“We believe our values set us apart as we work together towards the same goals in line with the work ethics.”
UAE-based Emrill Services – offering a full range of hard and soft facilities management, asset management and security services – recently went through an ISO certification upgrade, digital transformation and adopted a holistic approach towards the business. Alex Davies, Managing Director, Emrill Services speaks to Rashmi Karanjekar, Assistant Editor, Clean Middle East magazine about the latest updates in the company. Excerpts from the interview…
Our business is now 15 years old; we started in 2002 as a joint venture. We’re now a completely independently operated business entity wherein the shareholders are represented by the Board of Directors. We deliver service excellence through world class policies, people, processes and systems that are accredited by international bodies.
In terms of the statistics Emrill Services has nearly 8,000 dedicated staff deployed in the UAE. The hard services include building maintenance, HVAC, MEP; the security and life safety services includes man-security guarding, life guarding, concierge services, etc. The soft services division includes services like housekeeping, cleaning, office boy provision, etc. Roughly, the soft services and housekeeping part of the business is about 50 per cent of our workforce, while we have around 15 per cent life safety services from a manpower point of view. We are one of the few integrated FM providers that deliver a whole range of services – both in house and/or mainly via renowned suppliers and specialties solutions and specialties systems.
The market seems positive and will absolutely keep growing. The real estate market is emerging, which means there would be more facilities looking for cleaning and maintenance services. There will be a continuous economic pressure in terms of unit rate perspective. But, the entire industry is maturing to a position where we can hit the increase in volume and the economic pressure in a sustainable way. The industry is open to adapting various technologies like robotics, big data, IoT etc. But, digitalisation revolution has to be a conscious decision and will depend a lot on the sight of the location.
We have got a real mixture of work in terms of master communities, gated communities and high-end indoor focused work. We service some of the most prestigious projects in the UAE including Dubai Airport, Dubai Healthcare City, The Beach (JBR), La Mer, Dubai Outlet Village, Dubai Opera, Downtown and Marina master communities, plus five of the world’s tallest residential towers including Princess Tower.
We provide housekeeping services at Terminal 3, Concourse B and Concourse C thus covering 80 per cent of the Emirates’ footprints at Dubai Airports. We deliver master community services like housekeeping, MEP and security services to Downtown, Boulevard Area, Marina Master Community. We also deliver integrated FM services to buildings such as Dubai Opera. We deploy British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) standards across all of our sites while catering to the soft services and we train to that standard for everybody in the business. To an extent, our repeat business and existing clients contributed to 82 per cent of new work wins in 2017.
We held all the three ISO 14001, 18001 and 9001 for number of years. In the past, there were 2000 and 2009 standards. We republished the 9001 and 14001 in 2015 with a new approach, and OHSAS 18001 was published in 2007.
The ISO 9001 and 14001 were very prescriptive in terms of work. Whereas the new standards are much more risk based – depending on the type of work environment, the type of services we would offer and the nature of the organisation we would be dealing with. These standards call for a risk-based approach as they expect the personnel on ground to understand the industry and nature of work and accordingly apply standards in that particular environment. It involves a more proactive approach at the business level rather than just following the manual.
For instance, in our business the environmental impacts can be different depending on where we're working. When it comes to cleaning and maintenance, the chemicals that we use are subject to the industry we are catering to. For instance, chemicals used to clean an oil and gas facility may differ from the ones used at a financial institute and thus their sustainability impact might differ too.
So that’s why there has been a quiet shift in terms of the accreditation bodies and auditing bodies, which has been integral to our business to actually go back look at our operations, look at the data we have and make informed decisions. It’s been a number of years in the making and we’re proud to get to that position where over time we’ve rewritten all our standard operating procedures, method statements, company standards, policies to ensure that they are in line with our new business approach. It’s been quite a journey for the business, and we’re delighted to receive those accreditations after going through these processes for over a year.
