectations?

The market of construction materials is a globally growing market with huge potential. It is highly fragmented and holds a lot of opportunities for us, mostly thanks to urbanization and the fact that an increasing number of people live in cities. If you live in the city, you need infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels, motorways, harbors, airports, and the building of many projects requiring our products.

We expect that the market of construction materials will grow by 3% each year. Based on our capabilities, our market share, and our power, our goal is to grow faster than the market. In the field of concrete production, we achieved great progress in recent years and our goal is to develop further.

The already mentioned sustainable growth is one more goal we strive to achieve from a long- and short-term perspective. In this field, our business, as well as the business of LafargeHolcim Group in highly developed countries, is based on a greater contribution of alternative fuels and a reduction of CO2 emission per ton of cement and, thus the ambition of using an increasing amount of recycled construction materials as well as using byproducts of various industries as alternative repro-materials.

We continuously work on the design, production, and placement of innovative products as well as the professional development of our employees. In short, our goal is to take every chance for the development of our company and become the true leader in the construction materials sector with satisfied clients and committed and proud team members.


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