Growing with Eilat

Hitachi plays an active role in the expansion of a popular Israeli town

The success of an urban environment relies on a strong infrastructure and Eilat is no exception. Hitachi ventured to the Red Sea to meet the versatile construction company, S Noufi and Sons, and establish what part it is playing in the town’s ongoing growth and development.

Eilat is a busy port and holiday resort, situated at the southern tip of Israel and the northern tip of the Red Sea. Home to almost 60,000 people, the town is part of the Negev Desert, adjacent to the Egyptian village of Taba and the Jordanian port of Aqaba.

The arid desert climate is moderated by Eilat’s close proximity to warm sea. Temperatures often exceed 40°C in summer and 20°C in winter, while the water is always over 20°C. The city’s beaches, nightlife and desert landscapes also make it a popular destination for domestic and international tourism.

The tourist trade first came to prominence in the Seventies and became increasingly important to the city’s economy when it was authorised as a free trade zone in 1985. Over the past thirty years, tourism has helped to quadruple the population in Eilat and it is now the town’s major source of income. Counting tourists and other visitors, there are as many as 150,000 people in town during high season.

The expansion of Eilat has necessitated an upgrade in the town’s infrastructure and the construction of hotels and other holiday attractions to accommodate and entertain the visitors. Fortunately, the upturn in the tourist trade coincided with the arrival of construction company, S Noufi and Sons, more than three decades ago. The family-run firm was established in 1976 in Haifi, 85km north of Tel Aviv, by the late Samaan Noufi. He was soon joined by his three sons, Marwan, Sami and Raed.

The brothers still manage the business and share all of the responsibilities: Marwan is the General Manager; Sami is the Finance Manager; and Raed is the Projects Manager. In addition, the third generation of Noufis has already started working with their fathers.

Raed’s first project was the construction of the Club Hotel Eilat in 1981. Due to the relatively small size of the resort, this was the area’s largest construction project at that time. It was completed to a high standard and in advance of the deadline. As a result, S Noufi and Sons’ newly established high profile in the community propelled the company on to the tender list for future projects.

Following this success, Raed made a permanent move to Eilat in 1983. Two years later, a huge rainstorm resulted in extensive flooding. The mayor asked the company to help and work through the night as part of the salvage operation.

The professional approach adopted by S Noufi and Sons in Eilat’s hour of need meant that the company was then considered for all future municipality projects. It is now the main supplier to local government, especially for drainage work.

In 2002, it started on a new housing development and went on to construct over 150 apartments in the following six years. This part of the business has expanded since then and an additional 300 properties were built between 2008 and 2010. This was due to the increased demand for residential and private investment properties.

S Noufi and Sons today employs 261 people and specialises in a wide range of industry solutions— general construction, infrastructure, utilities, cement, quarrying and marine work. The most significant part of the business varies annually, but it was new housing development and road construction that generated the most income during 2011.

The most recent construction project started in 2009, with 141 apartments and 16 villas due to be completed by March 2012. S Noufi and Sons is utilising its newly acquired fleet of Hitachi construction machinery on the project to complete the earthmoving, groundworks, utilities, landscaping and road construction work.

The wide range of mini and medium crawler and wheeled Zaxis excavators were supplied by the Israeli dealer, CMD. The two companies have been working together since S Noufi and Sons was founded, the relationship having developed through the parts and servicing of the contractor’s construction machinery.

The ZX16-3, ZX18-3, ZX29U-3 and ZX350LC-3 were delivered to Eilat in July 2011. The ZX190W-3 and a second ZX350LC-3 followed a month later. S Noufi and Sons holds a stock of Hitachi consumable parts, and orders other components direct from CMD for next-day delivery from Tel Aviv. CMD also flies a technician down to Eilat on a regular basis to carry out routine maintenance work.

“CMD offers a ‘hot’ service,” smiles Raed.
“They are excellent suppliers of construction machinery, parts and service, and visit us at least once a month in support of our operations. There is no doubt that we have a strong working relationship. We like the personal service offered by CMD and feel very close to them.”

Sales Manager, Avi Levy, and Key Account Manager, Moshe Schomer, are CMD’s main points of contact for Raed. The companies have known each other for many years, but Raed’s wife has also played a part in the decision to buy the new Zaxis machines.

“The attraction to Hitachi is like a love story,” jokes Raed, “as my wife likes the orange colour of the machines! However, we also know that Hitachi is a huge brand and all of the products are excellent from the minis up to the giant mining machines.

“We’re extremely satisfied with the Zaxis excavators and the technology now at our disposal. They are impressively fast, responsive and smooth to operate, especially the ZX190W-3.

“This model is close to my heart, as I started my career as an operator of a wheeled excavator. It is so versatile and many problems can be solved with just one machine. Overall, the medium excavators are already saving the company up to 40 per cent on fuel consumption.”

A tour of the new apartments and villa site reveals the ZX29U-3, ZX190W-3 and ZX350LC-3 working in unison to keep the development on schedule. Raed introduces the operators, who explain in enthusiastic detail how their first experience of Zaxis excavators has transformed their daily routines.

The ZX29U-3 is clearing an area adjacent to some of the new buildings, with Ali Camel in the driving seat. “It is strong, fast and easy to use, particularly when moving earth,” he says. “It’s just the right size for this type of work, which underlines its versatility. The cab is very quiet, the air conditioning is perfect and it is a wonderful machine to operate.

“When I saw it for the first time, I didn’t believe that it would be up to the tasks that it is able to do around the site. I have previous experience of operating backhoe loaders, so I was really surprised by the overall performance of this mini excavator.”

It’s hard to keep track of the ZX190W-3 wheeled excavator, operated by Omar Haldi, as it moves from job to job around the site. “The cab is very comfortable and I like the ergonomic design of the control panel,” he explains. “There is an excellent all-round view of the site, especially with the use of the rear-view camera.

“The engine is very strong and I like to work with the blade. The ZX190W-3 is fast, responsive and operates smoothly. There is nothing that I am unable to do with this incredibly versatile machine on new housing developments such as this.”

Mohammed El Kdor is at the helm of the ZX350LC-3, loading soil into 12m³ trailers in an average time of four minutes. “Everything is going well with this machine and I love working with it,” he enthuses. “It’s fast, smooth, stable and easy to operate. The air conditioning works really well and I enjoy listening to music in such a quiet cab.”

It’s difficult to assess what the future holds for
S Noufi and Sons. Much will depend on the success of new tenders, such as the one for a new airport, 20km outside Eilat, and another for a factory at a local copper mine. However, with the wide range of industry solutions within its portfolio and an efficient and productive fleet of construction machinery at its disposal, the company looks set to continue growing with Eilat under the heat of the desert sun.

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