Team of the Year: Private Sector 2023


Desalination and Distribution Systems, King Abdullah University of Science & Technology

Sponsored by: Premier Technical Services Group

Team of the Year: Private Sector 2023

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is not only an educational and research hub, but a complete community. This includes 32 academic and administration buildings, as well as high-tech laboratories, auditoriums, classrooms and offices, 72 community buildings, such as schools, day care and recreation centres, hospitals, supermarkets, restaurants, and data centres. More than 7,000 people, of 100 different nationalities, reside in KAUST, housed in 3,700 residential units, all of which are supplied by potable water from the Water Desalination plant, managed by this team.

Results gleaned

The team continues to exceed annual objectives, and introduces new achievements and innovative ideas. A main measure of success is customer satisfaction, ensuring uninterrupted supply of potable water for the community and campus, as well as raw seawater for research purposes.In 2022, the team achieved zero complaints and maintained water quality parameters year round, taking a total of 2,555 samples from different locations around KAUST to ensure full compliance with customer needs.With demand increasing year after year, the team took proactive measures to implement expansion projects, introducing 100% redundancy to the desalination process and storage tanks. The underground distribution pipe network poses a major challenge with the repeated failures in pipes, leading to interruption to customers. However, the team improved response time and reduced interruption to only 15 minutes, down from 30 minutes the year before.

Best practice learning

The team and leadership perform as one, all having a shared vision, and laser focus on

objectives and the dynamic challenges faced. Team members are empowered to make decisions in their line of work, and are always provided with a platform to demonstrate their efforts and innovations to top management.

Team members feel that they can introduce ideas with great confidence, and are accepting constructive criticism.An example of the leadership culture in KAUST is that each lead is solely responsible for his area, where management only provide guidance and support, and rarely dictates direction. This results in agile communication, increase in productivity, and a lean workflow.

Key quote

“Before making any decision, the team shares awareness about this change, being inclusive in explaining how it will impact the organisations, and highlighting how it can improve the individuals’ status, or its need from a business point of view. This is followed by building a culture of desire and embracing change – once desire starts to spread across the team, detailed knowledge of this decision is shared and clarified, and implementing the decision is then only made once our team members ensure that they  have the required ability and tools to make this decision a success.” – Suhail S. Kattan, maintenance lead, King Abdullah University of Science & Technology – Facilities Management KAUST FM, KAUST FM Desalination and Distribution Systems