Facilities Management Middle East
FM AT WORK
With $1.2tn worth of projects being planned in Saudi Arabia, the FM industry needs to up its game, says Jason Ruehland, chief executive officer at Muheel
In a conversation with Jason Ruehland, chief executive officer at Muheel, he says that at present Saudi Arabia “is at the starting gate of FM sector development, trailing the UAE which is still seen as the more advanced FM country in the region”.
Although as revealed by other FM industry veterans in the region, Ruehland agrees that the FM market in Saudi Arabia is already the largest in the region. He says: “Lot of property services are still provided by manpower supplying companies, and this does narrow the lenses of true FM contracts in the Kingdom, which is estimated to be worth around $20bn.”
Talking about the opportunities, Ruehland says that the Saudi government has launched a major initiative to upgrade the quality of FM across its portfolio of projects. He says: “In 2020, the government established Mashroat ( Mashroat in Arabic means projects) to revolutionise public sector FM projects. A huge amount of Saudi’s infrastructure is government- owned, and high outsourcing rates means a large proportion of FM spend is from the public sector.”
Mashroat aims to drive up asset management standards across the government estate, and address, amongst other issues, things like international best practice & standards, budgeting & cost control, monitoring & supervision, and supplier accreditation.
Professionalisation of the industry offers huge potential for facilities management companies like Muheel which deliver international standards, says Ruehland proudly.
Addressing one of the major challenges that the Saudi FM market faces, Ruehland adds that 65% of the population is below the age of 30. He elaborates: “The youth that are coming through are from higher education and vocational education programs, which is impressive. They are well educated, tech savvy, speak Arabic and English, and are hungry to learn and work, but not many are aware of a career in FM.
“Let’s be honest, it’s never been the most attractive of industries, and most people just fall into FM rather than pick it up as a career, when the fact is that this industry contributes 8-9% towards the country’s GDP.”
“The Kingdom needs more colleges and universities that teach real-world operational skills to manage facilities,” Ruehland adds.
Ruehland does agree that the FM market is changing fast. “Client adoption of digital work management systems (CAFM/CMMS) and operating standards like SF20 for Building Maintenance and British Institute of Cleaning Science is on the rise. Clients are becoming more confident at implementing and managing output-based contracts, rather than input-based contracts with a defined headcount.”
Recently, the Ministry of Finance changed their tender evaluations from 20% technical and 80% commercial to 40% technical and 60% commercial, a clear sign of the appetite to change the quality of services.
Ruehland says: “Facilities Management Middle East has done a lot recently to raise the awareness of FM in the Kingdom, but I feel that associations like IFMA, IWFM and MEFMA could be doing a lot more to support the industry.”
In conclusion, Ruehland says: “$1.2tn worth of projects are being planned in Saudi Arabia through 2030, about half is already under execution. More than $100bn worth of projects are at the design stage and planned to go to tender in the next two years. The FM industry needs to be ready to meet the demand and protect the Kingdom’s assets.”
THE KINGDOM NEEDS MORE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES THAT TEACH REAL-WORLD OPERATIONAL SKILLS TO MANAGE FACILITIES.