A glimpse on how to nurture healthy buildings in the UAE

Emrills’ Managing Director (second from right) Jason Ruehland with his team / Image Credit: Courtesy of EmrillEmrills’ Managing Director (second from right) Jason Ruehland with his team / Image Credit: Courtesy of Emrill

The market for Facilities Management (FM) has grown manifold over the past ten years to develop into a multibillion-dollar global industry. As per a recent report by Global Industry Analysts, the worldwide FM market is expected to touch $394.7 billion (Dh1.45 trillion) by 2017.

For the UAE market, among the largest and fastest-growing markets in the Middle East, FM services contracts could be valued at Dh20 billion annually by next year, according to G4S, a leading global security and outsourcing group. The sec-tor’s unprecedented growth has gone hand in hand with the UAE’s booming property sector as well as higher benchmarks for building maintenance and services.

These statistics include both hard and soft FM services ranging from cleaning, pest control, office services, landscaping, waste and building management systems. Placing the UAE at the forefront of GCC countries with respect to the sophistication of FM services, the report highlights how these contracts are becoming more integrated and metric-based.

Among the leaders of this new, sophisticated avatar of the FM industry has been Emrill, an award-winning integrated facilities management provider in the UAE. Directly employing more than 6,000 staff, the company offers a full range of facilities and asset management services with innovative solutions tailored to support its clients, including cutting-edge energy solutions and real-time performance management systems. Emrill commands an exceptionally high level of client retention and has enjoyed steady growth since its formation.

The company services a number of communities in the UAE, including the Arabian Ranches, Dubai Silicon Oasis, Dubai Festival City, Masdar City, World Trade Center, Etihad towers and Al Bandar in Abu Dhabi. Last year saw Emrill serving four of the world’s tallest residential towers, including Princess Tower, 23 Marina, Elite Residence and The Torch.

Winner of the highly coveted Overall FM Company of the Year trophy for the second year in a row at the 2014 Facilities Management Middle East Awards, Emrill has been specially commended for “raising the bar” of the Middle East FM landscape.

On the back of these developments, PW spoke to Emrill’s Managing Director, Jason Ruehland, to understand what makes the industry tick and how Emrill continues to retain customers in a competitive industry that bears the brunt of customer complaints.

Ruehland, who joined Emrill in 2011 and was previously operations director, has been instrumental in the firm’s rise in the vanguard of the FM industry in the region. In his three-year tenure as operations director, Jason was able to secure British Institute of Cleaning Science’s certification for Emrill, integrate low-cost mobility solutions, increase sales of home maintenance packages by 38 per cent, reduce lost time accidents by 66 per cent and implement monthly contractual reviews and contract improvement plans that impacted performance and customer experience.

* What did you feel about the FM landscape in Dubai when you came here four years ago?

Dubai was still feeling the pain from the recession. A lot of FM companies had been working hard to provide services at cost to support their clients and struggling on some contracts to cover overheads, while most contractual commitments didn’t exceed a year.

* How has this changed since then?

It has transformed immensely as tendering is now more transparent, while client procurement and technical teams are more empowered to make right buying decisions for their business.

There is a stronger appetite for value over low cost and contracts are now generally between three and five years in duration, in order to squeeze out more value.

On the other hand, contracts themselves are getting more sophisticated with clients introducing key performance indicators and service level agreements.

* Do FM services add value to the property in question? Is there a link?

We have a lot of data that show clients who buy value FM, rather than low-cost FM, outperform the market in rental return, and therefore, property holds its value better during downturns.

* Do you think FM has become critical and integral to the health of a building?

FM is playing a critical role in maintaining the health of a building. Our clients demand real-time data on their properties. The metrics include power and water consumption, monthly expenses on repairs, predicting when assets such as pumps and chillers are due to fail and be replaced and accounting for what the projected costs will be to replace those assets.

