Making 'Local'World Class
Dated: 13-03-2017

The UAE is seeing a healthy number of local cleaning chemicals manufacturing companies being set up. Shanti Petiwala examines the processes and challenges involved...

The UAE is accelerating its efforts to boost the industrial sector and make it a valuable contributor to the national economy, turning the ‘Made in UAE’ label into a mark of quality and global excellence,” said His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, Chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman of Emirates Group, during the recent opening of a global household cleaning consumables giant’s factory opening in Dubai, UAE,

In an age where local goods, sustainability and automation are the keywords, Clean Middle East magazine spoke to three local cleaning and hygiene chemicals manufacturers and suppliers in the UAE to understand the process involved in setting up a world-class manufacturing facility in the country.

Factors to consider

The biggest initial challenge prospective entrepreneurs will face is the cost of set up. “The initial investment directly affects the cost of finished products. Factories must be very careful in optimizing their set up costs based on their business strategy to ensure a competitive pricing strategy in the market,” cautions Kunnaal Bojwani, Sales Manager-UAE, Biotek Belhasa. Current facility owners and operators will all have a common piece of advice: Have a long-term outlook with further expansion plans rather than a one-hit wonder. There are a number of manufacturers in the UAE, some established decades ago, so make sure you have your technical, operational and financial plans on the mark before you decide to enter the market.

Another challenge that most manufacturers face is customer acceptability of their products versus that of global brands. Bojwani informs that this was a serious challenge in the past due to a general lack of quality in locally manufactured products and a specific mindset in the general populous. However, in the present environment, quite a few local manufacturers are producing quality chemicals at par with international brands, but with the convenience of a locally bred company.

Fazir Subair, Manager – MegaLab (set up by Blue – an Al Serkal Group company), agrees, “Local cleaning manufacturers tend to target price over quality to satisfy the customer’s budget, thereby introducing low-quality products (lower than the general global standards) despite having international standard production facilities.” He points out that most of these products end up in the export market, reflecting negatively on the UAE’s production quality.

But, the situation is fast changing with the local cleaning chemicals manufacturing industry facing stiff competition from global brands, with customers adamant on a balanced price to quality ratio. Rezwan A. R., Chief Marketing Officer, Eurotek, says, “Having been in the cleaning and hygiene industry in the region since the past 25 years, we have seen how the industry has grown and adopted new standards and quality control.”

As a pre-requisite, the local manufacturers that can provide the correct distribution and networking channels are seeing that customers are far more accepting of local brands as compared to previous years. Consumers are now looking for high quality products with the most efficient costing structure, which is where local manufacturers are now making giant strides.

Licenses and certifications

Before any company can set up its own factory, obtaining licenses is extremely important. First and foremost, says Bojwani, “The manufacturer is required to obtain a manufacturing license by meeting all the set standards of the various authorities associated with the manufacturing and chemical control departments as well as the municipality.” With initial licensing and permissions to operate in place, further approvals and certifications are sought depending on what the target customers need based on the product range being manufactured. Some of the common certifications include the ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) and GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice). All three companies – Biotek, Eurotek and Megalab are ISO and GMP certified.

These certifications can be attained by involving a third-party licensing authority as relevant. There are many in the Middle East especially UAE who are authorized auditors and perform complete audit and issue the licenses. Further certifications can be sought based on the sector the products are being manufactured for and the end user requirements.

 Practicing sustainability

Sustainability in manufacturing is quite a huge challenge – more-so in the case of cleaning chemicals. From energy consumption to water usage and even the raw materials used to make the chemicals – sustainability is an important aspect of manufacturing. At MegaLab, the R&D team is developing products in collaboration with international manufacturers to provide completely bio-degradable, superior quality products targeting the HoReCa segment and hospitality industry.

