Different factors along with innovation combine to keep DEPSA thriving from its very beginnings, providing the company for the kind of leadership sustained from decision-making
Becoming a home owner in Latin America is a significant achievement as a material accomplishment in the ongoing quest to provide stability and well-being. Within a quarter of a century, DEPSA became a fundamental player for Guatemala in the housing construction sector since day one. All it took was their daring approach completing large, demanding projects.
“We stopped earning the award after the FHA decided to give the prize to developers instead of construction companies,” said engineer Álvaro Obiols, CEO for DEPSA since 2015. The younger Obiols leads DEPSA’s 2nd generation with support from the company founders’ experience and achievements, resulting in DEPSA’s contribution to developers, banks and other brokers involved in the housing construction sector earning the accolades nowadays. tities, earning the company the “Golden Tikal” first prize award from the FHA (Institute for the Promotion of Mortgage Insurance, the leading Guatemalan housing authority) for five straight years.
“We stopped earning the award after the FHA decided to give the prize to developers instead of construction companies,” said engineer Álvaro Obiols, CEO for DEPSA since 2015. The younger Obiols leads DEPSA’s 2nd generation with support from the company founders’ experience and achievements, resulting in DEPSA’s contribution to developers, banks and other brokers involved in the housing construction sector earning the accolades nowadays.
Both generations of DEPSA are aware that not everything is about accolades. The company has been through difficult times such as the 2008 global financial crisis, the recent COVID19 pandemic and a breach of trust situation in 2015 which brought grief to the company. m to keep up to date with authorities and professors within this subject matter. Obiols paved his way to the top of the company since he was a college student and became in charge of inventory, which led him to experience first-hand the day-to-day operations at every level, in order to become the company’s leader, able to face new challenges.
Both generations of DEPSA are aware that not everything is about accolades. The company has been through difficult times such as the 2008 global financial crisis, the recent COVID19 pandemic and a breach of trust situation in 2015 which brought grief to the company.
“This situation resulted in drastic changes within our organization, it was then that I took over. My father is still working in his specialty area and I’m in charge of administration and project execution,” Obiols expressed.
Innovation: the key to significant projects
The first project completed by DEPSA was Ribera del Río, in the city of Villa Canales, which stands today as the cornerstone and starting point of the company’s successful run along with Valle de la Mariposa, completed afterwards in Amatitlán. Both projects are considered Guatemala’s largest efforts in housing developments, boasting more than 2,600 units each.
In the mid-1990s, housing construction in Guatemala was in transition from brick to cast stone and concrete. Unit quantity and schedules demanded the company seek support and have top execs travel to the United States to bring formwork to Guatemala, done then with metal beams. This method brought DEPSA competitive advantage, allowing the company to rise one house per day after its personnel was trained for this system, resulting in being granted more projects whose demands, both quantity and schedule-wise, became more feasible.
Mutual support relationships with purveyors and strategic partners
“We are the kind of company that looks after its suppliers. They support you and you support them, this creates a difference,” Obiols declared. This way of conducting business has resulted in mutual growth, and during difficult times (either internal or globally speaking) the company has received support from purveyors such as Cementos Progreso (CEMPRO), PRONISA, Proyectos Futuristas, Multigroup and Mexichem, among others, which have always supplied the necessary goods for DEPSA to a timely fulfillment of its commitments.
Evolving toward comprehensive services from design to finishes
Every project engaging DEPSA includes every aspect related with housing construction. For a long time the company recurred to subcontractors for wall finishes, flooring, doors, windows, plumbing and other specialties according to workload.
This changed from 2012 and on, when Obiols claimed each of these tasks as the company created its own finishes department. Centralizing this operation allows complete control on a project, avoiding any kind of shortage while depending upon third-parties and converting DEPSA into a fully-fledged operation covering drafting, design, planning, construction, completion and finishes, just about every single detail delivering turnkey projects.
“Developers seek for land, obtain permits, financing, investors and then engage into sales and marketing. They hire us to take charge of the project’s day to day labors,” Obiols explained.
A number of projects involving DEPSA have been developed across different phases. The company currently works in Condado de las Fuentes, located in the Zona 18 area of Guatemala City. The development’s two initial phases accounted for four-digits in units built, as Phase III is planned to be completed after 280 units are ready; Phase IV (which will boast 400 units) has been granted to DEPSA also, as Phase V of the project (which was first conceived in 2007) is currently being planned.
In Zona 16, Portal de San Isidro (an Hogares ISN development), contemporary Las Fuentes, has benefitted from the boom at Ciudad Cayalá, with its conceptual, elegant surroundings and luxury housing. The Portal Residencias phase has been completed and currently DEPSA is adding finishing touches to the Portal San Isidro III phase.
Other projects have been completed in the vicinities of the highway to El Salvador, where Toscana Campestre and Villa Campestre are located (both Grupo Campestre developments). Both were built with blocks, just like San Isidro, keeping a balance between block and concrete construction.
Digital resources become helping hands
The current management at DEPSA makes the most out of its embracing of technology at every level, starting with the deployment of the SKO ERP software since taking over in 2015. SKO is a customizable program based in the O4B (Open for Business) software developed in Costa Rica. SKO’s advantage is its offering of local technical support. The system is based in the Oracle platform, fitting both management and construction operations in one single interface.
“We need an ERP system able to manage every resource in construction projects involving up to 300 persons,” Obiols expressed.
Other helpful resources for DEPSA’s operations include a giant Gantt chart and SCRUM methodology when assigning materials and workforce.
“Technology eases all these procedures that we have used for years to complete all these projects,” the executive director explained.
Defeating the pandemic
The most serious worry brought by COVID19 among productive sectors as cases began to rise was the uncertainty about its impact extents. The first move by DEPSA was reducing salaries, except for workforce.
“Beating this illness’ effects has become a steeplechase,” Obiols commented. Avoiding the destructive effects of this pandemic the company’s experience in previous crisis situations became crucial, along with this generation’s drive to push forward. Operations never stopped completely and DEPSA’s proper financial management was instrumental to keep every project running. Other fundamental factor into keeping the company running was the possibility brought by current technology of working from home, allowing for management procedures to be performed remotely, as the finishes department prevented any stoppage derived from depending on third parties.
“Investing in the finishes department, thus centralizing this process, enables us to implement our own controls regarding future guidelines in physical distance and personnel management,” Obiols declared.
Human resources: heading toward formal economy
DEPSA considers its workforce as the main ally in every commitment, and one of the main premises shared by the company’s board is to lead each individual employee towards formal economy.
“Our business is based in people earning a worthy living through stable employment enabling them to fulfill long term commitments such as being granted a credit to become homeowners. Housing construction is our platform to develop individuals,” Obiols stated.
Becoming part of the community
In every community hosting a project in which DEPSA is involved, the company endeavours to hire local workforce, thus establishing a link with the area’s inhabitants.
The city of Iztapa, Escuintla, benefitted from DEPSA building churches and a school, and also by the company’s sponsorship of the latter by providing meals for 150 students, which if not for this effort would lack access to this opportunity.
Looking up to the future
DEPSA is about to complete the Condado de las Fuentes project along with works in the San José Pinula, San Miguel Dueñas, Fuentes del Valle and Guatemala City’s Zona 18 areas. But most of the company’s upcoming engagements will be vertical housing projects, considering the rise in vehicle transit in urban areas in Guatemala.
“The construction sector is the most profitable one, it contributes to the development of urban areas surrounding Guatemala City. Our focus is the commitment we have of improving our country from what it was when we started,” Obiols finalized.