Facilities Management

The logistics industry is a core market for facilities management and companies can benefit from outsourcing the daily maintenance of warehouses, says Paul Hillier, general manager, Operon Middle East.

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By  Robeel Haq Published  September 18, 2006

|~|hillier_fm2.jpg|~||~|The demand for facilities management (FM) services in the Middle East is starting to flourish. A recent study has estimated the industry is worth roughly US$144 billion in Dubai alone. The logistics industry is a core market for Facilities Management and companies can benefit from outsourcing the daily maintenance of warehouses, says Paul Hillier, general manager, Operon Middle East.

What is facilities management?
There are many definitions of facilities management. In fact, if you asked six different people to define facilities management, you would get six different answers. In my opinion, facilities management is a combination of services that allows a customer to run their premises within a desired budget.

How has the facilities management industry developed
in the Middle East?
I have followed the growth of facilities management around the world. In the past, it’s been painfully slow to develop in the Middle East. However, we are poised at the edge of a very exciting explosion in demand for facilities management in this region. Now, there are also a lot of media companies discussing facilities management and highlighting the benefits, which is a great thing. This has made people curious and more companies are now researching the advantages of hiring a facilities management company.

Where does the facilities management process begin?
Each facilities management company operates differently. As for Operon, we offer a range of MEP and FM consultancy services, in addition to the traditional facilities management services. So, for us, the process begins earlier. In the logistics industry, for example, we can help companies from the warehouse design stage, when everything is still on the drawing board. This reduces the risk of making common and often expensive mistakes. It also means the future maintenance and facilities management costs are lower because of the optimal efficiency that was “designed-in” from the beginning.

What are the common mistakes in the design of
warehouse facilities?
Warehouses are huge buildings, so the risks of making mistakes are higher. At the moment, companies are investing a lot of money to ensure warehouses are implemented with the latest solutions, particularly with regard to materials handling systems. However, sometimes these companies will purchase the wrong solutions, even though more suitable alternatives are readily available in the market. This type of mistake could be very expensive.

How can a facilities management company help
customers to avoid these mistakes?
We are able to provide input during the design process, before the construction begins, to ensure everything is built correctly and the company has optimum storage capacity and MEP installations. The content of warehousing is usually changing on a constant basis. A company might be storing fresh flowers one month and something else the following month. It would be dangerous to design the warehouse for specific items unless the demand has been established, so we recommend a flexible approach. With all buildings and all operators, know what you want to do and what you need to achieve in that building. There is no room for compromise. Once the warehouse is constructed, we then move onto core facilities management tasks.

Can you provide some examples of core facilities management tasks?
We have packages of different services. The first level, FM-1, normally includes the general cleaning and security services, together with general maintenance of the mechanical and electrical systems. The second level, FM-2, consists of unscheduled tasks, for example, arranging the repair of a warehouse’s air conditioning unit if there has been a breakdown. If something does go wrong, our clients can always call our contact centre and help desk, to ensure a speedy response. Alternatively, depending on the size of the company, we might have personnel based in the warehouse, depending on the critical nature of the stored product.

Has the Middle East logistics industry shown interest in facilities management?
At the moment, it is clear that demand is growing within the logistics industry. We are talking to a number of companies with warehousing in the region and these companies increasingly understand the benefits of professional facilities management. They need reliable companies to handle these special services, allowing them to concentrate on their own core business, which is transporting and storing products, among other things. However, at the same time, we are currently amidst a period of education for some clients, who may not totally understand what we offer, and so we have to always be prepared to prove the benefits of facilities management to the industry.


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