The future looks bright
Graham Yates, head of Aldar Facilities Management Businesses talks strategic alliances, lifecycle costing and his plans for the future, with facilities management Middle East.
Graham Yates has one main goal - to grow his "facilities management businesses". And from listening to the ambitious and determined man from Scotland (United Kingdom), it is clear he will succeed.
Eventually, Yates hopes to have a number of FM related businesses under him. Each will have its own general manager and each will be developed through a joint venture. He also wants UAE nationals to play a big part in developing the business and is dedicated to Emiratisation to bring nationals to the forefront of his business.
"We should be training the nationals, coaching and mentoring them. Then we can hand the roles over to them. I want to give them as much knowledge as possible.
"I've got a local trainee FM and another one coming. We've also had a number of students pass through us to try and get them interested in FM. We already have a national working as a FM, he's got an academic background and will also be looking after some of the strategic FM," explains Yates.
Another area he feels will help develop Aldar's FM businesses is the formation of strategic alliances. However, he's a cautious businessman and doesn't want to "jump straight into bed" with another company.
"We don't want to fall into the same trap as companies have done in Dubai where they've had difficulties once they've gone to bed with somebody - it's difficult to get out of that. So we're having an engagement before having a marriage by forming strategic alliances," he explains.
The formation of strategic alliances allows both companies to assess how the working relationship develops over a period of time. "We're testing how they come along and they're testing how we come along," he adds.
Aldar is currently looking into a number of these, one of which has already been formed and is presently well underway.
"It's somebody (a facilities management company) who hasn't got a presence in Abu Dhabi at the moment and that's why we've chosen them. It's a fledgling organisation that we can help to mould, to make sure we do the right training, especially from a customer service point of view. Fundamentally, that's what facilities management is all about," he states.
Yates' views on the FM market in Abu Dhabi are fairly strong and he doesn't think there is enough understanding or awareness of FM in the emirate. "FM is still a bit of an alien concept - a lot of these buildings are owned by single individual owners. FM is still in its infancy here (Abu Dhabi)."
And maybe he's right? Visually, Abu Dhabi seems more organised and structured on first impressions but Dubai's understanding of FM is more advanced and slightly ahead of its sister emirate. But, there is still a long way to go before the industry matches international standards across the board.
Yates says contractors must step up to the mark and deliver what they have promised if FMs are to maintain the high level of customer service expected of them. Service level agreements (SLAs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) can help to ensure contractors stick to their contract.
"We (Abu Dhabi) haven't got many people who've got the nouse or the understanding of what facilities management is all about," says the chartered engineer.
"There's an element of education that is needed and we're helping to do that by having strategic alliances."
On the flip side of Abu Dhabi's apparent lack of knowledge about facilities management, Yates has been impressed by the FM in Etislat's head-quarters in Abu Dhabi.
"I have been to the Etisalat HQ a few times and the FM is fantastic. I think they do it in-house, but I think they throw lots of money at it."
There's always a strong argument for keeping FM in-house or outsourcing it. Yates made it clear that he believes the facilities maintenance, the hands on work, should be outsourced and the more specialist contracts should be dealt with in-house.
The strategic alliance FM LLC (Aldar's registered FM company) has with its partner will be the facilities maintenance provider and Yates and his organisation will look after the facilities management. "The facilities maintenance are the guys who turn up in the boiler suits and do the work, the planned and preventative maintenance and the reactive maintenance.
"They (the strategic partner) will be doing soft services and hard services. The things we will keep in house are the specialist sub contracts, things like lifts and escalators. Also, FM in hospitals and hotels. These are specialist areas as they are so customer facing," he reveals. Dependant on the size of the project, engineers will also be outsourced.
Aldar has a number of large projects on the go, with additional manpower being a concern to Yates and his team. However, the strategic alliances should help combat any recruitment issues and provide the staff needed.
If Yates is to continue with his growth plans, he will require a lot of additional manpower and support.
Breaking away from solely being involved in Aldar FM is another area Yates wants to explore. "FM LLC should receive ISO 9000 accreditation by the end of the year and we hope to use this as a sales tool to attract outside business.
"We're talking to a number of people about doing stuff outside the Aldar remit but it's got to be high level facilities management," he says.
But where will the growth stop? Watch this space...