Reactive and preventive maintenance: intuitive flexibility is the route to success

Maintenance of infrastructural or industrial assets, be it in a residential, corporate or industrial set-up is perhaps, equally important as running these assets. The assets can only deliver when they are in a shape to do so and work to their optimum levels. For this to happen, one needs to work towards preventive and reactive maintenance measures in a planned and definitive way.


Need for preventive and reactive maintenance

Preventive maintenance is a schedule of planned maintenance actions targeted at the prevention of breakdowns and failures. The primary goal is to prevent the failure of equipment before it actually occurs. It is designed to preserve and enhance equipment reliability. Preventive maintenance activities include equipment checks, partial or complete overhauls at specified periods, oil changes, lubrication and so on. In addition, workers can record equipment deterioration, so that they know when to replace or repair worn parts before they cause system failure. The long-term effects and cost-comparisons tend to favour preventive maintenance over performing maintenance actions only when the system fails.

On the other hand, reactive maintenance could be looked at as all maintenance work that is scheduled less than 20 hours before it is executed. There is a strong correlation between safety incidents, injuries and reactive maintenance. In a reactive situation one might not be able to take the time to plan and think before taking action, but that is the call of the hour.

Basically, in an efficient maintenance plan, the right amount of planned preventive maintenance tasks need to be highlighted as also, provisions ought to be made for reactive maintenance work.

An important player in the facilities management field carrying out both- preventive and reactive maintenance tasks is the Al Shirawi Company. Oasis Investment Company is the holding company of The Al Shirawi Group of Companies. The close business association between the families of Abdulla Al Shirawi and Mohan Valrani is the key to the success for this conglomerate.

Their commitment to the group has allowed it to grow into one of the largest manufacturing, engineering, trading, marketing, distribution, contracting and service industries in the Gulf region. With headquarters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, it now has more diverse operations in industrial and business fields than any other similar group.

It has diversified into 29 major companies. From its inception in 1971 as a trading and contracting company, the group’s scope has broadened to encompass a whole cross-section of products, services and industries. This includes steel and metal fabrication, engineering, contracting for air-conditioning and refrigeration, water-proofing, interior decoration for commercial complexes and showrooms, printing, plastics, technical services, electronics and computers, trucks and heavy engineering products, industrial, consumer and food products.

From just handling air-conditioning contracts to becoming an Integrated Facilities Management company today, marks a journey well-traversed. Al Shirawi Air Conditioning began in 1974 to cater to the increasing air-conditioning needs of the Gulf region. However, the company was re-christened as Al Shirawi Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (ASEME) and with its expanding expertise and fields of work, today it stands at the threshold of becoming Al Shirawi FM LLC. With over 35 years of solid experience spanning the fields of air-conditioning, electrical and mechanical works, plumbing jobs, HVAC coil manufacturing to general cleaning and security contracts; the company has managed its operations with high standards of excellence and discipline.

As a part of the Oasis investment portfolio, even in the recessionary times, ASEME can leverage the financial support of its partners to finish off even the most demanding projects. Lakshminarayanan, Operations Manager, Facilities Management (FM) has this to say,

“It’s a bit of a mouthful, but we are one of the oldest establishments in the history of Dubai. Our strength in the technical field gets compounded with the cleaning and maintenance wing of the company. From hard maintenance to an integrated approach, we attempt to catch the pulse of the market. The company finds itself on the foundation of a strong understanding and rapport between the two families- Valrani and Shirawi. This kind of strength, control and yet, flexibility is very rare.”

Al Shirawi and integrated FM

The company’s attention on quality is brought to the fore as it meets the criteria laid down in the ISO 9001 standard. The management and the dedicated team continue to set novel standards of growth and their passion for excellence is the main motivating thrust behind the ideal blend of youth and experience.

“There are 31 companies in the group and it was a conscious decision not to get involved with real estate development. The decision has been to be an infrastructural strategic growth company,” quips the Operations Manager.

He adds, “When recession strikes, customers tend to save costs. So specialist companies need to combine into one. The classic difference between a facilities management company and a facilities services company is that while the former outsources its tasks for managing a property, Integrated FM in- sources everything except some specialist services like lift management, third party certification, etc.”

The organization is a case in point of adopting the model of Integrated Facilities Management. The aforesaid involves hard FM, annual contracts and reactive maintenance. Under the umbrella of A+ Services, the corporation has broadened its horizon and seeks to provide security and cleaning services as well. The bottom line seems to be ‘multi-tasking security’ and ‘clever cleaning.’

