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SJi3 Board Members L-R: Alfred Fox, Nicholas Soon, Jason Whitcombe, Eugene Seah, Teo Say Leng

Urbanisation will drive demand for integrated managed services

Surbana Jurong leverages in-house expertise to thrive in the market.

As the real estate industry gears toward a more sustainable future, adopting the latest trends and business strategies in its operations is now a more apparent imperative. For Surbana Jurong Group, the anticipation of this shift enables it to build up its core capabilities.

This includes facilities management technicians, data scientists and security forces to help clients draw intelligence from asset monitoring – from energy usage, health and safety indicators as well as machine learning-based tools that better predict and manage operational issues.

At the same time, one of Surbana Jurong’s core beliefs is that effective managed services are key to a sustainable future. Its facilities management, smart city solutions and security services teams are helping clients manage their assets more efficiently and sustainably for the long term. These teams are enabled by a deep understanding of operating environments, risks and opportunities underpinning asset performance.

Surbana Jurong’s Group Director for Managed Services Jason Whitcombe believes that today and in the near future, digitalisation is going to play an even bigger role in how the company helps its clients with their assets. He mentioned that digitalisation promises greater efficiency, lower cost, and more convenience.

“It gives us the opportunity to look at optimising operations for our clients that helps manage cost, in addition, we can benchmark their portfolio or their building against others to see how they compare,” he said.

Whitcombe added that common data environments and platforms like Surbana Jurong’s “24K”, allow industry players to create a single environment for tracking all operational aspects of FM and/or Security, unlike in the past wherein the data being generated was siloed. These insights help Surbana Jurong understand where to best deploy its resources as the data collecting offers more transparency and is often real-time.

Moreover, in helping clients optimise their assets, efficiency and costs, the company turns to the integration of services. Whilst such an occurrence is nothing new, it has gone through quite an evolution as managed services are bundled together more and more as clients look to work with fewer suppliers and at the same time outsource more activity.

Whitcombe mentioned that the company is very fortunate that it has the key services clients are looking for under a single banner.

“That allows us to integrate and optimise our solution for our customers. Plus, it gives the customer an opportunity to outsource potentially more to us. And, we can make more decisions on their behalf,” he said.

He added that the key driver enabling integration is technology. This is something that Surbana Jurong has invested in aggressively over the last few years.

Surbana Jurong acquired S3 Innovate this year, a data-driven technology consultancy to form a new entity, SJI3, focused on providing digital and software engineering expertise in the built environment industry.

Surbana Jurong has built a digital platform or Common Data Environment (CDE) as well as several apps that can be plugged in, these include asset monitoring, energy management as well as a digital facilities management app that can be accessed remotely by SJ engineers and technicians. Through the digital platform, Surbana Jurong can undertake more predictive work. This means it can begin to move away from the typical planned maintenance and activities, and be smarter with how things are being done and how much money is spent. Whitcombe noted that there is a real commercial advantage to this.

“Fundamentally, we’re moving to much more data-driven solutions for our clients, and relying less on the traditional sort of planned methodology,” he said.

Expanding Surbana Jurong’s footprint

Whitcombe explained that the company had made big plans prior to the pandemic in terms of market expansion, especially in the area of managed services. However, the global crisis meant that the company had to put such plans on hold.

“Even though we are pivoting towards technology-driven solutions, to try to enter an overseas market and grow organically is very challenging,” he said. He added that whilst such is the case, there are a couple of attractive markets that the company can grow further. Amongst these markets is Australia, which Whitcombe noted to be a ‘very mature’ market when it comes to managed services, and where the company has a strong footprint with its infrastructure and urban business.

“Australia presents a great opportunity for us in Managed Services because we are already market leaders in the front-end plan and design area. We want to build on that and we have a great management team there, which really helps,” he said.

Whitcombe emphasised, however, that the company is looking at overseas expansion on a per-country basis. “We’ll do what we think makes the most sense for our business and our clients, ideally, we want to go where we can develop synergies with existing SJ group companies,” he said.

The next wave of growth

Surbana Jurong sees a real opportunity for growth in bringing some of its business units together to offer end-to-end solutions, especially for large complex projects. Whitcombe noted that the company has all the in-house tools and talent required to thrive in the market, and that is a clear advantage and opportunity for them.

Whilst he also acknowledged that the real estate industry is somewhat a late bloomer with technology, he said that digitalisation is expected to be a core part of the business along the way. He expressed his confidence in the future of managed services as it has been around for a long time as a means to lower cost and drive efficiency.

“Cities are expected to continue to grow over the coming decades; that’s likely to have a positive impact on the demand for managed services. On top of that, you’ve also got a lot more pressure now on governments and developers to produce and operate smart and sustainable buildings and communities,” Whitcombe said.

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