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‘FM companies have to expand portfolios to accommodate customers’ demands’

From investing in specialised training to accommodating new building technologies, CEO, Farnek, discusses old and new challenges facing FM providers in the GCC region

| | Oct 30, 2018 | 11:00 am
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Dubai, UAE, 30 October 2018: As the built-environment continues to evolve – be it owing to market conditions or emerging technologies – Facilities Management (FM) companies often have to expand their product portfolios to accommodate new and old demands from customers. Markus Oberlin, CEO, Farnek, said that this can be a challenge, when it comes to specialised expertise needed for managing HVACR equipment within buildings. “Technicians with the skill set to adapt immediately to specialised systems are not available in abundance,” he admitted. “To overcome this problem, it is sometimes necessary to recruit from overseas. In this instance, we ensure they have the relevant technical know-how and undertake a programme of continuous training and development.”

To ensure its competitive advantage, Oberlin said that Farnek has invested in an in-house “school of excellence” to provide pre-deployment and refresher theoretical and practical maintenance training across all MEP trades, including HVACR.  “In addition, Farnek technicians receive periodic site-specific training to ensure they remain fully competent on the assets they’re maintaining,” he added.

These “assets” can vary greatly. Discussing the company’s approach in providing different services, Oberlin stressed that the solution is dependent on the site requirements and budgetary decisions taken during the tender phase, whether it be the proper maintenance of ELV and/or BMS systems or CO2 calibrations. “In some instances it may be more cost-effective to conduct low-level maintenance, i.e., periodic visual checks in-house,” he said, “but when system intervention or major services are required, a specialist service provider can be engaged.  Alternatively, we can invest in both internal and external certified training to close the skills gap.”

Oberlin also touched on the impact technologies, such as BIM and IoT present to the FM sector, especially in the maintenance of HVACR-related equipment. “Cost of technology implementation has not yet been appreciated by calculating ROI,” he said, “hence the roll out of BIM or IoT has been slow to date, but as a technology and sustainability-driven FM Company, Farnek embraces such advances.” Farnek, Oberlin said, is currently in negotiations with market specialists in these fields and investigating in-house solutions for IoT, where applicable. “It is inevitable that these measures will present challenges in terms of manpower,” he said, “but we must embrace technology, understand the capabilities and work with it to provide the most cost-effective and competitive FM service solutions to our clients.”

With regard to the feasibility of implementing minimum FM standards in the United Arab Emirates, and in the GCC region, Oberlin said that standardisation is always welcome, as it levels the field and reduces ambiguity. “All major contracts operated by Farnek include detailed and stringent SLAs and KPIs, which tend to be similar across such projects and, thus, present a level of standardisation,” he said. “Maintenance standards tend to adhere to SFG20 but are tailored to meet the unique challenges of this region.” While giving guidance for maintenance, Oberlin said the tailoring of SFG20 is subjective, hence, national or regional standards for maintenance intervention would still be beneficial to the industry.

Unfortunately, Oberlin said, the value of FM providers, can often be hidden from decision-makers who may be guided purely by price, instead of the value FM companies can provide through knowledge of different maintenance regimes, such as energy-centered maintenance, purchasing knowledge and experience, to ensure the longevity and efficiency of specialised equipment. “FM service providers, like Farnek, are armed with a number of solutions that are both technology and sustainability-focused, many of which need to be implemented in partnership with clients,” he said, adding that such value-added innovations are often not recognised in a predominantly price-centric market.

Advocating better collaboration among stakeholders, Oberlin said that early involvement would “ensure access and design issues are minimised, comprehensive solutions can be adapted, testing and commissioning will be witnessed and systems training and handover will be undertaken professionally and with knowledge.” All of which, he stressed, could greatly contribute in minimising extra and potentially expensive costs, later on.


Hannah Jo Uy is Assistant Editor at Climate Control Middle East magazine. She may be contacted at hannah@cpi-industry.com

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