Although almost all new developments in the rapidly expanding United Arab Emirate of Dubai can be described as ’big,’ the Dubai Festival City puts most in the shade.
Sited along 2.4 mi. (3.8 km) of riverside frontage, its locality to both the international airport and downtown Dubai provides the setting for the Middle East’s largest mixed-use development. The first phase of the 12-year project is due to be complete in 2006 and will include the 2.9-million-sq.-yd. (2.4 million sq m) Festival Centre — with a yacht marina, 100 restaurants, 400 retail outlets, luxury hotels and a canal system with water taxis.
Added to this will be a .9-mi. (1.5 km) waterfront promenade, championship golf resort, residential complex and automotive zone featuring many of the leading brands. And that’s just the first phase.
This initial $1 billion stage is being financed and constructed by one of the largest companies in the Middle East — the Al Futtaim Group. Employing 10,000 people, the highly diversified conglomerate — with activities ranging from selling toys to high-tech telecommications — also is the local Volvo Construction Equipment dealer in the region.
“We are biased towards the Volvo products,” said Plant and Transport Manager Paul Ward. “But more because of the fact that we have a substantial fleet than for family connections. We compare Volvo products against their competitors but our product knowledge with the company is getting better all the time and changing to another manufacturer is not straightforward — bringing with it its own risks. We’ve had Volvo articulated dumpers for over 20 years that have hauled ceaselessly — and that gives us reassurance when buying other Volvo equipment.”
Al Futtaim Carillion’s latest additions to its Volvo fleet consists of a dozen BL71 backhoe loaders, two graders (G780B and G720B), three EC360Blc and four EC290Blc excavators, as well as a L120E wheel loader.
The recent $4-million investment in new equipment has been partially driven by the client’s desire to ’fast track’ the project.
“We were hauling 6,000 cubic meters of material out of the site a day in the early stages,” Ward said. “But the client wanted more so we increased it to 15,000 cubic meters using 100 trucks and working 22 hour days. The word ’stop’ hasn’t been incorporated into the language here.”
This desire to drive the project faster and faster has lead to a change of equipment procurement policy — from one of buying multi-brand used equipment to selecting one manufacturer and buying new.
“Although there was an initial cost saving buying used equipment,” Ward said, “parts availability was a problem, mechanic’s working knowledge was much reduced — and where do you send your staff for product training?”
As Ward started his working career as a plant mechanic he knows the difficulties of keeping machines operational.
“We wouldn’t buy used machines now — not for the larger equipment anyway,” he said. “Buying new equipment brings with it the advantages of product support, availability and, with the Volvo machines, rising residual values. And that’s not forgetting the most important element of increased uptime.”
With such pressure on meeting project deadlines, this latter point of high machine usage is a priority. Keeping machines in good condition is never easy, not helped in Dubai by a harsh working environment, with high levels of dust and summer temperatures that can exceed 122F (50C).
“Dust is the biggest enemy,” Ward said, “and preventative maintenance is key to maximizing machine availability. This is especially so when some machines are expected to work 22 hours a day — and a further reason why new equipment has been bought.”
The company is finding that engines are working 12,000 to 15,000 hours before needing overhaul — and longer for transmissions.
“We don’t run them into the ground. We keep a close check on them and try to catch them before they break,” he said.
In such conditions filters, oils and lubricants need close attention, as do the operators.
Al Futtaim takes the issue of employee welfare seriously, and operates a health and safety regime on a par with the UK’s notably tough conditions.
“Working 12-hour shifts, both man and machine are rigorously tested,” Ward said, “and that’s why all new machines are fitted with air conditioning — which creates a dust free environment, reduces operator fatigue and improves productivity significantly.”
In such hot temperatures keeping food healthy also can be a problem. So Al Futtaim Carillion provides refrigerators and chilled vehicles to keep lunchboxes fresh.
Despite the demanding conditions of environment and client deadlines, Al Futtaim Carillion is pushing neither its machines nor its people to the limit. But the pace of activity is punishing: at press time, 15,700 cu. yds. (12,000 cu m) of (ice cooled) concrete was being poured a week. A big enough figure perhaps, but when you consider that the central core of the project alone requires 588,000 cu. yds. (450,000 cu m) of concrete and 77,000 tons (70,000 t) of reinforcing steelwork, the scale of this mammoth project starts to become clear. It will need every piece of equipment fully available if Festival City is ready to party in 2006. CEG