Cover Story: Cleanco - Raising Cleaning Standards in the UAE since 1980
 

Way back in the early 1980s when the booming trade, culture and economic hub that the UAE is today was just beginning to develop, Abu Dhabi had become the centre for oil and gas companies to grow, with obvious requirements for cleaning and maintenance. In response to this, Yusuf Khouri founded Cleanco – one of the UAE’s leading homegrown cleaning and support services provider that has been raising cleaning standards in the region since 1980.

Over the years, through strategies involving integrating people, facilities, processes and technologies into a single interactive solution, Cleanco has created an optimal working environment ensuring smarter business through optimised asset management. Speaking with Clean Middle East, the team behind Cleanco highlights the journey of the company, its latest projects and future plans.

Portfolio

Cleanco is a total cleaning and support service provider for general cleaning services, rope access cleaning, landscaping, pest control, etc. The company tailors its solutions to clients’ requirements, manages risk and engages its team to relentlessly work towards achieving its goal. Cleanco’s impressive client portfolio includes the corporate, industrial, government, healthcare, educational, hospitality and residential sectors. It also has separate divisions for waste management, pest control, and environmental research.

Ahmed Khouri, Board Member, says, “The general opinion is that we are a ‘local’ company. However, the word local only means that we are homegrown – we have extremely high quality standards and services that are unmatched by any other company in the region.” Dr. Khaled Khouri, Chief Operations Officer, contributes, “We underwent some major restructuring at the company to ensure that we are in tandem with the current trends in the market. Our entire effort is to provide quality services with value additions including an integration of services, equipment, chemicals, materials, manpower and technologies.”

Samer Hani, General Manager, runs the operations on ground. He contributes, “We recently mobilised some of our largest contracts. In 2016, we bagged a contract with the Abu Dhabi health services company SEHA, to maintain their Ambulatory Services across all locations in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. Our expertise in the oil & gas, healthcare and aviation divisions is unsurpassed, and we are the only company in Abu Dhabi to have expertise in cleaning the exterior portion of aircrafts." Overall, the company maintains 70 per cent of the UAE’s airports in the region. Cleanco is also one of the top 3 companies in medical waste management in the UAE.

Human capital

Every cleaning and support services provider thrives on its human capital. With over 15,000 cleaning operatives under its wing, Cleanco shoulders a huge responsibility of ensuring that their personnel are well trained, well accommodated, and continue to grow in their careers. Cleanco believes that training is the key to efficient cleaning services. The company has two established training centres – in Abu Dhabi and the Western Region. It is also currently commissioning one of the biggest soft services training centres in the region at Mussaffah.

The centre will be BICSc accredited and follow international cleaning and EHS standards. Ahmed Khouri says, “People are our assets. The quality of our accommodation is much higher than the required government standards. We ensure that recruitment of staff involves a vigorous process, and training begins at the interview level. Post that, the operatives are trained in house and then given specialised training by the specific clients they work for. In the case of healthcare, our operatives also undergo training according to the JCI accreditation.” He adds, “One of the risks of people management and training is that when they gain knowledge and experience, they tend to look for more exciting prospects. We are aware of the importance of growing our operatives’ careers. We promote them to supervisor level and place them in different projects to give them more exposure. Indeed, several of our former cleaning operatives have opened up companies that are our direct competitors! But, we are proud of their history with us and that we have helped the market grow.”

 Quality and sustainability

Cleanco imports the international brand Wetrok to be used in all its cleaning applications. It also uses chemicals specified by the client in the contract agreement. Sustainability is a huge aspect in its operations. Cleanco has a list of certifications under its belt. The ISO 14001:2004 - an environmental management system; ISO 9001:2008 - a quality management system; ISO 18001:2007 - an Occupational Health and Safety Certification; ISO 10000 - customer satisfaction certificate, which the company is working towards. With well-defined policies, procedures, prices and projects, the company works in accordance with local regulatory laws and regulations. Cleanco is also an accredited member of the MEFMA, BICSc, Cleaning Management Institute, Cleaning Institute of Australia.

Over the years, Cleanco’s focus on research, technology and sustainable practices has intensified. Cleanco is currently one of the first companies utilising the Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) system in soft services for its aviation projects. Dr. Khalid Khouri says, “These are important aspects of any company with a portfolio like ours and cannot be ignored. We consistently develop and improve ourselves, conduct market research and see how we can apply it in our projects.”

Staff is trained regularly on practices that reduce the consumption of water, electricity and energy. The company is also looking at incorporating nano-technology in its cleaning applications and consults with clients on their tissue consumption. In all its divisions, especially waste management, it is on the consistent lookout for solutions that aim at zero waste. With an integrated approach towards cleaning and offering customers quality services, Cleanco continues to maintain its position at the peak of the cleaning services market in the country.

