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FM in the UAE moves in the fast lane – Jason Ruehland, Managing Director, Emrill Integrated Facilities Management

What is the present state of the UAE FM Industry?


FM industry is really starting to mature in the UAE. Emrill is seeing more and more clients migrate away from single service contracts to fully integrated services. Client procurement teams are bundling all property services together, such as building maintenance, cleaning and security services under a shared management team. By establishing 3-5 year contracts with fixed costs and options for yearly extension, we are able to offer our clients significant savings plus cost predictability.


What some of trends and drivers for the industry in the UAE?


If you ask most facilities managers, you will find that about 95% had no idea what FM was when they finished their education. Over the last few years, we are seeing a trend of a sharp increase in students seeking FM as a career. In the UAE, there are now a wide variety of FM programs to educate students to industry standards including a degree from Herriot Watt University, online distance learning options, the British Institute Facilities Management (BIFM) to MEFMA. 


Another trend that we are now seeing is that some clients are now starting to specify standards into their operating contracts, for example the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICS), Six Sigma and Reliability Centre Maintenance. Through the demand for certified and recognized standards, this new approach from clients is raising the requirements and standards of FM delivery in the region.


The last key trend is the provision of energy services being offered with fully integrated FM services. A majority of UAE's properties are coming of age and buildings are still operating with systems and equipment that are 10-15 years old. These systems are inefficient in their consumption of energy and energy costs have been rising year-on-year. They are expected to rise further still with the government slowly reducing it’s subsidies to the growing population. The recession has also left a lot of properties without sinking funds and cash reserves to carry out retrofit programs in order to reduce energy consumption and operating costs. At Emrill, we provide a solution for such properties by securing funding for building retrofits, which are part, funded by the energy savings.



How has the industry evolved in the last decade?

FM was traditionally an in-house business department controlled by large management teams, most of FM today is competitively outsourced which significantly reduces cost. There has also been lot of consolidation of the market as FM companies grow regionally and internationally. Most major building companies now have major stakes in FM businesses to diversify their revenue income. FM can be a very reliable and stable income during downturns.


What has served as a catalyst of this change?

FM is seen as an expensive overhead and doesn't really generate income for most companies therefore outsourcing FM helps companies reduce head count and liabilities. Companies that use competitive tendering and output specifications can unlock significant savings and implement innovations that companies wouldn't be willing to develop or invest in themselves.


What is the outlook for FM industry over the next five years, and beyond?


I think there is great scope for consolidation of the FM market. FM companies through strategic acquisitions could quickly expand their local and regional reach; access to existing country employee visas and combined synergies through HR, Finance and Procurement systems could unlock significant business overhead savings.