Upping your game

FMs are boosting manpower to accommodate for MEP services in house.

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An increasing number of FM companies are offering MEP services such as HVAC servicing as part of theiir overall service offering.
An increasing number of FM companies are offering MEP services such as HVAC servicing as part of theiir overall service offering.

Clients are demanding more competitiveness from FM service providers and are boosting numbers by bringing previously-outsourced MEP staff inhouse. fmME investigates the pros and cons

A substantial proportion of FM service delivery is made up of mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) services. Some even say that MEP forms the basis of FM. An increasing number of companies are offering MEP services such as HVAC servicing within their FM offering.

This is particularly true in the UAE, and of those companies targeting the new OA client base, which is demanding more competitiveness from service providers.

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Duserve FM estimates 50% of its service offering is MEP-based. The company offers MEP to residential and commercial towers and buildings, malls, schools, stadiums, villas, apartments and warehouses.

“Our MEP offering is continuing to grow, given the level of demand and flexibility we can offer the marketplace,” says Ehab Al Najjar, head of MEP, Duserve FM. “We do our best to minimise outsourced staff where it is less expensive for our client,” he adds.

Man behind the machine
“Challenges [are faced] in recruiting larger staff. However, we plan ahead and forecast accordingly based on our recruitment plan. Monthly trips are scheduled in various countries, targeted at creating a ‘pool’ of staff to incorporate flexibility as it is not solely on price competitiveness, but also the ability to mobilise quickly.

[Though] this is a commercial risk, this model allows us to train our staff appropriately and with care. It gives staff time to familiarise themselves with the building and with Dubai,” he adds.

Training and up-skilling is helping with the challenge of meeting cost-conscious attitudes.

There is evidently a much greater emphasis on quality service delivery. Duserve FM employs a training team to meet the expected standards of clients, but also incorporates a hospitality approach which includes training on customer-facing skills necessary to ensure quality and suitable fit for clients.

Emrill provides MEP services to corporate, commercial and residential clients in the UAE. MEP services include maintenance of installation work within units and buildings.

The company firmly believes maintaining and obtaining client contracts is not reliant on drastic structural changes, but is down to visibly demonstrating a high-quality service; success is therefore attributable to the ability of the workforce.

“Our strengths lis in self-delivery and the sheer strength of our processes and functions supported by our skilled staff,” explains Nigel Seymour, technical services director, Emrill.

“We believe in working smarter, not harder, infusing our people with the belief in continuous improvement to ensure a quality service delivery that is constantly improving to the benefit of our clients.”

In 2011, Emrill's staff ‘Centre of Excellence’ conducted over 13,000 training sessions.

“It has supported us with tried-and-tested training programmes to meet and exceed the demands of our clients on service quality,” says Seymour.

Most FM companies do still have a requirement to outsource specialist services. These generally include fire systems, lift maintenance and BMS systems.

Outsourcing is not a taboo word
“Equipment such as lifts require equipment-specific expertise,” explains Malay Shroff, COO, Hitches and Glitches. “In addition, there are warranty and safety aspects to consider, often best left to specialists.”

Emrill ensures the delivery of outsourced services is managed by itself.

“Outsourcing the maintenance of these systems is necessary. They require the expertise of product manufacturers which provide the unique parts, maintenance and service to ensure the longevity and life of the asset,” says Seymour.

Though Duserve FM has expressed desire to bring a number of currently outsourced services inhouse, Al Najjar agrees that the delivery of specialised services are best left up to the experts, which can be commercially-viable, too.

“There are benefits of outsourcing certain specialised systems such as lifts, chillers, BMS, FA & FF, ECB, CCTV and SACS, as it can be less expensive to go with a specialised contractor rather than recruit, hire, train and pay the staff.

Further, these organisations include the spare parts required for the variety of brands of systems to minimise downtime. It can be more efficient and easier to manage an outsourced organisation in light of this.”

Ever-present cost challenge
The benefits of outsourcing versus inhouse depends on each project, says Shroff.

“When skilled manpower is required we undergo a recruitment drive. New recruits [undergo] a structured orientation and familiarisation process. [Regular] refresher sessions upgrade their technical skills and soft skills are also a big focus for us,” explains Shroff.

But cost can put pressure on FM companies when it comes to optimum service delivery. Transparency is key for clear expectations says, Shroff.

“Balancing price and service expectations is a growing challenge,” adds Shroff. Raising a customer’s expectations of service at an amazingly low price will be damaging, sooner or later.”

Al Najjar adds that educating the client on services and their importance is a crucial factor in helping to overcome this obstacle.

“We meet our clients, explain our approach and what we [see as] best practice. We share our manpower allocation model to show that we calculate based on a scientific approach rather than, perhaps, a subjective estimate. This [justifies] manpower, tools and equipment needed based on assets listed and other criteria to ensure best practice is maintained.”

Technology is a major factor in driving costs down for the client. Emrill won the fmME Award for Innovative Use of IT in 2011, and is introducing technology on multiple levels. A recent contract win with Allsopp and Allsopp will see Emrill provide a dedicated online portal allowing customers to place and track service requests online.

The future is IT
“We are supported by cutting-edge technologies and processes, constantly innovating ways we can bring value to the client,” says Seymour.

Al Najjar adds IT is a key investment for dealing with the OA client base, and 2012 will see Duserve FM invest in technology in a big way. But staff remain the focus.

“The technology needs to be simple enough to use, but robust in nature to satisfy our processes and back-end systems. We do take technology and processes very seriously.

[But] with that, it means a consistent training regime with our training team to ensure that commitment is maintained as we know that our staff are our assets,” he concludes.

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