For any company, the root of its success lies in its proven expertise and commitment to deliver cutting-edge, future-ready offerings, and never compromising on quality. These aspects are what gives any company a leading edge over its competition, no matter how cutthroat the market is.
For Fibrex Construction Group, these aspects have always been at the core of its operations based within the United Arab Emirates. With an international presence across Egypt and Lebanon and carrying out projects throughout the GCC and in various locations including Oman and Saudi Arabia, the company is currently positioned as one of the major turnkey construction groups in the region handling various projects.
In the following interview, Sufyan Saleh, the Managing Director and Co-Owner and Connor Maxwell, the Commercial Director share valuable insights into the company’s successful operations, the challenges it came across, and its vision for the future.
Please brief our audience about Fibrex Construction Group, its distinct services, and how it is currently positioned as the leading player in the Middle Eastern construction space.
Mr. Saleh: Fibrex Construction Group, a leading player in the UAE construction market, was founded in the United Arab Emirates in 1972 and has since expanded to cater for the growing construction market in the region. We are headquartered in Abu Dhabi and have diversified with offices in Egypt and Lebanon.
Fibrex have a portfolio of multi-billion UAE Dirhams projects encompassing a vast array for project categories from retail/shopping malls, hotels and hospitality, recreation, education (university and schools), Airports, Hospitals, commercial and major residential schemes (high rise apartment towers and villas developments) including all related project infrastructure and community facilities.
Fibrex Construction Group incorporates a special grade contracting company, world renowned composites manufacturing division, Electromechanical division, Pre-cast manufacturing, building material manufacturing, Aluminum fabrication, fit-out division, ready-mix concrete company, waterproofing and water features division.
The diversity of the Fibrex group provides an integrated platform for working within the construction industry as both a Construction Main Contractor delivering turnkey projects concurrently with the manufacturer and supplier of specialist building materials and products.
The evolution and growth of the Fibrex group has enabled it to develop into a unique model as a total solution contractor for clients within the construction industry. The Fibrex Group today has more than 10,000 employees in its multiple offices and manufacturing facilities.
Fibrex has a wide geographical reach and we have undertaken projects in the MENA region including locations such as UAE, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Morocco, Oman.
Tell us more about services that Fibrex offer, and how are these impacting the industry and yourclients?
Mr. Saleh: Fibrex offer a vast array of services from mega projects through to specialist package works through its world-renowned specialist composites division, which has worked on some of the most prestigious projects in the UAE and MENA region.
With Fibrex’s specialist in-house divisions, and substantial team of designers, we have extensive experience in all facets of construction. The diversity of the Fibrex group provides an integrated platform for working within the construction industry as both a Construction Main Contractor delivering turnkey projects and as a specialist supply and install business focused on key building materials and products.
A clear and evident testimony to Fibrex’s good relations with our client base is the consistent recurrence of repeat project awards with our key clients, whether they be Government or semi-government entities, public stock developers or private property developers. Fibrex consistently wins repeat project awards from our existing clients based on how we operate and how we integrate with our clients to ensure project success.
Being an experienced leader, share your opinion on the impact of adopting technologies such as AI on the construction industry and what more could be expected in the future?
Mr. Saleh: I am huge believer in innovation and adopting new technologies to advance the construction sector. Indeed, Fibrex are a pioneer of adopting the highest available technological advancements from other areas of use and integrating them into construction even though the technology was not initially devised for such purpose.
One early example of such innovation by Fibrex was in the early 1990’s (over 25 years ago) whereby on a very high profile and prestigious project in Abu Dhabi, we provided technological solutions to improve quality, efficiency and ease manufacturing processes.
The result was replacing thousands of artistic craftsmen who would hand carve their work and replacing this operation by the development and use of the initial concept 3D engineering, with CAD/CAM (computer aided design and manufacturing), and multi-axis CNC machines. This allowed Fibrex to ‘engineer the art of ancient carving craftmanship’ into modern technology without impacting upon the artistic quality of the end product.
Another example of Fibrex pioneering was the introduction and implementation of BIM (Building Information Modelling) for use 10 years ago on a high-profile complex construction project in Abu Dhabi. This was a move away from old-fashioned 2D coordination into 3D modelling by Fibrex which was revolutionary to our client and prior to BIM being prescribed as a requirement in construction projects in Dubai (of certain criteria) in 2013 and not yet mandated as a UAE federal requirement. Fibrex has repeatedly been ahead of the time/market with the adoption of revolutionary technology.
Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, what initial challenges did Fibrex face and how did you drive the company to sustain operations while ensuring the safety of your employees at the same time?
Mr. Maxwell: We have faced a multitude of challenges. In the early phases there was a lack of information on COVID-19, sourcing of materials related to COVID in the start of pandemic (shortage of masks from markets and disinfectants, availability of transportation, thermal cameras). We had concerns over people movement between emirates and transport to and from project sites, maintaining social distance on sites and in accommodation locations.
Workers’ mental health was a concern, as well as worries related to workforce infection rates, implementation of government authority regulations and the employees’ compliance with the same.
Also, there was the issue of cost impacts due to material shortages, labor shortages and delays of material deliveries due to lockdowns nationally and internationally and the corresponding impact that was having on our project execution schedules and the contractual implications of the same with our clients.
Actions taken by Fibrex:
- Sourcing of materials related to protection against COVID-19 that include masks and disinfections, supplier for regular disinfection of camp and workplaces, thermal camera, and disinfectant gates.
- Provide sufficient number of rooms at labor accommodation camp for isolation and quarantine of positive and close contact cases.
- Established emergency team to initiate response and trace close contacts. This was applied at each location and worksite.
- Reduced the numbers of employees working at the office and allowed for working from home and restricted foreign personnel from entering/visiting our facilities.
- Built strong relationship with local authorities for immediate responses and assistance for reported positive cases.
- Maintaining social distance at the workplace and during transportation from and to work and camp.
- Regular training to employees on COVID-19 and raising awareness on mental health.
- Provided support and assistance to all reported positive cases and close contacts.
- Used technology to help in our meeting through Microsoft Teams.
- Immediately stopped all annual leave and restricted employees’ movements in line with local and international requirements and instructions
- Sourcing local materials and equipment instead of getting abroad to avoid delay.
- Regular PCR screening for all employees.
- Regularly informed on the status of COVID arrangements and compliance.
Through strong and trusted relationships with our clients, we worked through the crisis with a one team approach on each project with each client.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the construction industry?
Mr. Saleh: I would advise them not to think that contracting success is to outsmart your client, it is exactly the opposite, work on building the trust and confidence of your client.
Also, don’t just build, innovate, and excel.
How do you envision scaling Fibrex’s operations and offerings in 2022?
Mr. Saleh: Looking at 2022, Fibrex will seek to continue its successful expansion, even during the construction market slowdown, so to be ready before others and always one step ahead.
About Mr. Sufyan Salleh – Expertise Redefined
Mr. Sufyan Saleh is the Managing Director and co-owner of one of the most successful contracting and industrial enterprises in the UAE. In addition, as president, he leads the Lebanese Business Council of Abu Dhabi. He is a leader, an innovator, a successful entrepreneur and a passionate contributor to the success and development of the Lebanese community in the UAE.
Mr. Saleh began his career in Abu Dhabi in 1985 taking a small company and strategically expanding it into the modern conglomerate known today as Fibrex Construction Group (http://www.fibrex.ae).
A key factor in the success and growth of Fibrex is the ability to clearly understand clients’ needs and aims beyond the obvious and providing the best solutions, through lateral thinking and ingenuity, to the challenges posed.
Mr. Saleh strongly believes in providing innovative solutions beyond the market norms to clients and is a strong supporter of R&D, which has been a key part of Fibrex’s success. This has enabled him to obtain several international patents related to modernizing specific construction fields. Such patents are registered in the UAE, Lebanon, and other Arab countries.
In recognition of his achievements and innovations in the construction industry, Mr. Saleh has received numerous awards such as: the Sheikh Khalifa Industry Award, the World Organization for Glass Reinforced Concrete (GRCA) Award and the Second Place in Ernest & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the UAE. He was also selected as a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Abu Dhabi University.
Mr. Saleh is a strong advocate for positiveness, proactiveness, and transparency towards clients thereby building clients’ trust and confidence. This approach has also created his company culture based on the same ethos.
This culture creates long-term relationships, which is demonstrated by Fibrex’s consistent, repetitive project awards/repeat business with some of the most prestigious clients in the UAE and the region.