1. Trans Gulf Electro Mechanical, Stuart McGregor, General manager
After winning the MEP Contractor of the Year Award last year, Trans Gulf Electro Mechanical, the MEP arm of Al Naboodah Construction Group, has consistently been securing loads of MEP projects in the UAE. The company recorded a revenue of $163m in the UAE in the year 2016.
A few of the projects completed last year in Dubai were the Landmark Headquarters, Emirates Flight Catering and Audi Service Centre.
On future opportunities, Stuart McGregor, general manager, Trans Gulf Electro Mechanical & Al Naboodah MEP, says: “The single biggest opportunity for Trans Gulf over the next 12 months is the volume of work being put out to tender. We are seeing an encouraging increase in potential projects, particularly for those that demand the use of different technologies, while enabling us to take advantage of our building information modelling (BIM) capability to create efficiencies. Our new civil defence division is also attracting significant, high-profile contracts.”
When it comes to training programmes, he says that employee learning and development requirements are identified during each employee’s annual career development review. In 2016, over 150 different types of training courses were provided at Trans Gulf.
Speaking about the challenges facing the sector, McGregor says: “The biggest challenge for the MEP industry will be in managing project financing and payment delays aligned with unrealistic client budgets. We welcome more design and build procured projects, enabling us to lead the design to cost solutions for our clients, whilst ensuring quality and technical operability are not compromised.”
The company engages closely with its stakeholders. At a recent event, hosted by Trans Gulf for its suppliers, it promoted procurement best practice and encouraged adherence to its supply chain ethics.
Number of years in his role: 3
Number of years in the company: 3
Number of years working in the Middle East: 8
2. ALEMCO, Nathan Hanns, General manager
Established in Dubai in 1999, ALEC is a multi-disciplinary construction group with operations in Abu Dhabi, Oman, and other regions. The company has worked on projects such as schools, residential buildings, airports and hotels. Established in 2006, ALEMCO is the contractor’s MEP division.
A few of the successfully completed contracts by ALEMCO are the relocation of Dubai Airshow and Expo, Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort & Spa in Abu Dhabi, Mirdif City Centre (drainage works) in Dubai, etc.
In an early 2017 interview with MEP Middle East, Nathan Hanns, general manager of ALEMCO, said: “I think we’re quite positive about the outlook for the market. We believe it’s going to be slow through the first three quarters, picking up towards the end [of 2017]. So next year – [and in] 2019 – you’re going to see a lot of developments moving for the whole business.”
ALEMCO’s recent portfolio of work includes Select Group’s The Residences, a twin-tower development at Dubai Marina; Meraas’s Bvlgari Resort Hotel at Jumeirah Bay Island; and the Wahat Al Karama memorial park in Abu Dhabi.
Hanns continued in his interview: “We maintain key staff. We keep a pretty stable resource in house. We also maintain a pretty stable turnover. The only problem is when you fluctuate up or down on turnover.
“But we’ve been fortunate that we’ve maintained a pretty stable turnover in the last four to five years.”
Number of years in his role: 14
Number of years in the company: 14
Number of years working in the Middle East: 14
3. James L Williams, Ramy Boufarhat, Chief operating officer
James L Williams (JLW) was established in 1875 and started its UAE operations in 2008.
Some of the major MEP projects James L Williams Middle East is involved in over the next 12 months are Masdar Neighbourhood Housing 2, Abu Dhabi, ICD Brookfield Tower, Dubai, Bluewaters Development, Dubai, etc. The company’s 2016-2017 revenue stood at $179m.
Ramy Boufarhat, chief operating officer of James L Williams Middle East, says: “There are good opportunities for us in the market based on how we have positioned ourselves; we believe we are one of the market leaders in our niche which is design and build EPC contracting. That mixed with the substantial increase in tenders being released this year and the fact that most consultants are very busy means that this tendering will probably continue for the next year as well.”
Boufarhat says that at JLW Middle East they believe that an intellectual resource with a sound body and mind is vital for the successful implementation of the company’s business initiatives.
