Today’s fast-paced business culture demands professional service in the shortest possible time, indicating the need for staff to work smarter and harder. The facilities management (FM) business is just the same, where productivity and efficiency of the staff is what matters within the time frame that is allotted to them. A tool that has time and again proven to increase efficiency and productivity of the staff is training. FM companies have always strived to bring in new innovative methods to train their staff to the optimal level. And, taking it to the next level is Cofely Besix Facility Management (CBFM), who launched ‘Al Mareefa’ (Training in Arabic) Bus - a purpose-built mobile training facility to provide on-site training to all the company staff - last November.
During a Site Visit to the ‘Al Mareefa’ bus, stationed near Discovery Gardens, FM today got an exclusive tour of the bus and an insight into this out-of-the-box training method. “The aim was to find the most efficient method of conducting training,” says Ian Harfield, CEO, CBFM. He goes on to add, “So, by creating it in a mobile platform - in this case a bus - we were able to bring the training to the staff instead of the other way round.”
The bus was created by a team of in-house carpenters and electricians who renovated a second-hand school bus, and included the removal of 75 per cent of the bus seats in order to build workbenches for training. The bus has also been modified with a mini-theatre style seating arrangement and TV monitor for class-room type training delivery. Simulation panels, such as electrical distribution boards for the practical part of the training, were also installed. The bus also boasts a state-of-the-art vehicle fire suppression system, and has its own independent power supplier via an on-board generator.
“The training provided on board the bus, will be technical in nature with a focus on mechanical, electrical, HVAC and plumbing; hence, we had to make sure the bus was fully-equipped with all the necessary equipment required, as well as adequate space to conduct practical training, too,” explains Harfield.
Training in the bus
Approximately 14 people can be training simultaneously on the bus, and all the training will be conducted whilst the bus is stationary. The training is conducted in two stages. In the first stage, the theory portion is covered. Once the staff has understood that, they move on to the second, which is the practical aspect. Here the trainees will get to use what they learned on a more practical level at the mock-up stations. “The mock-up stations enable trainees to experiment on real problems/ situations that they face on the job. So, instead of trying to figure it out on site, they can try to find a solution at these stations to save time,” adds Harfield.
The training bus will regularly visit approximately 50 sites across the UAE providing training onsite for all staff located at the various projects managed by Cofely Besix Facility Management. Within a month, the bus aims to visit all the sites, and the training module changes each time the bus visits the same site. The beauty of this concept, says Harfield, is the fact that ‘bus’ does not affect the training methods in any way. “Hence, there are not many challenges here, in fact it’s more like we have gotten rid of the obstacles to training,” he adds. When it comes to training, one of the biggest obstacles is for the supervisor to let go of his staff for training sessions. But, now there are no excuses because, with the help of this bus, the training can be conducted at their site. “So the bus has kind of undone the challenges for the clients. The only other challenge that we have is the actual physical attribute of parking the bus at the facility,” adds Harfield.
Health and safety
The team has given utmost importance to safety precautions as well. There are two types of safety systems installed in the bus. Be it personal, fire or gas, the training bus is well-equipped to handle any dangerous situation. In just a few months the ‘Al Mareefa’ bus has made a huge impact on not just the staff but also with the clients. The innovation has eliminated all the excuses to give training sessions amiss and moreover new modules can be taught to the staff sooner as well. Clients of Cofely Besix Facility Management have also responded positively towards this initiative and have also taken a keen interest in being a part of the training sessions themselves.
The future certainly looks bright for the ‘Al Mareefa’ bus. “I am extremely proud of my team for developing such a unique innovation that adds real value to our customers.” The team soon plans to bring training at every doorstep. They aim to reach out to their labour camps and remote areas as well. “By providing training at our labour camps, we are also enabling our non-skilled employees to learn basic skills, which they will keep and take to their home countries and transform their lives and their families and localities,” says Harfield while adding, “We also want to open the training bus to the entire staff, for instance, if our office boy wants to get trained in his free time, he should be able to do so through this bus.”
“We also hope to visit local schools across the UAE over the coming months, to educate children on the basics of facilities management and maintenance, which will show them how they can contribute to the upkeep of their homes and surroundings,” says Harfield.
A team of Cofely Besix FM volunteers will also visit remote farming areas in the UAE in Al Mareefa where for the first time some of the Asian sub-continent workers in farming will have access to a bespoke training centre, showing them how to deal with basic electrical wiring, air conditioning, plumbing as well as water hygiene, as part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiative. While there is just one bus on the field, Cofely Besix soon plans to add more buses to the fleet, in the hope that training can be accessed easily by one and all.