Inside Applus+ QMC Project in Saudi Arabia with Santiago Penabella


    Santiago Penabella has been with Applus+ for more than 15 years. He began his professional career as Project Manager in the Construction Department of the Energy & Industry Division in Spain, and later started managing projects in Middle East. As head of the QMC project, he gives insight on Saudi Arabia's transport sector and what role does the contract play in it.

    Tell us about your professional career at Applus+

    My professional career in the Applus+ Group started in Spain in 2007, developing different projects, which helped me prepare for future experiences. In May 2013, we started a project in Oman with very positive results. This contract, in turn, boosted the company's operations in the entire Middle East area, and several projects were carried out in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Our presence in these countries grew and enriched the Group with greater cultural diversity and multiple acquisitions.

    Tell us about the QMC project in Saudi Arabia

    The Quality Management Consultant (QMC) project is a plan of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Transport in which Applus+ plays a key role as a consultant, supervising and evaluating the contractors chosen by the Ministry. In order to evaluate the service contracts through the established indices (document management, efficiency and quality control), the Ministry of Transport decided to create the role of consultant. Applus+ currently inspects the 62 service contracts signed by the Ministry for road maintenance.

    How was the QMC project created?

    Due to the fact that we maintain fluid communication with the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Transport, we knew that this service was needed, and Applus+ applied for the public tender. They were looking for a multinational company with financial and logistical solvency that was involved in the country, and this ultimately differentiated us from the rest of the companies that applied. Thanks to our experience in similar projects in other countries and our experience in Saudi Arabia, the Applus+ brand has a great reputation. In addition, the multicultural project team has representation from all five continents, which translates into talent from all over the world transferring knowledge to local workers.

    What is the structure of this project?

    The team comprises about 360 people and is structured as follows:

    1. Core team. This is the team in charge of keeping the Ministry of Transport informed about the status of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of the service contracts.

    2. Five regional teams. These teams are distributed throughout the country and are responsible for supervision. They are in the following zones: Riyadh (Central zone), Eastern Zone (East and North), Western Zone, Northern Zone and Southern Zone.

    3. Sixty-two site team. This team is made up of Quality, Safety and Health technicians specialised in road safety, measurement supervisors and road inspectors. All of them are in charge of checking that the contracted company is carrying everything out correctly.

    What is the duration of the project?

    Initially, the project has a duration of three years, but it may be extended to five years. It seems that the Ministry wants to replicate this way of working and extend it to other public sectors, since the sponsor of this initiative is the Vice-Minister of Transport himself.

    What are the main challenges of the project?

    Cultural change. Applus+ will carry out a training deployment that seeks to serve as a guide on how to carry out supervision tasks. We will train new Applus+ and Ministry employees, as well as contractors, which will lead to a change in the way of doing things and, therefore, a cultural change.

    Resistance to change. We will work to ensure that both Ministry employees and contractors understand the benefits obtained through the implemented change.

    Hiring 350 people in two months. We will need to hire 350 highly-specialised technicians in a very short period of time.

    What does the development of the QMC project bring to Applus+?

    On a commercial level, it positions us as the main consultant for the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Transport. Today, Applus+ is a key player in Saudi Arabia, as we have three more contracts closed with the Ministry of Transport and we are the only company that has implemented this work model in the country. In economic terms, this three-year contract represents between 20% and 30% of the profits of the Applus+ business unit in Saudi Arabia. In terms of reputation, the project has had a great media impact in Saudi Arabia.

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