An exclusive interview with Sultan Khouri, Chief Executive Officer, Cleanco….

What does Cleanco offer its customers beyond cleaning and support services?

We give our customers value addition as a result of our 30 years of experience dealing with different industries, cultures and traveling across the world. Accordingly, we tailor our services and ensure that we exceed our clients’ expectations.

Is that what also keeps you above your competition?

If you provide services that go above and beyond what the customer expects, you stay ahead of your competitors. We consider our clients to be our partners. While it may be perceived as an old school concept, we believe the customer is always right. Transparency is important for us, and we take up any challenge as a method to improvise on our efficiencies. People are our assets – without them, we would not be able to provide the kind of services we do.

How has the market changed in the last 30 odd years?

The biggest difference between now and then is that now, customers are more aware of the promises of cleaning services. They have also begun to understand that a vendor offering multiple services under one umbrella is a better option than dealing with several different contractors. Both cost and quality have begun to play a balanced role in all contracts.

What would you deem the biggest challenge?

I think it is to get the right personnel, train them and then retain them. Cleanco has minimum quality requirements and costs that we do not compromise on. The market does fluctuate but we move with it and adapt to it. The fact that Cleanco had a 35 per cent growth in the last two years is testimony to that.

What is the future of Cleanco?

We are market leaders in our portfolio. Our aim is to grow the business and expand in the region where we can apply our experience in the aviation and healthcare sectors in the region.

Case Study:

Abu Dhabi International Airport

Cleanco’s expertise in aviation soft services is unparelled in Abu Dhabi. The company recently bagged a contract with Abu Dhabi Airports for the soft services of Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH). The scope of work involved includes cleaning services for the buildings, terminals and airside movement areas, waste management, pest control and indoor plant maintenance services. The contract – awarded for 5 years – is performancebased with stringent KPIs and an extremely high standard of service. Ahmed Khoory says, “AUH is the face of our country. We work closely with the Abu Dhabi Airports management to ensure that the airport is maintained round the clock.”

Critical functions

The Airside Movements Areas (AMA) including runways, taxiways, aprons aircraft and parking bays are critical functions that require operatives to have rigorous and intensive training over and above the regular training they receive. BICSc is the medium used and conducted by BICSc Training Coordinators to the AMA workforce to help them execute the proper cleaning methodology based on international standards to improve cleaning performance and render high quality cleaning services.

Runway mechanical sweeping is a specialized task that requires the operative to have close coordination with the flight safety team and air control tower. While the general contract requirements involve cleaning the runway 4-6 times a day, the actual task is subject to the air traffic schedule.

Customised mechanical sweeper trucks clean the runway without the need for water or chemical. Road sweeping operatives are required to have a higher safety awareness and clear communication with a fluency in English because communication with the air control tower usually happens in an emergency unscheduled landing; breakdown of communication is not an option.

Technology, sustainability and hygiene

The general cleaning of the airport is highly mechanized with minimal dependency on manpower. Chemicals selected are of high, international quality determined at the KPI level. Sustainability also plays a huge role – the machines reduce water and energy consumption with longer utility before the next charge. The chemicals are rated for indoor air quality use as well. For general disinfection, the cleaning operatives have an hourly schedule. In the washroom, the toilet is cleaned and disinfected as required at all times. Replenishment of hygiene consumables are also monitored to ensure zero incident of non-availability of all hygiene supplies.

Challenges involved

The biggest challenge in airport cleaning is security restrictions for cleaning operatives and machines. Moving equipment between locations is a challenge since they continually need to be cleared through security. Factoring in the fact that clean-ups have to be undertaken within certain timelines – in this case 1 minute to respond and 5 minutes to resolve – Cleanco’s approach is to have the right equipment and personnel stationed in secure zones, to prevent the challenge of the logistics otherwise involved. Another response to this challenge is the CAFM, which generates tasks and records how fast it has been completed.

Other services

Apart from general cleaning services, Cleanco is involved in façade cleaning, which requires a Rope Access Team that is specialised in providing safe access solutions to high rise buildings in the airport and any premises that present an access problem for façade/glass cleaning.

The respective teams also interact with the hard services teams regularly to escalate and coordinate issues in order to fulfill the required services. For instance, a leakage in the washroom maybe a plumbing issue but is perceived as a cleaning issue owing to a puddle of water on the floor. At this point, the Cleanco team takes additional responsibility by reporting and following up on such issues through the CAFM.