Harjinder Singh, chairman, Image Group of Companies says the firm is investing in its people in a challenging climate.
By Matthew Treanor
The Image Group of Companies has been serving the UAE for over two decades and was founded by Harjinder Singh. Hailing originally from the city of Hosairpur in the Punjab region of India, Singh first landed in the UAE in 1982, and soon set about building a small construction business that decades later would become a major player in both construction and transportation that operates across two continents.
From the start, Singh says he wanted to invest in people, particularly from his homeland: “The idea was to help people and bring labourers from India and give them jobs.”
Singh’s business’ stature within the pre-boom years in the UAE grew impressively on the back of a reputation for delivering time and time again for its clients. By 1995, Singh was ready to incorporate the flagship and core civil construction operation of Image Contracting CO LLC, with other ancillary functions including a comprehensive suite of building, industrial, infrastructure works, general construction and top-tier support services, into the Image Group of Companies. The group later added the Image General Transport company to handle its huge fleet of vehicle and equipment.
He tells CBNME, that the company turnover exceeds $350mn per year and it is currently working on more than 200 projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It also includes among its partners some of the biggest names in the country in both construction and transportation, such as GTC, Tristar construction company, Al Naboodah and NSCC International. Among its many achievements to date, it has provided steel structure, civil work and all concrete work for a theme park development in Dubai; roadworks and pipelines for Dubai Airport Al Maktoom Airport; as well as excavation projects for more than 60 buildings (50 of which are owned by Emaar).
“Our success and pride resides in our dedication and perseverance ensuring that our undertakings are completed beyond the expectations set by our stakeholders,” he says. “Firmly grounded in a philosophy of mutual understanding and open collaboration, we have continued to garner acclaim within the industry, translating into profitable ventures and emphasising maximum returns on investment for our clients.”
He adds that the group holds itself “to rigorous and exceptional” health and safety standards, “we have delivered each assignment on time and within or below budget targets. With a quality order book, seized through applying rigorous project selection processes, we continue to achieve a consistent and successful growth strategy even through challenging market conditions.”
To expand his point regarding the current economic climate, he explains how (despite recent gains) the relatively low price of oil has helped create a difficult construction market.
“The government was not able to support the projects easily; projects were on hold and there has been no support from the banks, so therefore we experienced a lot of delays to delivery. Cash flow was also affected.”
He adds that the transportation arm of the group has also seen costs rise: “They collect aggregates and black sand from Fujairah and bring it to construction sites. So every time they take it from Fujairah and RAK they need to pay high toll fees so the transportation business is more challenging.”
Image Global owns an extensive fleet of bulldozers, excavators, wheel loaders, graders for road work, boom loaders and cranes. It also owns more than 200 TGS and TGA trucks from German OEM MAN Truck & Bus. During a testing period for the construction and transportation operations in his group, he explains that MAN has helped ensure the successful running of the business because of the quality of its trucks.
“The mileage is fantastic,” he says. “As the fuel consumption is economical it makes me successful. MAN also goes on- and off-road which makes it flexible and better than other brands.”
Singh furthermore reserves special praise for MAN’s dealer in the UAE, Darwish Bin Ahmed & Sons Co LLC: “The workshop and after sales support is very good thanks to them. It’s been a long-term relationship over a period of time.”
Image Global continues to invest time and money into its workforce; carrying on Singh’s long-held belief in the importance of investing into people’s careers and lives. He has learned that safety is a crucial element of running a successful business that wants to protect its workers and its reputation for delivery on schedule. He tells CBNME that he provides training for employees through the MAN training Center and all the drivers take tests before they start driving based on the German auto maker’s comprehensive ProfiDrive training programme.
If anyone needs help, they will find support, he says, before adding: “That’s the culture of the company.”
Despite already owning a large MAN-based fleet of tipper trailers, flat beds and bulk cement trucks, Singh suggests that the company is prepared to turn once again to the German company to replace its ageing vehicles. The priority, he adds, will be fuel consumption and safety.
“I am expecting a more powerful truck in 2017 with safety features and fuel consumption to be good,” says Singh. “Safety features are good for a successful business, there are less accidents, and it helps the driver to be cautious.”
Keeping vehicles safe
An unsafe vehicle can’t be operated safely even by the best trained driver, advises MAN Truck & Bus Middle East.
It is not only the driver that plays a very important role in road safety but the vehicle condition has a significant contribution to ensuring safe and reliable transport operations. Only when the different safety features of a truck or bus are working correctly can they support the driver in critical situations.
MAN trucks are equipped with several safety features, such as the EBS (Electronic Brake System), which is a standard on all MAN vehicles. The EBS system includes the features of ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System), ESP (Electronic Stability Program) and the ASR (Anti Spin Regulation). In addition further electronic safety systems such as the lane guard system, emergency brake assistant are also available.
These functions are there to support the driver operating the vehicle safely in normal operations and specifically assist when the driver is presented with a critical situation.
In case of a malfunction on a safety system, the driver will be informed via the dashboard. In such cases, the nearest authorised workshop should be contacted to advise on further action the driver should take. Trained staff can then advise the driver over the telephone if the vehicle is still safe to operate. It is also important the fault codes which are indicated on the dashboard and the diagnosis computer are understood correctly as a wrong diagnosis can lead to a wrong repair and can influence the vehicles road worthiness.
Repairs which are not in line with the manufacturer’s standards might void the vehicle’s entire warranty and MAN authorised workshops fulfill a certain standard which is set and monitored by the manufacturer. The company strongly recommends that vehicle owners take their vehicles at these workshops to ensure safe and road-worthy condition are maintained. They are equipped with the necessary equipment to make the correct diagnosis and repairs.
For some repairs, special tools are needed which are only available at MAN partner workshops. Staff are always trained on the newest updates which are introduced on MAN trucks and buses with many technicians and electricians trained on specific systems. Factory support can identify difficulties via an online platform, while a team of experts based in the Middle East also visit workshops on short notice to support a diagnosis.
It may look it easy to exchange certain parts but MAN ensures that the correct parts are used for a specific vehicle. The exchange of control units can especially cause problems, as they are personalised to the vehicle and must be programmed when changing to ensure correct operation.
Control units purchased second hand on the local market and fitted to vehicles might rectify a fault temporarily but in the long term can create more problems and be more costly, as every control unit also is programmed with different parameters.
MAN has seen many failures which have been created by a wrong diagnosis and improper repairs by non-authorised workshops have led to an unsafe condition of the vehicle and increased downtime.
Workshops are not allowed to carry out any temporary repairs if repairs might affect the road worthiness of the vehicle. In its authorised workshops only MAN genuine spare parts (a 12-month warranty is given on most parts) are used and fitted to ensure a high quality standard.
MAN can also ensure a proper and safe operation of the brake system. During repairs, the brake function is tested with a roller tester before releasing the vehicle back onto the open road. The brake tester is also able to see any irregularities on the brake system and are able to test and match a tractor head trailer combination; this ensures a correct brake force distribution to the entire combination.
If the brake force distribution of the train combination isn’t correct, it can lead to the wheels locking and make the vehicle more difficult to control especially in critical situations.