Handling reactive maintenance

This is the age of not just satisfying the customers, but more than delighting them and the USP for a player in this industry is its integrated approach. The thrust ought to be integration rather than being a hard FM company with a cleaning arm. The challenge however, lies in the task of finding suitable and efficient personnel towards accomplishing world-class professional cleaning tasks.

“The more complicated the buildings, the more care do they need and the key lies in performing the cleaning assignments well without compromising on the quality of the work on any account. Our USP is integration and the mantra is that we don’t want to just work, but work well,” responds Lakshminarayanan.

“Disruption happens,” he adds. “It is our bread and butter. Today we have increasingly complicated buildings. With budget restrictions, quality of the buildings also suffers as has been seen during recession. So we need to be prepared to handle exigencies all the time and if you help the clients now, they’ll stick with you.”

Technological advancements in the cleaning sector and ways of tackling recession

The Al Shirawi team uses a hitherto less used technique of utilizing ionized water for cleaning purposes. This is an absolutely sterile form of water and apart from cleaning thoroughly; it leaves a protective coat on the surface to prevent dust accumulation.

This cleaning technology uses electrolytic ionized water. This uses electrolysis technology to create active agents that help the cleaning within the cleaning solution, thereby greatly reducing the use of cleansing chemicals.

It would definitely not be incorrect to say that preventive maintenance is comparatively heavier on the pocket, but worth each penny. In a place like the Middle East region, this exercise ought to be worked out backwards and undertaken during the months of October to February when the weather supports.

“In today’s market, we are trying to be more preventive. If you get the prevention right and the maintenance work is in order, you tend to cut costs. During recession, FM ought to be condition-based. For example, instead running three chilling units below capacity, it’s better to shutdown one. This is reacting to the customer’s needs,” opines the Operations Manager.

The biggest challenge in the FM industry according to Lakshminarayanan is the retention of the client. Innovative offerings in sync with the times are the need of the hour. To substantiate, it would be the best time as of now to offer a re-fit plan to the cruise liners as per the situation and condition of the liner.

The Operations Manager - FM throws further light on technological advances when he talks about using the computer-controlled building controllers wherein robots can carry out the process of ionized cleaning. This indeed is a customer-focused technique with minimum labour utilization.

Dubai calls for green FM and preventive maintenance

With rising environmental concerns, the need of the hour is low energy settings and condition-based maintenance. The effort ought to be greater on preventive maintenance rather than reactive in today’s times. Such measures acquire bigger dimensions with the humidity of the Middle Eastern climate. Lakshminarayanan offers the following insight on dealing with humidity vis-à-vis maintenance jobs.

“High humidity levels lead to more running and sweating of the equipment as well and to remove moisture, we have to look into preventive maintenance. To prevent such effects of humidity as moulds, the ideal way is to have auto-close doors working perfectly at all times. This goes a long way in protecting the investment of the owner and working on the principle of preventive maintenance.”

He continues, “In a place like Dubai, December to February ought to be the peak maintenance months leading to summers ahead. Otherwise, one can suffer on account of reactive maintenance wherein one needs to immediately look into a breakdown caused due to a lack of maintenance because of recession.” Keeping the market scenario in mind, multi-tasking is the panacea for better work productivity and higher customer satisfaction. Coupled with this, if innovative technology is put to use, it can go a long way to resolve issues far more satisfactorily. An example to this end would be the trial runs of the micro-fibre glove by the Al Shirawi workers which aids them in completing their tasks successfully without leaving the clients unhappy due to the finger prints left on the surface while pursuing their respective tasks.

“Another extremely significant factor in executing FM tasks is the time factor. Of imperative importance is the timing of the job. A simple task like steam cleaning if carried out in a well-timed fashion can help control humidity and the growth of mould,” adds Lakshminarayanan. He also feels that initiatives requiring expenditure are worth it if they lead to long-term benefits. Energy efficiency ratios can be maintained if planned maintenance work is carried out and endeavors such as air-pressure control mechanisms in cinema halls can also assist in cash savings by cutting down costs towards helping the air-conditioning to carry on uninterrupted. Plus, one can work on recycling the disposable plastic glasses used everywhere.

“Adaptability is the answer to surviving and thriving in the FM industry. Be it ionized water, effective management or the micro-fibre technology- Innovation is the buzzword. Fresh air handling units are equally important as also the economic situation and the timing of the technology to be used.

Flexibility with top-end resources can make any player a leader in the FM industry. It is a constant upward battle,” sums up Lakshminarayanan.