“Sub-contractors are the arteries of the construction industry”

Prime Metal Craft, Urban Concepts and Jesser discuss with CW how sub-contractors are integral to the recovery of the industry

Sub-contractors, Middle east, Construction, COVID-19
As COVID-19 lockdowns ease, major contractors are able to tender and bid for projects again. Image: Pixabay
As COVID-19 lockdowns ease, major contractors are able to tender and bid for projects again. Image: Pixabay
Subcontractors have been described as the “arteries” of the construction industry. Image: Shutterstock
Subcontractors have been described as the “arteries” of the construction industry. Image: Shutterstock

Momentum in the construction sector is showing signs of recovery after the easing of the COVID-19 lockdown and major contractors are once again tendering or bidding for jobs.

This is positive news for the entire industry as larger projects will inevitably require the expertise of smaller and niche sub-contractors to lend their expert hand in these projects.

Sub-contractors are the arteries of the construction industry and are often supporting large companies in alcove specialties that they are sought out for.

The new market conditions have pushed a lot of sub-contractors to explore varying business strategies and use their multiple decade long experience to keep them going and generate income. This has led to them being able to offer multi-faceted services and simultaneously explore new options within their own industry.

Prime Metal Craft is one such company who has been supporting various other companies with architectural art installations like the Chandelier in the Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi to custom metal and glass work for Bvlgari residences in Dubai.

“Being a sub-contractor in such a specialised field allows you to be a part of many prestigious projects but the downside is that when there is a lull in the market like during COVID-19, we take a harder hit since; design elements and creative architecture takes a back seat,” says Prime Metal Craft’s operations manager Siddhesh Mulaokar.

“We have to rely on our doors and windows division to keep us going.”

Having two parallel work streams is very common for such sub-contractors since it is only a variety of sub-contracts that can keep you afloat in such a market.

Jesser is another such sub-contractor that has been able to make it because of varied sub-contracts they undertake.

“Now that interior contracts are lowered, we are focusing on our MEP works because an interior of any space can be delayed, but MEP work has to go in at the time of construction and focusing on the needs of MEP on construction projects as opposed to the wants (interior) is keeping us in big projects like villas in Dubai hills to Furjan.”

Even changing the type of work has proved efficient for some sub-contractors. For Ghalib Taimur, who owns Urban Concepts, shifting focus from only interior fit outs to refurbishments and facilities maintenance for Al- Futtaim, has enabled him to procure smaller jobs in a large quantity which completely made up for the lowered interior fit out projects.

According to McKinsey, the companies that survived and even came ahead after the financial crisis of 2008 were firms that diversified early and moved quickly on productivity. This is the same strategy that some of the sub-contractors are implementing and it seems to be keeping them afloat.

In addition to this, they are all looking into efficiency of productivity and resources by streamlining their fabrication and procurement of material.

For instance, Taimur expands by stating: “During times where shipments are uncertain, it is best to procure materials locally and for all out refurbishment work it has worked best when you identify a supplier that produces locally and it is easier to form relationships for continuity in business.”

The same sentiment was shared by Adnan Chowdhary, but for him it was more about planning and streamlining his production.

“For MEP works we need to do it on site and the only way to manage the productivity and cost efficiency of my work force is to clearly map out the work load and be in and out of a site in a given time frame,” explains Chowdhary.

“This allows me to ensure all my projects are delivered on time and I can take on newer projects.”

For Prime Metal Craft, Mulaokar believes it has been a matter of both situations.

“We’ve not only had to source locally but we’ve also had to streamline our fabrication. Now 80-90% of the fabrication or production is done off site in a controlled environment in our factory and then we take preassembled units to site for installation,” says Mulaokar.

“This way we create circular building systems where we are able to repurpose material we have as opposed to throwing it out as site waste.”

 This approach by all three companies also helps the sustainability score of their projects as they are effectively reducing their carbon footprint from material sourcing and are able to repurpose material as needed.

This is great because being environmentally conscious due to circumstances creates a pattern of sustainability, which is beneficial as more and more companies are making it a requirement to have LEED compliant fabrication.

 It is expected that things will get better soon but what is great to see is that a lot of companies have adapted to the new market and are striving through.

For businesses this year following the impact of COVID-19 acros the industry, it is about staying in the game and being rooted in it by exploring different options to maintain smooth operations.

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