Dubai projects now draw in major players from overseas

innovative technologies Enable contractors to meet the Fast-track construction programmes set by developers

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By  Colin Foreman Published  September 4, 2004

Dubai projects now draw in major players from overseas|~|TT1body.jpg|~|Terry Taylor, regional sales and marketing manager, Aluma Systems, is now busy supplying formwork to a number of key projects including Jumeirah Beach Residences and Dubai International Financial Centre.|~|AS ONE of the busiest markets for construction in the world, Dubai is attracting new players from around the world hoping to get a piece of the action. Construction Week speaks to Terry Taylor, regional sales and marketing, Aluma Systems, about how important the Dubai market has become, and why it is attracting companies that offer specialised solutions.

How has the company’s entry into the Dubai market progressed so far?
It’s been a runaway success. The company has recently obtained its trade license so we’re in the process of setting up a permanent base here.

How has the company been able to operate without an established base locally?
At present our operations in Dubai are supported from Toronto, but once our operation in Dubai is fully set up (which we expect will be within the next 60 days) we will be able to engineer solutions locally which will make us entirely self sufficient since we already procures and manufacture all of our products locally, which are predominantly 90% aluminium.

Just how big is the market in Dubai?
It’s massive; it’s certainly the number one market for activity internationally for our company outside North America at the moment.

Is it bigger than the UK?
Yes, we are currently doing more business here than anywhere else outside North America and we are only just getting started.

Why did Aluma decide to enter the UAE market?
My responsibilities as regional manager for Europe and the Middle East used to mostly involve our business in the UK and Ireland and visiting various other countries periodically to set up things like agencies and distributors. Then eight to ten years ago I started to visit this region.
Back then we were selling, as we still are, a range of products that were a bit more sophisticated than the basic products that were available in this market. In those days the market was predominantly price led and labour was very cheap and plentiful so no one was really interested in speed, saving labour, productivity or any of the major benefits that you would attribute to the systems that we provide. Sadly, this meant that our attempts to enter the market then were somewhat limited.
Then about two years ago we supplied one project on the Marina, then almost 12 months later we got involved in the construction of the Gate Building at DIFC. The Gate has really helped launch us in the market because the main contractor, Nasa Multiplex, was looking to achieve four-day cycles for the typical floors.
The design of the building was very well suited to our flying tableforms so we proposed forms that were about 100 m2 in plan area. The forms weighed about 3.5 t each, but they could be moved and repositioned ready for re-bar installation in about 20 minutes. The forms achieved the programmed cycle time with the minimum amount of labour.

Has the Dubai market changed from when you first visited?
The market has changed tremendously from when I first visited here. I would say the upper echelons of the market are now a lot more sophisticated and capable of tackling projects that are as big or even bigger than any of those found in Europe. In addition, every project that you get involved in now, almost without exception, is a “fast track” type construction so there is a real niche market for Aluma here because everything we work with is build around speed.

Why was the Gate project so crucial?
The success of the project was a big help because it convinced our client Robodh Contracting (the concrete frame sub contractor) and the main contractor Nasa Multiplex that we could offer the right solution for them, and it really snowballed from there as we picked up work on Grosvenor House and The Burj Dubai Residences.
Work with other contractors has followed with Arabtec on the Jumeirah Beach Residence, Al Jaber Grinaker on the new hotel at Mall of the Emirates and ACT Perember on DIFC.
Is anything new being introduced for those other jobs?
There have been a couple of firsts on those jobs. Up till now we have only concentrated on supplying flying tableform equipment, but for the DIFC wings, ATC Perember also elected to use our column forms and our wall forms, and for Jumeirah Beach Residences Arabtec will use our Aluma Frame shoring equipment. The shoring frames have a load bearing capacity of 16 t and weigh only 20kg, which means larger grids can be achieved using less equipment, which in turn improves productivity and reduces the amount of labour needed.

Is price still a major issue like it was in the past?
Prices from what I can gather are still extremely tight for the contractors. Even though the market is going through a boom at the moment it doesn’t appear to be reflected in contractual prices for some reason.

How do you think this affects contractors?
They have to be very careful when they take on projects, especially fixed price projects because there have been issues involving material prices, like the cost of cement and rebar that have really hurt contractors on fixed price contracts. From what I hear there is also a shortage of labour.

How important is the issue of safety?
The issue of safety has to be taken very seriously. It is one of Aluma’s core values. If a building site is set up safely in the first place, it becomes an efficient site, that will be more productive so it makes sense.
We regard safety as one of the key principals of all our work and it is an integral part of the solutions we offer.

Would you say everything has gone to plan?
Our strategy when we first came to this market was to get involved in the rental market, together with some sale business of course. What has happened since is that events have overtaken our plans, as everyone seems to want to buy equipment. The company still will introduce a rental option, as this still remains our long-term strategy.

Why have you adopted that strategy?
We feel that this is what the industry now generally requires for the long term. Aluma has been involved in the rental business for over 30 years on a worldwide basis and as such we want to extend our expertise to our customers in the Middle East.

What market sectors will you concentrate on in the coming year?
We will continue to concentrate on the high-rise repetitive type construction projects,
We will also move into the civils sector, where we can offer fast track solutions on a range of infrastructure projects.
How important are repeat customers?
They are tremendously important. In fact we regard it as probably the most important thing to strive to achieve, practically when setting up in a new market area. It has been a real compliment that when we get a customer they stay with us. We very seldom do a one-off job.
One thing that is quite relevant is that we do put a very strong value on servicing our customers and fulfilling our obligations. We do not take a project on unless we can fulfil it.

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