With decades of industry knowledge and technical expertise behind it, Karam Fedics Services has quickly become a leading provider of life support services in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Created in 2009 – with the backing of the Tsebo Outsourcing Group, Africa’s largest provider of life support and facility services in South Africa and Xenel in Saudi Arabia – Karam Fedics Services offers catering, laundry, housekeeping, camp management and much more at oil and gas sites – onshore and offshore – throughout the region. Managing the villages involves, says General Manager Hamid Khan, creating a home-from-home environment for the staff who will be living there. The sites are usually in a remote location, so there needs to be WiFi capability so that the residents can keep in touch with loved ones back home. “These guys, often ex-pats, are coming to the Kingdom on a three- or five-year contract, so we try to create an environment which is conducive for them to have a bit of rest and relaxation when they get the opportunity. It’s very important to have that because they are away from their families, so we really try to take care of them,” he explains.
And Karam Fedics Services is now diversifying into other markets says Khan: “Currently, most of the companies we work with are oil and gas, but as the dynamics change, we have to look at ways of creating different offerings, rather than just one or two. There is construction, hospitals, government business and education, for example.” The dynamics he refers to are, of course, the current pressures in the oil and gas industry, which has led the company to venture into other markets, including government contracts, which has involved a lengthy audit process. Khan says: “We are on the verge of getting our government classification certificate following successful audits by the relevant authorities recently. . Once that happens, it opens up a whole new avenue of opportunities for us – hospitals, education, military, and prisons. And if you win a government tender, and you need 1,000 staff, the visa application process goes much more swiftly.”
Another way the company is managing the impact of the oil price drops is by working closely with its supply chain to ensure they are making the most of economies of scale. Khan says: “We have a central distribution system. Everything we need gets bought in and brought in to our warehouse, where it is processed and then distributed to the various sites. We are not going to have different camps ordering at different prices, it’s more cost-effective if it all goes through our central system.”
As well as cutting costs, this system also means that Karam Fedics Services can keep a close eye on the quality of goods it receives. “If a supplier delivers to a site and that particular manager is not really switched on to look for the quality and so forth, they could easily get a product that might be substandard – whereas if it comes through our warehousing and distribution, we can manage that process as well,” Khan says. The high quality service is the same across all of the company’s sites, because of this central way of managing the specification and standards.
One big difference is the offshore sites because they, clearly, have a separate set of challenges due to the fact Karam Fedics Services is not on site. Khan explains: “We deliver our product to the port in a refrigerated container and then it gets loaded onto a boat to get taken out – that process we don’t manage so we have to rely on the rig management team to ensure everything is delivered on time and at the right temperatures.” For this reason, the team look for products with a long shelf life, such as hardier vegetables. “We have introduced vacuum sealing as well and we are looking at a future stage to introduce CO2 into this to further extend the shelf life of some products,” Khan adds.
Back on land, each site has a manager who is in contact with the client on a daily basis. This feedback is crucial for Karam Fedics Services and is part of a wider programme of listening to its customers’ needs and opinions. Khan says: “For every 10 sites, we’ve got a supervisor who also liaises with our clients. And then we have a customer relationship management tool which, through an outside supplier, will phone clients at random just to get feedback on how the service is. And finally, on each site, we have communication boxes that people fill so we get feedback from the actual customers on site as well.”
Khan himself, along with the operations director and the operations team, also keeps pretty close to the action. “We are hands on and see the clients on a regular basis, so we know up front if there is an issue bubbling underneath the surface and we can deal with it straight away. Listening to feedback is absolutely essential, because it’s pointless providing a service that people are unhappy with.”
The company employs around 915 people – this has doubled since it started in 2009 – and sourcing staff with the right level of expertise is key to its success. “We make sure we have the right quality people with the right sort of skills but, more importantly, we make sure there are mechanisms in place to retain them. We listen to their requirements, make sure there is career progression and that there is no mismatch between the job and the actual individual. We believe in investing in our staff so that they are driven to provide superior service to our customers. As such we retain staff and keep our clients satisfied,” Khan concludes.
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