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Face-to-Face: Yousef Ali BinZayed, Al-Futtaim Engineering FM Division

Al-Futtaim Engineering Facilities Management Division has long been looked at as an extension of the MEP side of the business. But armed with a new strategy, and increasing its soft services, general manager Yousef Ali BinZayed has big plans

Yousef Ali BinZayed, general manager facilities management division, Al-Futtaim Engineering.
Yousef Ali BinZayed, general manager facilities management division, Al-Futtaim Engineering.

Al-Futtaim Engineering Facilities Management Division (Facilities Management Division) has a rich legacy as it has the comfort of sharing its credentials with one of the GCC’s reliable brands in MEP works. Al-Futtaim Engineering was founded in the late 1970s following the UAE’s official formation to address its then growing need for mechanical and technical services.

A few decades later, the company built a strong following, which prompted the diversification to a dedicated FM division. The company has found direction under its general manager Yousef Ali BinZayed.

He explains how the FM division came into existence: “In 2012, the parent company came to a decision that they wanted to have the MEP project and maintenance divisions separated. This is where the facilities management division came in to existence. I joined Al-Futtaim in 2013, and was looking after business development, for all the divisions under the wider engineering umbrella.

“In 2016, I was appointed as the general manager of the Al-Futtaim Engineering Facilities Management Division. The need was there, as the opportunities arose, and we needed to look at them with more seriousness,” he tells fmME.

BinZayed admits its natural for onlookers to assume that the relatively newer FM division acts as an extension of the more established engineering division. “When you go behind the scenes and see the depth of services we offer ­­— the FM side of the business comes to the fore,” he says referring to the host of hard and soft services offered by the company, and it’s the latter that BinZayed has focused building on.

He concedes that the Facilities Management Division has some amount of catching up to do compared to its peers in the market. “The FM industry is constantly evolving and developing, and we are a slightly behind the market leaders. Over the last year though, we have recruited several senior management ‘A’ players and overall our business has grown by 43%,” BinZayed says.

The company, which bears no direct correlation to Majid Al Futtaim Group, owns and operates several of its assets that spans across sectors — automotive, retail and real estate — to name a few. The Festival City in Dubai, Cairo and other major cities in the region are wholly owned subsidiaries of the group.

BinZayed explains that while the Facilities Management Division gets preference to manage the group’s owned assets, the decision is not a forgone conclusion. “The Al-Futtaim Group has a lot of developments and properties across the UAE and overseas. However, our external (non Al-Futtaim related) projects constitute over 65% of our business,” BinZayed says indicating that the Facilities Management Division is looking to sign on more clients.

He adds that there is a lot of diversity in the projects managed by the FM division within the group: “From shopping malls, shops and brands represented by the group and looking after the residential and office spaces that we own,” he says.

“If you own your own property, and had an FM business in the larger scheme of things you wouldn’t look at hiring from outside, but I don’t deny sub-contracting certain tasks. Security, for example, is a discipline we are developing in the Facilities Management Division. Currently, services like these are awarded to other companies that specialise in security services. “Surely, when it comes to hard services offered by Al-Futtaim Engineering, we are given the privilege and priority to be the facilities management service provider. but we remain part of the tendering process.” BinZayed reveals

He says the Facilities Management Division evolved over the last 12 to 18 months and has grown its soft services as well. “We have hard and soft services — we were established in the former, starting from AC maintenance contracts to MEP maintenance contracts. The majority of my contracts are hard services.

“In 2016, we began providing total facilities management to our existing clients. Some of our patrons have been with us for more than 12 years, many of whom renew their contracts automatically. In some cases our competitors say, ‘there is no point in participating for the tender process, Al-Futtaim Engineering Facilities Management Division will end up winning it’ — that’s the level of quality and trust we establish wherever we go.”

BinZayed says the decision to broaden the Facilities Management Division’s scope of services was down to the confidence shown by existing clients. “[The endeavour is] to ultimately move up the food chain by offering a better level of service,” he notes.

In addition to its UAE projects, Al Futtaim Engineering and its Facilities Management Division is present in a couple of other Gulf countries. One country, however, where its FM arm is absent is Saudi Arabia. “In my expansion, KSA is next on my geographical horizon, a country in which our engineering arm is well established.

“While we have the option of going solo, we keep getting invitations from Saudi parties to open in joint ventures, but this is something under consideration. Currently, our establishment in KSA has provided us the experience and we know that the market is evolving towards the FM industry, which leads to promising business and growth,” he said.

Al-Futtaim also has presence in Egypt, which includes the Cairo Festival City and all its subsidiaries. But North Africa is not on BinZayed’s mind at the moment. “KSA might be coming earlier. We are well established and have a list of clients,” he affirms.

The Facilities Management Division also manages the district cooling unit at Dubai Festival City,  which received a pat on the back from the UAE Supreme Energy Council.

BinZayed explains: “In a matter of three years we transformed from using normal chilled water — in our district cooling systems — to using Treated Sewage Effluent (TSE) water. For the last two years, we have only been using TSE water which is bought from the government and gives 10% savings more than any other district cooling plants that work on normal chilled water. Having said that we have also been awarded the Golden Certificate by the Supreme Council of Energy because of the marvellous achievement and environmental benefits.”

Elaborating more on sustainable practices, BinZayed speaks with passion about measures adopted by the company in “leading the way”. “Since I joined Al-Futtaim I took it upon myself to inform clients that we have our own energy management solutions, an in-house team that has been developed to take on contracts relating to energy management solutions.

“And we have begun with ourselves with achievements being made in-house in terms of sustainability and energy solutions. The biggest transformation is the change in mind-set to LED. If you want to reduce your energy consumption by 40% then switch to LED, but be rest assured you aren’t going to make savings from the very next day. We took the lead, and changed all the normal lights to LED in Al-Futtaim Engineering’s offices from the conventional set up. The project took a period of one month and we did this in 2015, and by 2016 our calculations revealed we had saved up to 60% on our electricity bill. We showcase these findings with our clients as well. And these savings was due to the usage of energy efficient lighting alone, we did not rework our pumps or modify the AC,” he said.

On the horizon for Al-Futtaim Engineering Facilities Management Division is entering the ever-growing consumer space, a move which could take place by 2018.

BinZayed believes in the potential of the consumer space: “It’s important we get into B2C, and are constantly working on how we can serve our customers to go the extra mile. As mentioned before we have focused on developing our soft services, offering them across all our communication.”

It will start with the Facilities Management Division offering home services, BinZayed says. “So, residents can be rest assured of our team taking care of their properties, with high levels of efficiency. “I’m hoping by 2018 it will be ready with us, and we will go to market. We have already started communicating with our customers, our teams are also in the know so they can relay that message to customers,” he reveals exclusively.

BinZayed is cautious about pricing the new services, and admits it will be the make or break factor. He acknowledges that customers are always looking “for something in addition to what you already offer”. Backed by a strong legacy and reputation in the market, thanks to Al-Futtaim Engineering’s track record, the Facilities Management Division is slated for, “big things in the near future.”

“The division is in an evolutionary and transformation phase, from a cocoon to a butterfly that will shine.  This time next year we see ourselves as one of the top 10 FM companies in the country. In the near future, look for Al-Futtaim Engineering FM Division in a new suit,” he concludes.

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