From modest beginnings some 30 years ago, Al Habtoor Engineering Enterprises (HEE) radically transformed its carpentry workshop in just over a year into a force to be reckoned within the Gulf's shop fitting and interiors fit-out industry.
Spun off by HEE early last year, Al Habtoor Interiors (AHI) has rapidly grown into a substantial venture employing more than 180 staff.
"AHI has proven to be a 'perfect fit' complementing other business units within the group and, more importantly, running as a stand-alone enterprise with its own clients and accountabilities," says director Keith Parker. "This is just the start. We have bold ambitions to grow the business and plans are in place to ensure our skills are well represented in the future."
Over the past year, substantial sums have been invested in the latest technology to enhance the smooth-running of the factory. AHI production manager Brian Simpson explains that the company's new Biesse beam cutter and Cefla spray painting machines from Italy - bought at a total cost of around $750,000 - have "dramatically increased efficiency, capacity and consistent quality."
"The use of new technology has resulted in greater customer satisfaction and has had a positive effect on the productivity of the entire factory," Simpson points out.
Much of the success that AHI is enjoying is a function of the high standards of quality control and production processes.
According to Simpson, "Of the 173 staff engaged in the factory, 78 are highly skilled carpenters, 12 are specialist machine operators and eight are very talented painters. The result of combining substantial human resources with technology has made us more competitive and able to handle large orders very quickly."
Another contributing factor to the increased capacity at AHI lies with the implementation of a new production control system by which work flows through the various stages of production and can be tracked all the way through to the finishing line.
One of the specialist areas AHI has developed is the manufacture of panelling for walls, ceilings and corridors, for which present capacity stands at an impressive 10,000 sq m per annum in addition to doors and furniture. AHI has created panelling for a variety of projects such as the newly-opened Al Ain Sports Club, the Microsoft Building in Dubai's Internet City and the new Shangri-La Hotel and Apartments in Dubai.
AHI's origins stem from the production of quality furniture and joinery. The factory can manufacture more than 5,000 units per year and supply numerous public buildings and hotels with items from reception counters to fitted wardrobes. But the company's expansion plans extend beyond conventional cabinet making and shop fitting.
As Dubai has become a regional centre of major exhibitions, AHI is set to target the increasing demand for more sophisticated exhibition stands and hospitality chalets. Recently approved as a contractor for the interior and furniture exhibition, Index, along with the Dubai Air Show in December, AHI believes that its move into stand-fitting is a logical extension of its skills.
"Much of our work is associated with the leisure and hospitality industry," says Parker, "so taking on major stand fitting and chalet projects complements one of our core competencies."
Evidence of its stand-fitting skills was presented at the recent Hotel Show where the AHI's stand enjoyed great acclaim. Featuring a contemporary room mock-up using steel, glass and wood, the stand also presented more traditional wooden eastern designs. This served to underline AHI's versatile skills in working with a variety of media, not just the wood and veneers, for which it is better known.
Another common requirement for all modern hotels are best quality, fire-retardant doors that often need to comply with increasingly stringent regulations such as those imposed by the UAE's Ministry of Interior and Department of Civil Defence.
AHI's fire doors, which are also certified by the UK's Warrington Fire Institute, have also been endorsed by these departments. These are rated into three categories ranging from 30 minutes up to two hours.