As a business, the biggest challenge was changing the mindset of the people involved, and not just the policies and procedures. Apart from working towards achieving these accreditations the new business approach involved being bespoke and result-oriented. Upgrading the policies and procedures was easy but ensuring that this new approach has been put in action by professionals in the HSEQ teams was the real challenge.
In terms of digitalisation, we are keeping up with the market. Earlier this year the ‘Emrill Innovation & Digital Transformation Initiative’ was launched to build upon a company-wide environment of innovation and future-proofing. We employed cloud computing web-based applications such as SharePoint for all our back office processes and systems. We have also conducted trials with a couple of robotic housekeeping machines. Then we have IoT remote sensors installed/connected to the BMS at many Emrill sites. Interactive Employee Engagement for live Q&A and polling software for real-time staff brainstorming at the annual Emrill Leadership Conference are all part of our digital transformation initiative.
Apart from this, we manage a number of master communities and parking spaces, which includes maintaining the street lights at these facilities. Cleaning these street lights is considered as a high risk job as it requires the staff to be on a three-meter high boom lift. Our team has proactively come up with new solutions to clean these lighting poles, and we are working towards developing and deploying it soon.
The Dragon’s Den Series, which is also a part of the initiative, encourages employees presenting innovative business improvement ideas to judges. The winner of this initiative stands a chance to win a funding of AED 50,000.
At Emrill, we believe our values set us apart as we work together towards the same goals in line with the work ethics to please our customers and ensure our employees are satisfied. Through consistently living our values, engaging and developing our colleagues we ensure improvement in our staff retention, which is over 87 per cent. We are strictly a “safety first” company and are proud of its world class safety record. Our commitment to staff education and development and employee welfare has helped us achieve a record of 134,667 training man-hours completed in the year 2017. Besides, our annual Emrill Staff Carnival, a first of its kind, which spans over three months, celebrated its ten year anniversary in 2017.
For a sustainable business practice having control over the chemical usage and the unit rate is of utmost importance. It’s all about how much you waste versus how much you really require. For instance, when we use eco-friendly products, we tend to be more conscious about the consumption. On the contrary, we need to ask ourselves whether we control consumption in the same manner when we use low cost products. Potentially not.
Nearly 90 per cent of the products we use are eco-friendly. For us, the type and the nature of the chemicals we use has a huge impact; so it depends on how much we are using, how we are sourcing those products, what the impact of using these products will be on the environment. This enables the business to be more focused.
We are working towards adapting to newer technologies for a chemical-less cleaning practice. We are trialing with an industry-leading Aqueous ozone system that create ozone (O3) from oxygen in the air, which when infused with water becomes a powerful cleaning agent and is also safer for the environment. We will continue to look at these solutions, which might incur a huge capital expenditure but will definitely reduce the running cost as it doesn’t require the usage of chemicals.
On the other hand, I believe sustainability is all about running a sustainable business. So whilst the environmental impact has to be understood, we also have to build a sustainable business. We have to remain competitive or else we run the risk of disturbing our business' sustainability. It's very important to find that balance. Thankfully, there are a number of informed customers that understand the value in being eco-friendly and are willing to pay a premium for that or are in the position to make sure we can manage it to the right level. Also, we largely work with blue chip organisations and they have the similar CSR agenda. We have the Dubai Chamber of Commerce CSR label for six years now and we were the first FM company to get it.
Yes, definitely it was overwhelming and we are really proud as a FM company for the wins! We won the Top Cleaning Company of the Year and Excellence in Training awards at the inaugural Middle East Cleaning, Hygiene and Facilities Awards, as well as the Best Client-Contractor Partnership award attesting to our track record of quality service delivery and end-user satisfaction. We were also awarded the title of Overall FM Company of the Year for a fifth time at the Facilities Management Middle East Awards 2018. We have also won numerous client awards including ‘Best FM Partnership Award’ by value partner Wasl for two consecutive years. Besides, Emrill’s head of training received the Colin Hasson International Award for promoting BICSc training and standards globally in 2017.