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Clean Middle East Magazine
 
 
Understanding the Subtle Transition Between Cleaning & FM
Dated: 14-06-2017

Together, the cleaning and FM industries have a combined market worth of Dhs 80 billion in the UAE itself, and they are estimated to grow to a value of Dhs 300 billion by 2020 - a rise in value of 275 per cent according to a recent report. In the FM industry alone, contracts across the GCC are predicted to hit 66 billion by 2020, and globally, FM is a trillion-dollar industry practiced by 25-million professionals. 

The world over, there is a thin line between FM companies and cleaning service providers in the UAE. While some FM companies integrate soft services into their portfolio, several others subcontract soft services to cleaning service providers. On the other hand, erstwhile cleaning service providers (CSP) have included FM-related services into their portfolio (like MEP, landscaping, etc.) to provide the customer with a plethora of services to choose from.
 
Clean Middle East seeks to understand whether CSPs are going the FM way, and what is driving this trend. We talk to two leading companies to understand their perspective.

Farnek Services

Farnek is a leading FM company based in the UAE. Apart from its main company, Farnek also has under its name its Home Maintenance Division – Hitches and Glitches. Moreover, late last year, the company was in the news for acquiring a long standing organisation specialising in cleaning services – Smashing! Markus Oberlin, CEO, Farnek, talks about why soft services are such an integral aspect of any FM Company.
 
About the Smashing! acquisition
 
We acquired Smashing! in 2016 year for several reasons. The company was recognised as one of the UAE’s leading hygiene cleaning service providers, a good turnover, 2,500-loyal customer base and 65 highly skilled technicians. In total, Smashing! offers 32 different types of specialised services, dovetailing neatly with our existing propositio – traditional FM, sustainability maintenance, smart home solutions and SME packages.

Current FM & cleaning market
 
Both FM and cleaning are separate entities; however, it will be those companies that are able to align both services, with the relevant expertise, that will reap the benefits now and in the future. With Smashing! in our portfolio, we are now able to offer a broader range of services to our customers. Our repertoire includes both traditional FM and award-winning specialist hygiene cleaning. We ultimately benefit from the economies of scale of having the ability to offer more services to every customer.

CSPs going the FM way
 
There is evidence of some cleaning service providers offering broader services, which includes elements of FM. The goal is to increase revenue by offering a more rounded service proposition to gain more and larger contracts.
 
 
Staying above competition
 
Cleaning processes and systems have become incredibly technical; it really has developed into a science, where safety and sustainability are now as important as cleanliness. Our state-ofthe- art training centre is purpose-built to train employees theoretically and practically, how to clean different areas and surfaces effectively
and efficiently. Our staff is also at the forefront of technology having been accredited by BICSc. Farnek was also an early adopter in colour-coded cleaning systems to prevent cross contamination. The visual identity that these cleaning systems provide is perfect for multi-lingual workforces, especially when English is not their first language.
 
The future of FM & cleaning
 
As a progressive company, Farnek is always looking ahead of the curve both in terms of market trends and potential market opportunities. We believe that specialist and niche cleaning services will come into play through different property classes, although we shouldn’t forget the sheer number of buildings that will be constructed during the next four years and beyond. For example, it will be an issue for building owners to find professional FM operators that have the expertise to manage specialised projects as well as the manpower to do this on what will inevitably be a grand scale.
 
We believe innovation, technology and sustainability will be the key elements in this sector as we move forward towards 2020 and 2022. The acquisition of Smashing! allows us to look ahead with renewed confidence with the wealth of opportunities available to us.

Initial Saudi Arabia Group

Initial Saudi Group, based in Saudi Arabia had started off as a cleaning and support staff services provider. In most recent years the company has ventured into the Total FM space with a complete service package including FM, buildings maintenance, manpower services and manpower outsourcing, cleaning and janitorial, industrial/specialised cleaning, pest control, landscaping, security. Alistair Smylie, Group Chief Operating Officer, Initial Saudi Arabia Group, expoundson this transition. 

On adding hard services and rebranding

We realised our clients were looking more and more to consolidate their FM service providers, and as Initial already has a number of established specialised soft services, it therefore made sense to extend our capabilities and further enhance our brand through the addition of hard services, often called for by the clients we serve and those we seek to do so in the future. Since the last two years, we’ve been delivering more value to our clients and developed growth in a relatively new Total FM market where correctly structured hard andsoft services (Integrated FM) work effectively. We will continue to grow that capability to ensure quality through specialist experience in our people and the integration of our QHSE department with fit for purpose systems and essential on-going staff  training, both on and off site.

However, in bringing this package together, we further recognised the need to develop adequate and industry 'fit for purpose' systems to ensure greater technical capability in direct support teams and management. This has proven to be essential to allay client concerns over extended capability and that we come with the correct level of technical know-how to arrive at the same result of independent specialist service providers.

The current FM & cleaning market in KSA

The current market for cleaning and FM in Saudi Arabia is one of a growing demand for operating efficiency, cost saving and, more often now, integration. Numerous contractors who have traditionally bolted on multiples of other services lack the support infrastructure or direct expertise in house and so look to subcontracting. That places greater risk on the client and also exposes many variations in the selection and credibility of quality subcontractors through inadequate management and a more demanding client. There is now more emphasis on ensuring specialised management systems, and more comprehensive support infrastructure is at hand to include upscale and accredited quality control/assurance capability, proper HSE, contract compliance/liability and performance indicators in addition to the typical support infrastructure most companies would have. In summary, the market is calling for higher levels of expertise, knowledge and understanding of its fast developing facilities and calls for well-resourced contractors with capability and wider know how backed by investment and acceptance of liability.

Administrative & manpower changes to rebrand

Our first criterion was to ensure differentiation through resourcing the right people for the job. In doing so, we replaced and re-positioned a good proportion of our workforce and enhanced management with the correct levels of technical and FM administrative knowledge complimented with in-house skills testing and training. We invested in FM systems and resourced those with skilled operators who also know what to obtain from those systems, thereby improving our service and value to clients. We enhanced our procurement department to ensure knowledge and technical ability in sourcing and processing parts and correct materials. Lastly, we further invested in contracts management and bolstered our quality management, HSE and HR functions. It was quite a comprehensive shift but considered essential if we are grow the business.

Marketing activities

Actually, our media marketing has been limited, but we will be increasing that as we build capacity for growth. We engage a team of sales management and executives to work to our development strategy and regional plans and through a strong R&D approach, we have identified priority projects and targets market segments where we already have a presence. Having a spread of some 750 clients and operating across all principle cities and regions in Saudi Arabia, we have also been fortunate to gain a large proportion of work through our client base and reputation.

Staying above the competition

Largely, attention to service and ensuring the right management and support teams are in place. We give a lot of attention to quality auditing both on our projects and in our support infrastructure; it has become essential if we are to accept the liability being passed onto us. We’re not perfect, but strive to deliver and measure for continuous improvement.

The overall journey of transition

It’s been a challenge but worth the investment and effort with still much further to go. The Saudi market will grow its Total FM needs as it will, in being better aware of what quality and efficiency delivers, just like markets such as the UAE. We will have to further invest in our current and new people, equipment and upgrade our systems but if it supports growth, it’s worth it.

 

 
 
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