Alfanar, one of the largest conglomerates in Saudi Arabia with a long history of involvement in the oil and gas sector, has signed an MoU with Aramco to co-operate on various initiatives. Mr. Amer Al Ahmi, VP – Sales & Marketing at Alfanar Construction, told Oil Review Middle East more
What role does Alfanar Industrial City play in capacity building and localising industry, and why did you make the decision to partner with Aramco?
Localisation is at the heart of our operations at Alfanar. Alfanar Industrial City (AIC) has been the largest private industrial complex in the Middle East since 2008. Today, equipped with fully localised medium voltage switchgear, it stands as a prime example of our ongoing mission to localise the industries we operate in and build national capacity. To further this mission, we have been forging strategic partnerships with both local and international market leaders to secure a future defined by prosperity and sustainable development. We also hope that our wide-ranging achievements will encourage other organizations to pursue ongoing expansion.
As certified IKTVA participants, we are especially proud to be collaborating with Saudi Aramco to meet the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 ambitious plans and targets. Our cooperation spans over a decade, and this groundbreaking new agreement is a new way for us to capitalise on our shared goals of building and transforming Saudi Arabia. Some of our initiatives aim to enhance localisation as well as sustainability, while others aim to instigate digitalisation and innovation in the Kingdom.
Together, Saudi Aramco and Alfanar’s powerful commitment to both social and environmental responsibility will contribute to development in the Kingdom and create a lasting positive impact.
What role can digitalisation play in improving project outcomes, and what is its importance within the MoU?
Digitalisation is the golden thread running throughout the entire MoU because it is both a requirement of the future as well as an instrument through which we can provide better quality to our clients and the community. This is why we prioritised digitalisation years ahead of the curve, and consistently implement it across all our local and international projects.
To take the Smart Meter Project as an example: in 2019, Alfanar became the key driving force behind the largest digital transformation endeavour outside of China. Aside from being a critical first step towards a smart future, the project benefits range from reducing technical and non-technical losses to predicting demand. To accommodate the immense scope of the project, we built on our strong background in R&D to develop customised technology like the Project Quality Management Information System (PQMIS), which we have adapted into a highly competitive quality control system. It also holds us accountable both internally and externally – project stakeholders can monitor quality across all project stages, starting from the initial construction phases to O&M.
This blend of quality control and transparency is why having a strong digital foundation is particularly highlighted across all of the MoU’s initiatives. Beyond the scope of the agreement, we are certain that the continual advancement of leaders like Saudi Aramco and Alfanar will serve to encourage local innovation and promote digital transformation throughout Saudi Arabia.
How important is sustainability to Alfanar?
For Alfanar, quality and sustainability are two sides of the same coin: our commitment to quality awarded us our heritage of excellence, but our commitment to sustainability is what assures our future – the future of the planet as well as the company.
In terms of environmental sustainability, the MoU is a channel through which Saudi Aramco and Alfanar aim to minimise the nation’s carbon footprint, as even simple energy-efficient measures like waste heat recovery can reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
For the company as a whole, our focus is on business innovation and adaptability, localisation, and diversification. By owning and developing our own technologies, training local professionals, and engaging in prudent capital investment, we can secure our long-term standing and stay ahead of the competition. Our aim is to predict what the world will look like in ten years and take actionable steps today that will help us assert a prominent place in it.
How deeply involved is Alfanar in research and technology innovation? Are there any sectors the company is focusing on in particular?
R&D is a central part of Alfanar considering the strong and well-established reputation of our Industrial City and our position as leaders in the energy sector. However, it is Alfanar’s commitment to exceeding expectations that led to its emergence as local pioneers in R&D. What sets us apart from our competitors is our ability to study client’s construction project requirements and provide customised manufacturing solutions. We have produced all these innovative solutions internally to succeed in major projects like supplying electricity to the Haramain High-Speed Railway and Wa’ad Al-Shamal Industrial City while also contributing to localisation and sustainability.
For over 20 years, we have carefully monitored international market trends and the latest energy techniques to successfully introduce them to the Saudi market. As of Today, Alfanar has acquired various IPs for EV charging and smart metering. EV charging, specifically, will soon become a global standard, and we broke ground when we collaborated with DEWA to introduce EV charging to Dubai. For smart metering, we took the initiative of adding Spain’s ZIV to our prestigious list of international acquisitions across Europe and Asia.
We are open to expanding our list of techniques and acquisitions to stay in tune with market trends and continue to impress our influential clients. At both our headquarters and international offices, we have hired subject matter experts in comparatively infant markets like waste-to-value and energy efficiency because we foresee that they will play a much stronger role in Saudi Arabia in the decades to come.
How is Alfanar helping to promote the advancement of women in the workforce?
Alfanar was one of the first companies to capitalise on the untapped potential of female professionals. Alfanar began promoting gender diversity in the workplace as far back as two decades. Since then, Saudi Arabia has witnessed immense cultural developments that were further catalysed by Vision 2030. Now, Alfanar actively employs over 700 female staff across the organisation with a dedicated technical training programme for each employee, and this number is increasing regularly. In terms of career advancement, we take great measures at Alfanar to offer multiple professional development programmes to all our staff members that train them for future leadership roles in the company, such as the “incubator” programme we offer for fresh graduates which provides on-the-job and off-the-job training. It is our vision to soon witness talented female engineers joining Alfanar’s Construction division and spearheading projects across diverse sectors.