We’re also seeing more demand for condition-based maintenance (CBM), using low-cost sensors and systems to predict equipment failure. CBM gives customers better business continuity and helps reduce catastrophic failure, which can be more costly to repair.

* What do you think has been the sector’s role in the UAE’s growing green economy and green building initiatives?

There is still reluctance for FM to be involved at the building design and construction stages. However, the government is setting up some great initiatives and funding vehicles for FM companies to implement these across the UAE’s ageing stock.

Many properties still don’t have sufficient sinking funds to retrofit their buildings and reduce growing energy costs. Therefore, FM’s current role will be mostly focused on ageing building stock and getting them as green as possible.

In line with this vision, in 2012 the company launched Emrill Energy, after identifying the incredible potential buildings and premises have to minimise their impact on the environment and achieve cost reductions. Em-rill Energy has the ability to measure, analyse, design and implement tailored solutions to produce savings of up to 40 per cent across buildings and developments.

* Talking about your personal experience in this industry, could you provide a brief snapshot of your professional career prior to joining Emrill?

I joined Mowlem as a civil engineer in 2001 working on bridges, airfields, power disruption and railway reconstruction. The company was acquired by Carillion in 2006, where I was immediately accepted into the Leadership Development Programme. At Carillion, I managed the largest highways maintenance contract and moved into Carillion Facilities Management soon after, working with the team for four years.

I was looking after 42 buildings across the UK when I was asked to join the Emrill team in the UAE.

* How would you describe your journey with Emrill?

I joined Emrill in 2011 as operations director when the company had 4,000 employees. During its exponential growth, our employee base grew to 6,000 and I managed the mobilisation of contracts such as Etihad Airways, Mas-dar City, Yas Mall and five of the world’s tallest residential towers. Last year, after a lengthy and robust selection process, I was appointed MD for Emrill.

Emrill is often applauded for its efforts in raising the bar for the FM industry and setting new benchmarks for service levels.

* What key initiatives has the company implemented to achieve this success?

One of them has definitely been the Emrill-funded energy service where we pay for all the project work to reduce the energy consumption and costs for a share of the savings. Clients are not required to use their capital reserves and their buildings get system upgrades.

Another product and initiative was our unique mobility solution, which allows us to dispatch jobs directly to teams, making them more efficient. Technical teams no longer have to commute to collect paperwork and the system monitors job status in real time, so we can keep tabs on teams in order to support them better and increase efficiencies.

* Were you personally involved in spearheading any of the programmes that you believe have helped Emrill achieve high efficiency and customer satisfaction levels?

I was involved with the design and introduction of our low-cost mobility systems that integrate with our web-based computer-aided FM (CAFM) system and we dispatch jobs directly to the team leader’s phones. I was also part of the team that developed and launched, E-Manage, a real-time performance monitoring system for Emrill. It compiles site audits and gathers data in real time, displaying them on performance dashboards for site managers and clients.

E-Manage also provides automated reports for site managers and clients. It works by taking all the data from the CAFM system to provide extensive reporting and reduces a massive administration burden on site teams with better quality on-time reporting for our clients.

An oft-lambasted community, property maintenance/FM companies continue to bear the brunt of consumer complaints and resident’s wrath.

* How does Emrill deal with customer grievances and ensure it stands out with a high consumer retention score?

At Emrill we use a tool called Net Promoter to measure customer experience. The Net Promoter Score is based on the fundamental perspective that every com-pany’s customers can be divided into three categories: Promoters, Passives, and Detractors. With our surveys, we can track these groups and get a clear measure of Emrill’s performance from our customer’s perspective.

Additionally, we have a strong complaints procedure that gets issues resolved as quickly as possible and then analyses the root cause to prevent it happening again.

Emrill uses several channels to capture consumer complaints — social media, mobility solutions, email and website.

We don’t shy away from angry customers and work hard to keep complaints as low as possible by delivering high-quality service.

However, if we have services issues, we respond in a timely manner.


Source: Neha Kaul, Special to Property Weekly


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