Delivering excellence through challenging times

History will remember 2020 as a period of tremendous upheaval when the Facilities Management industry was called upon to play an important role in mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We spoke with Imdaad’s Group CEO Jamal Abdulla Lootah to learn more about the challenges and opportunities that arose for the sector as a result.


Filed under
Waste Management
 
December 22 2020
 
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How did Imdaad overcome the challenges of Covid-19?

From the very beginning of the pandemic, we were able to quickly adapt to the fast-moving situation and have successfully maintained our agility throughout the crisis. It was very important to us that we continued to deliver the same high standards our customers have come to expect from us, regardless of the situation. Naturally, this desire had to be balanced with ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our team members and the communities they serve, which is always our number one consideration.

With this in mind, we embarked on a comprehensive training programme to ensure that all of our team members were properly briefed on the enhanced safety and sanitation protocols we adopted as part of our pandemic response plan. In March, our Environmental Solutions division launched a range of disinfection and cleaning services, including the deployment of ultralow volume cold fogging equipment that can cover large public spaces effectively and efficiently. Imdaad’s subsidiary Vision Safety contributed to these efforts with the roll-out of a state-of-the-art disinfection tunnel designed to help combat the virus. The fully automatic ViroSheild by Vision Safety sprays users with a fine mist as they walk through it and is available in both high and low-pressure models to cater to a wide range of use cases, including malls, hospitals, construction sites, labor accommodation, and residential areas.

We have also been assisting through specialized services such as the safe collection of medical waste from healthcare facilities for transportation to Dubai Municipality’s incineration facility. Our expert teams and special purpose vehicles handle more than 500 tons of biomedical waste each year, which is approximately a quarter of the total volume generated in Dubai. Our diverse capabilities enabled us to assist the government in this time of need by participating in the national disinfection program. We are extremely grateful to have been in a position to lend support in this way, and I can say it was truly inspiring to witness the dedication of our frontline staff as they performed this vital service to the nation.

Following our robust business continuity strategy, we were able to ensure there was no disruption to any of our critical operations. For instance, we succeeded in swiftly reallocating team members to areas of the business that were experiencing higher demand at any given time. Such movements are made possible thanks to two key factors; our long-term investments in training and professional development, and, above all, the exceptional caliber of our people. Ultimately, the pandemic has only accelerated what we’ve been doing all along – further developing our agile, proactive approach to Facilities Management. Our flexibility enables us to provide highly effective solutions for the evolving needs of our clients and support them in overcoming any obstacles we may face together.

Was Imdaad’s performance impacted by COVID-19?

Despite the pandemic situation, 2020 turned out to be a very strong year for us. We succeeded in turning challenges into opportunities to achieve sustainable growth across our nine business units. Our Facilities Management Services (FMS) division, in particular, performed very well, improving its profitability compared to the previous year and securing many new projects across various sectors. We also successfully renewed 97 percent of our existing contracts. This is something I find especially gratifying, as I consider it to be a vote of confidence that speaks volumes about Imdaad’s outstanding levels of customer satisfaction.

Following a period of consistently solid performance, FMS has now firmly installed itself as the preferred service provider for the UAE’s banking sector, as well as all of the nation’s major seaports. In addition, our Environmental Services business unit won a number of new contracts, such as the provision of lake management services in Dubai Motor City. The pandemic period presented an opportune moment to further enhance our offerings with timely and relevant capabilities. Our subsidiary Nigma, for example, added portable lifts to its range of tailor-made services and solutions for automated products. Likewise, our Pest Control team expanded its remit by venturing into disinfection services.

Since the outset of the pandemic, Imdaad has succeeded in strengthening its market leadership by further enhancing its offerings to meet the challenges of the time. It is this forward-thinking and proactive approach that led to our participation in the national disinfection program, which provided an opportunity to deploy our capabilities in support of the UAE’s efforts to curb the spread of the virus – something we are immensely proud to be part of.

What does the future hold for the Facilities Management industry in the wake of the pandemic?

It has been clear throughout the pandemic period that technology has played a crucial role in maintaining personal and professional connections, as well as the productivity of the economy. Coming from an FM background, this is nothing new for us as we make use of many digital tools to ensure the needs of our customers are fulfilled. For example, Imdaad has adopted an advanced smartphone-based solution that offers real-time tracking of operational data, enabling us to allocate resources more efficiently and ensure rapid response times.

Whenever a work order is generated, the system instantly locates the nearest technician and assigns the job. This approach frees up resources and strengthens our ability to deliver services of the highest standard. We are also interacting with Big Data, IoT and AI every day, and I believe the possibilities these technologies provide will become even more impressive. Today’s Building Management Systems, for instance, incorporate remote access systems that give a comprehensive overview of our clients’ assets in realtime. This allows us to proactively uncover faults long before they manifest themselves, hence reducing maintenance costs.

Recent data from one project indicated that during a month-long period, our systems were able to remotely fix over 90% of faults with no human intervention required. As social distancing is likely to remain with us for some time, systems such as these clearly bring many advantages. I’m very excited to see how these capabilities will be further extended in the future, particularly given the strong government support for the concept of Smart Cities.

Given the emphasis on the importance of sanitation throughout the pandemic, the FM sector will be expected to deliver higher standards than ever before. This can only be a good thing for our industry, our clients, and society as a whole. In many respects, Imdaad is already ahead of the curve thanks to our commitment to world-class training and hunger for innovation. Overall, I feel we are well prepared to thrive in this new reality.

Can you tell us about Imdaad’s plans for the year ahead?

As the UAE’s only fully integrated Facilities Management company, Imdaad has succeeded in establishing a strong leadership position in the region’s FM sector. We have achieved this through our commitment to developing our capabilities to provide a full spectrum of services and solutions and create added value for our customers. The growth we have witnessed and our impressive client retention rates reflect the quality of our services, while our diversified portfolio and agile approach have enabled us to emerge from the virus outbreak stronger than ever.

I believe our constant pursuit of innovation has been a key factor in building Imdaad’s strong brand loyalty, particularly during the pandemic period when fresh ideas are needed to overcome new challenges. Looking to the months ahead, we will continue to seek out new ways of ensuring our clients always obtain the maximum possible benefits from our services. Moving forward, the enhancement of our human capital will remain a key focus area. Having long recognized that our people are our most valuable assets, we will continue to invest in upskilling our team members and empowering them to deliver on our mandates. In keeping with our long-term strategy, we have been further expanding our footprint throughout the UAE recently, and particularly in the Northern Emirates. We anticipate bringing our services to increasing numbers of clients in this area in the coming months.

As the pandemic situation slowly begins to improve, we will continue to do all we can to accommodate the needs and circumstances of our customers. While 2020 has been a very challenging year for many, it is highly encouraging to see the light at the end of the tunnel approaching. In Imdaad’s case, our organizational agility and the exceptional caliber of our teams have enabled us to successfully adapt to the ‘new normal’, and we have every reason to look to the future with confidence and optimism. With demand for FM services continuing to grow in the region, we look forward to embracing the many exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

 

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