Site visit: Olympus MEA HQ, Dubai Science Park
Olympus MEA’s new regional headquarters is currently making impressive progress to open its doors in January 2017
While most people know Olympus Corporation as a camera maker, the Japanese company started out in 1919 as a manufacturer of microscopes and thermometers.
Today, the multi-billion dollar global firm holds approximately 70% of the gastrointestinal endoscopes market. The manufacturer of optical and precision electronics is also going all out to service the Middle East and Africa (MEA), planning to inaugurate a 2,000m2 regional headquarters (HQ) in Dubai in January 2017.
The HQ is located at the Dubai Science Park, and more than 85% of the work on the development is completed. Construction Week spoke to the main contractor, Cambridge Middle East Interiors, and its sister firm, Alex & Coldwell, which is handling the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) works.
Paul Sebright, managing director at Cambridge Middle East Interiors, explains the intricacies of the project: “This is quite a unique project in terms of the complexities of the technical facets and the technology involved. There are six to seven technical teams involved, while Olympus oversees the entire technical aspect of the construction.”
Cambridge is charged with the design, construction, and interiors of the shell-and-core building, and is also the consultant on the project.
Sebright elaborates: “The construction work is a four-month period. We were referred to Olympus, and were part of a wider panel, as eight other companies were also interviewed for the project. Part of the tendering process included a full description of our technical capabilities, such as management of projects of similar size, and our technical know-how.”
He adds: “As part of the interview to potentially win the project, a full technical evaluation was carried out to identify if we were capable of doing the project. Once we were appointed, then came a very detailed design process, including the concept (the look and feel of the project, its functions, and so on.).
“One of the things that was important with the creative design was the sales journey and the technical design, where we coordinated with all the experts within Olympus to make sure the office would function the way it was intended to.”
The design period on the project took almost a month. Olympus conducted workshops with the contractors and went over every technical aspect of the design to ensure each and every detail of the project was incorporated.
For Olympus, the main priority was to find the right partner to execute the firm’s vision of its new headquarters in the MEA region, says Maurice Faber, regional managing director for Middle East, Turkey, and Africa at Olympus.
He says: “When you have a partner who understands your needs, and then builds a project to the right technical specifications, you know the job is done. We needed a partner that would build us a quality workshop and showroom.”
Faber continues: “The showroom replicates an operation-theatre setup, for which we needed the right technical environment and specifications. We will also have training sessions in the operating-theatre environment, which is quite unique.”
For Cambridge, this is the “next level of construction” as the process involves a significant amount of technology. Sebright says: “This was invaluable, so all our team members engaged with the Olympus team, and their expertise and input was carefully applied to the project. Working together with the Olympus team has been a great exercise for everybody [on Cambridge’s team]. They were very supportive, to make sure we got all the information. And it’s been a very productive process so far.”
The construction process in the office areas, Sebright says, is business as usual. “The office area is standard, but on the laboratory side it is very sophisticated and high-tech.” He mentions the fact that Cambridge has never worked on a project, that has incorporated this level of technology in the building process before.
Sebright also explains the technical design layout of the project. “We write in the provisions and make sure the extraction is working correctly, [so] the sterile environment is supplied that the interface between their active components and the building management is managed properly, which constitutes our scope.
“But in terms of the input, just to make sure it’s keeping in line with their requirements, it was very much a team effort.”
Once completed, Olympus MEA will house a main reception; a meeting room; a laboratory; a workshop, which will also include a showroom, a repair room with a sterile area and an equipment-cleaning zone, specifically designed for medical equipment; and office spaces for staff, with a canteen.
The headquarters will serve mainly as a repair centre for medical and industrial equipment in MEA, Faber explains. “Previously, Olympus had seven regions, but the Middle East, Africa, and Turkey have been combined to form the eighth region. The corporation wants to grow its commitment to the region, and focus its products in this new, emerging market.
“This region has a lot of potential; there are so many infrastructure projects coming up now. There is also a huge potential in the construction and industrial areas, and this is where we come in to provide the right equipment.”
Apart from being a repair centre, Olympus MEA will also work as a training hub. The headquarters will begin its full-scale operations from 1 April 2017, while a soft launch is expected by the end of January 2017.
Faber points out that the centre needs time to fully integrate its software programmes into the system. “We need to get the process 100% right in the workshop. We will start in January, but will need time to function fully.”
Sebright notes that the entire process —design, approvals, and construction — is a six-month project for the company. “One of the most important things, with this particular project, was to make sure that every little detail was taken care of even before we started construction onsite. Because it’s so technical, everything is interlinked, with so many moving parts.
“This is the most technologically advanced facility in this aspect, so everything had to be designed upfront to make sure there is no delay of any sort.” Along with the MEP subcontractor, Alex & Coldwell, Cambridge has employed Zio Technologies to implement the centre’s audio-visual systems.
Sebright describes the challenges Cambridge faced in getting the technology right. “We had to make sure all the systems were integrated and to make sure the building was able to provide all the technical parameters in order for it to function as a laboratory.”
He says: “The biggest challenge we faced was making sure all the parties within Olympus had everything they needed to run a laboratory.”
Faber concludes: “Olympus has a cohesive strategy to play a positive role in MEA’s infrastructure development and growth. More than $200bn worth projects are on the drawing board in the GCC, and Olympus is looking to capitalise on this with our maintenance and safety equipment.”