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Eastern Promise

Fiona McDonnell, General Manager of OCS Emirates, talks to FMJ about the prosperous Middle East FM market and the significance of winning the facilities contract for the massive Sheikh Shakbout Medical City healthcare complex

In January 2018, OCS Emirates announced it had secured a five and a half year hard and technical FM contract with the Sheikh Shakbout Medical City (SSMC), the largest healthcare facility in Abu Dhabi. The agreement represents just one in a number of key healthcare wins for the service provider over the past year, both in the UK and internationally. The significance of this contract also demonstrates how substantially the FM market is growing in the Middle East, following the staggering rate of construction that continues unabated in the region.

While the Middle East FM industry is not as well established as its European and North American counterparts, the region nonetheless offers providers opportunity for significant growth, both in the short and long term. BIFM’s third business confidence monitor for the Middle East – conducted in 2017 – showed a wholly positive outlook for the area, despite spending cuts in both the public and private sectors.

While this report also highlighted some additional challenges that FM in the region has to address, namely a challenging economic environment and reduced industry exposure thanks to marketing cuts, the feeling was generally positive among respondents, with a stable period of prosperity expected over the coming years. McDonnell agrees, adding: “I have worked for OCS for eight years now and have personally seen the Middle East market expand rapidly in that time.

“Like any economic area it’s not without its challenges, but I anticipate the region to only grow in importance in the coming years. Most estimates place the global value of FM at around $1 trillion. The Middle East region will definitely contribute significantly to that growing figure over the next decade.”

This expectation is well supported. Research from Abu Dhabi-based event organiser FM Expo recently valued the UAE’s FM market at $12.9 billion, with that figure expected to rise to over $17 billion over the next five years. This rate of growth is primarily down to some $629 billion worth of UAE-based construction contracts currently in process that are expected to be completed by 2021. Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East Facilities Management Association (Mefma) has estimated that the nation’s FM market value currently stands at $20.9 billion, with this figure set to rise to $49.8 billion by the end of 2030.

Mefma’s research shows that Saudi’s market accounts for some 55 per cent of the entire Middle East FM sector, with the sustained prosperity attributed to a consistent expansion in the real estate, tourism and retail sectors as part of Saudi Vision 2030 – the nation’s plan to reduce dependency on oil and diversify its economy by developing public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism.

In short, it’s safe to say there will be plenty of good news for FM service providers looking to grow their footprint in the region in the coming years.

The SSMC is the latest hospital complex to open in Abu Dhabi. The site reflects the UAE’s striving for clinical excellence and is one of the largest hospitals in the region, placed strategically within the Al Mafraq area of the capital of Abu Dhabi, covering 300,000 sq m.

It is distinctive in the region for providing advanced burn treatment – the first centre within the UAE to provide such a speciality. It also offers medical services in orthopaedic and thoracic surgery, cardiac services, and other advanced medical provision to meet the growing medical needs of the region. Before the construction of the site, patients often had to seek specialist medical treatment overseas. The SSMC represents a cost-effective solution to this problem.

On such a huge site, the FM service delivery challenge for OCS Emirates is clear. With some 440 permanent medical staff and 1,800 nursing staff on site at any one time, the sprawling city facility requires a high degree of service in order to keep it at peak function. The SSMC counts 732 beds, two presidential suites, 36 VIP suites, an intensive care unit with several operating rooms, emergency departments, labour and delivery rooms as well as a medical research centre, all within its grounds.

The site is also host to cooling plants, a workshop, mortuary, underground tanks, service tunnels, underground car parking, and two helipads – all in need of ongoing cleaning and maintenance regimes. This sprawling complex is also at the cutting-edge of medicine, with robotic surgery units present on site to assist with a range of different surgical disciplines.

OCS Emirates’ contract formally commenced in February 2018, and includes managing the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and HVAC services, medical gas pipeline, building fabric, fire and life safety systems, building management system and biomedical engineering equipment. To date, the company has deployed 125 specialist staff, with this figure expected to grow to 300 over the next 18 months.

It’s quite a challenge, but McDonnell believes the site provides OCS with the opportunity to demonstrate its expertise in the healthcare sector, especially in the handling of delicate medical equipment which requires technical expertise beyond that of a typical facilities professional. “The site is host to some very complex and delicate machinery, all of which is vital to ensuring patient comfort and satisfaction,” she says. “This, coupled with the SSMC’s enormous coverage, is undoubtedly a challenge for OCS, but it’s one we are thrilled to take on.

“OCS is only a few months into the contract, but with our team of specialists already working on site, with more due over the next year, we’re confident our efforts will exceed the client’s strict standards and continue to provide world-leading patient care for the population of the UAE.”

With over 100 healthcare facilities, including seven within the UAE, and more than $110 million in healthcare revenue globally, OCS is now well established in the sector, delivering both soft and technical FM contracts. However, it’s the SSMC win that represents something of a strategic milestone for the business, due to its size, duration, and prestige. This prestige was reflected in the exhaustive bid process, which lasted over 24 months – the client was meticulous in its assessments and wanted a provider it could trust with its latest build.

OCS was eventually chosen due to its expertise in clinical FM delivery and experience in mobilising large-scale contracts. OCS’s soft service reputation within the UK, coupled with its technical delivery history in Asia and South East Asia, proved particularly advantageous. OCS now employs some 50,000 permanent staff across these two regions. McDonnell believes this contract will only strengthen the company’s case when bidding for new work in the Middle East and beyond: “It’s an accolade to have this brilliant facility on our books and demonstrates to prospective clients that we can add value and deliver on the most demanding of service challenges.”

Martin Logue, OCS’s Managing Director for the Middle East, sees the win as leverage for future growth not only in healthcare, but aviation too. “Strategically this is a great win for our organisation. It has elevated the profile of OCS Emirates across the GCC and the UAE. Over the course of the next five years we will look to expand our healthcare portfolio as well as have a stronger impact within the aviation sector, across the GCC, based upon the global experience of OCS.

“We currently work with more than 50 airlines in over 20 airports worldwide, including the management of over 500,000 aircraft per year. With 50 years in aviation and $160 million revenue in the sector in 2017, we expect this to be the next big area of growth for us.”

While opportunities in the Middle East figure high on the agenda for organisations like OCS Emirates, the close connection that its healthcare sector shares with the UK is also advantageous. The UAE and UK share a strategic partnership that has seen the latter establish outposts of its most successful hospitals and research centres.

It’s the emergence of establishments such as these in the UAE – and a reported 709 healthcare construction projects with a combined value of $65 billion –
that will guarantee OCS Emirates and indeed FM’s growth in the region for many years to come.

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