Biotek has stringent standardised manufacturing practices to ensure sustainability. This includes a high quality water purification system that takes future plans in stride; the company uses reputed suppliers with histories of non-interrupted supply - all the raw materials are tested at various stages to ensure consistent quality; the product design incorporates the ability to produce goods even in the case of the main production line’s failure; the company has implemented an extremely efficient supply chain management system to ensure continuous production and supply, while allowing them to implement a safe and effective inventory control system; the facility is designed to incorporate safe storage of enough raw materials whereby the company can manufacture the product range for 3 months without further material input. Finally, a back-up supplier chain is in place to ensure continuity of materials in case of non-availability from primary sources. Being at an initial stage, Eurotek plans to generate 25 per cent of the power required by the plant through solar power and will bring in 90 per cent of the power required by the end of 2018.

Frequent audits

The UAE as a country is businessfriendly. The Dubai Municipality too has consistently provided a businessfriendly platform not only for traders but also manufacturers. Its constant involvement and stringent procedures are testimony to that. According to Subair, the municipality conducts visits every 6 months on an average. They check the license validity and make checks for trade waste effluent disposal and disposal means of other materials from the factory. They also ratify the warehouses and factory for good HSE implementation and issues warning, if any, for any unauthorized modifications to the plant/ warehouse.

Bojwani adds, “They also check for safety measurements employed in the factory; first aid and fire marshal training certificates and protocols; storage conditions and protocols; health clearance certificates for factory workers; fork lift operators’ certifications.

 Storage and logistics

“Segregation as per the nature of chemicals is a key factor in storage design in chemical factories,” informs Bojwani. Reactive chemicals must be stored at specific distances away from each other to avoid hazardous reactions in case of accidental leaks. To implement a spillage rescue plan, there must be a dedicated drain line in place to allow for collection and treatment of materials before they can be disposed of safely. At the Eurotek plant, storage design is based on the type of chemical, and spill management kits and quick evacuation are available, informs Rezwan.

When transporting chemicals, it is a natural requirement to consider safety as a top priority. To ensure both the safety and quality of goods delivered, all goods must be transported in completely covered and ventilated vans as needed; hazardous materials vehicles are constantly monitored, have specific timings for when they can transport goods and have specified routes and sites where they can visit.

Each vehicle is clearly marked and the drivers are specially trained with all appropriate safety protocols. It is also a good option to have a dedicated taskforce to transport the finished goods. The raw materials required to produce these goods are normally transported to the warehouse where suitable shelving and equipment for movement of goods within the facility are provided for. Overall, the consensus is that manufacturers are likely to find good sales potential in the regional market. Word of mouth is still a very much highly respected reference. Bojwani has the last word: “Provide efficient costings, quality and timely deliverance, and you will see a constant growth pattern year on year.

Homegrown products

  1. Eurotek recently commissioned its new manufacturing plant at Dubai Industrial City. After 18 months of planning the factory, it was built across 55,000 sq.ft., with a production capacity of 80,000 litres per day of finished products. The products include the company’s complete range of cleaning chemicals and cans used for packaging.
  2. Blue launched MegaLab in Dubai Investment Park in 1991, and it is now one of the growing manufacturers in the region with a daily capacity to produce 10,000 litres of products. With the aim to match global standards and respond to customer demands, Blue provides efficient, chemical free, and quality products that are then manufactured for the local market. These products under the KLEANZ portfolio include surface cleaners, soaps, sanitizers, and disinfectants. “After we originated MegaLab, it took less than 18 months to enable technological breakthroughs in energy saving and water treatment at plant facility,” says Subair.
  3. Biotek Belhasa operates in a 31,000 sq. ft., climatecontrolled facility located in Al Quoz Industrial Area 3 in Dubai to produce various types of cleaning and disinfection products for the B2B sector. The current production capacity of the factory is 2,500 tonnes per shift per year of products for professional and institutional usage in the HORECA, F&B and commercial laundries sectors. Bojwani says, “It took one whole year of hard work and constant effort across multiple divisions to have the facility set up to begin its operations. The expansion and further production requirements took another year to incorporate the equipment and experience to operate at optimal performance.”