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Plafond on launch of FM division

Plafond’s Greg Ward shares details on the launch of the company’s facilities management division and highlights how it is helping to bring its service delivery full-circle

Greg Ward, CEO of Plafond.
Greg Ward, CEO of Plafond.

Breaking into a new vertical can sometimes be a daunting and risky prospect. But when a proposed direction is simply an extension of the core business, the transition can be both a smooth and natural one. Such is the case with Plafond, a multi-disciplinary fit-out and MEP contractor, which recently broke new ground with the launch of a facilities management division. Aiming to go into full swing at the start of November 2015, Plafond’s FM arm will help bring the company’s role full-circle.

“We want to literally be doing the turnkey. We want to be involved in the construction of the building, the interiors of the building, and then we want to maintain it moving forward,” explains Greg Ward, CEO of Plafond.

Following a soft launch at the close of the third quarter of 2015, the division has already garnered some success, picking up maintenance work amongst the firm’s existing client base. Over the last six to eight weeks, Plafond has initiated FM operations with Damac, as well as a handful of restaurants in the Sports City district of Dubai. Offering an integrated facilities management package, the company’s services includes housekeeping, security, pest control, waste management, landscaping and building façade management.

The expansion into a new vertical comes at a time where the core business is flourishing, reporting impressive double-digit growth in revenues over the last two years. According to the CEO, Plafond has grown from the $21.78mn (AED 80mn) reported in 2013, to reach $43.56mn (AED 160mn) in 2014. The success story is expected to continue with this year’s revenues predicted to hit $87.12mn (AED 320mn), as well as high hopes for the 2016/2017 fiscal year, in which Ward projects $136.12mn (AED 500mn) in revenues.

Boasting two decades of experience in the MEP field, the UAE-based company maintains an extensive portfolio of projects across the hotel, commercial, aviation, education and retail sectors.

Its list of clientele include a number of restaurant brands under the umbrella of the Jumeirah Group, such as Bahri Bar and Trattoria Toscana in Madinat Jumeirah. The company has also delivered its services to Emirates Leisure Retail, part of the Emirates Group, and is actively involved with interior fit-out for the upcoming Palazzo Versace Dubai.

When pressed on the motivating factor that drove Plafond to introduce an FM element to its service delivery, Ward asserts the demand come from the market itself.

Following the completion of fit-outs and MEP work on a number of projects, the British-national recalls many a customer inquiring for additional maintenance services, or at the very least, a recommendation to another FM provider.
Tired of turning away opportunities, the team at Plafond opted to add a new card to its deck.

“From a business point of view, you get the recurring business revenue. It brings work opportunities to your company and that’s exactly what we needed to do,” comments Ward.

“If you take it from MEP and then do the fit-out and then the maintenance, the same brand runs right the way through. We keep that standard, efficiency and that quality.”

Despite the company’s extensive experience within the technical arena, training for FM became a crucial component of Plafond’s strategy over the last year. In particular, to ensure management was prepared with the right skillsets needed to manage a successful FM operation, they were trained to the standards of the Lean Six Sigma Certification programme. To date, the firm maintains 40 green-belt certified individuals and 80 yellow-belt qualified technicians.

Ward, a certified black-belt in the Lean Six Sigma programme and previously the operations director at Heathrow Airport, oversaw a significant portion of the training.

“We trained all our staff in six sigma. All the technicians were trained to yellow belt and our green belts are all based in management. These guys are looking to do things more efficiently. They do things ‘smart’,” beams Ward.

A substantial part of the training was focused on the customer experience, an area that the CEO asserts is absolutely vital in today’s market. In addition to training the related social skills needed for the job, part of the training strategy involves cross-training employees across a variety of disciplines.

A matter of presentation as much as the service itself, the argument here is that end-users often prefer to a have a more personalised service delivery, dealing with a single expert, rather than having their household invaded by a group of employees.

“We are training our guys to be multi-skilled. We are prepared to pay our guys more money, and despite that we do end up being more cost-effective than everyone else… Gone are the days where you need five guys for job,” explains Ward.

“You used to have a driver, a supervisor, a manager, a labourer and then the guys actually doing the job. To me that’s ridiculous,” he adds.

Looking at the market ahead, the CEO predicts the it will continue to shift focus towards maintenance. Retrofits and a review of a building’s management will likely become commonplace with older structures. On upcoming developments, the baseline will be set from the start.

“I think starting from 2016 and 2017, all the way up to 2020, it is going to be all about bringing older building up to the same spec of the new buildings, and keeping them there.

“Once you’ve got that standard, you need to keep it at that standard. I think that’s all about consistency,” explains Ward.

Plafond’s client list

Plafond delivers fit-out and MEP services to a number of prominent clients including:

• Abu Dhabi Airports
• Dubai Airports
• Etihad Airways
• Pullman
• Emirates
• Ducab
• Jumeirah Group
• Alec Building Excellence

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