The company directly manages approximately 6,000 employees; 2,000 as direct employees, supplemented by 4,000 specialist subcontractors under its management.
Some of the biggest challenges in the market are cash flow and very lean margins, says Boufarhat. He elaborates: “Project awards are so cut throat, with very lean margins. Not all clients are differentiating between MEP subcontractors as they used to commercially. They still require a Tier 1 contractor to complete their works, at a Tier 3 contractor’s price. So whilst we are in a good position to win work, we are winning them on very lean margins. The only way to work and survive at the moment is to work as efficiently as possible.”
Regarding cash flow issues, Boufarhat says: “Project cash flow is such an important element in MEP contracting. You need to be able to accurately forecast the cash flow for your project. While the forecast depends on us to ensure we progress as planned on the project, cash flow is dependant our employers and it’s not just paying on time, but also paying the correct amount on time.
“Delays in payments on the project will adversely affect the ability of MEP contractors to achieve to their planned project targets.”
Number of years in his role: 4.5
Number of years in company: 8
Number of years working in the Middle East: 8
4. BK Gulf, Chris Barry, General manager
In January 2017, BK Gulf appointed as the new general manager, Chris Barry, who has over 30 years’ experience in the UAE working on major construction projects as a client, consultant and contractor.
Talking about BK Gulf, Barry says: “We have worked on a variety of major projects in a wide range of sectors such as commercial, airports, education, heritage, marine and ports, hospitality and residential. Working on such a broad spectrum of projects is a testimony to the knowledge and competency of our staff that were developed through structured in-house and independent training.”
In 2016, BK Gulf’s financial performance was stable. The company successfully completed several mega projects such the Dubai Opera House, Jumeirah Al Naseem and College of Media and Communications. Also, 2016 saw the signing of the major design and build contact for DP World new Container Terminal 4 project.
In the last 12 months, BK Gulf continued its substantial investment into BIM and engineering. This led to its BIM Kitemark Certification by the British Standard Institution BSI, making it the first MEP contractor in the region to receive such a level of accreditation in BIM. This complemented its existing quality certifications of ISO9001, ISO 14001 and OHAS 18001.
BK Gulf employs 1,046 staff and 4,421 site operatives.
The company utilises an in-house training centre, which provides hands-on training for technicians as well as classroom training for engineers and managers. This aims at developing in-house skills to achieve the highest international standards in the field of FM and MEP building services through internal and external training. The training programmes are structured to comprehensively cover all operations aspects including asset condition surveys.
Number of years in his role: 7 months
Number of years in company: 24
Number of years working in the Middle East: 32
5. Voltas, Jayant Balan, Senior vice president and director International operations business group
Voltas is an Indian multinational engineering, HVAC, air conditioning, and refrigeration company based in Mumbai, India. The company generated an overall revenue of $930m in 2016-2017.
The number of full-time staff currently working for the company is 4,400. The total value of the projects it worked on last year in the GCC was $490m. To name a few: Dubai Trade Centre District – Phase 1A2, Dubai; Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Residences; Regent Emirates Pearl Hotel, Abu Dhabi; and New Paint Factory for Jotun Paints, Muscat.
When asked about some of the challenges facing the company, Jayant Balan, senior vice president and director – International Operations Business Group (Voltas Limited), says: “The volatile, uncertain and ambiguous environment that the world and region face brings with it significant challenges. The challenges for the company will continue to be in the area of factoring risks into bids for new jobs while remaining competitive. Post awarding of contracts, the efficient and effective execution will be key, while anticipating and allowing for external factors. Change in laws, and increase in taxes and tariffs by the GCC countries will increase challenges with regard to cost competiveness. Economic and political developments will also need to be carefully monitored.”
In Voltas, training and workshops are held by internal and external trainers, suppliers and subcontractors every month to keep pace with the latest developments in the industry.
Number of years in his role: 2
Number of years in company: 16
Number of years working in the Middle East: 2