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This time we visited Global Switch. The largest data centre in the Benelux which is not specifically focused on one customer. We met with Pieter Mels, Operations Manager.

Mr. Mels is responsible for operational matters. This is split into three categories:

  • Customer Service, offering additonal facilities to customers.
  • Projects, also called Life Cycle Management. The first building was built in 2002 and keeping it up to date while being operational is a complicated process.
  • Technology

The latest category covers 80% of all work. Global Switch promises its customers a reliable infrastructure. Or, as Pieter puts it: “We offer the security of continuous electric power, cooling and all other necessary infrastructure. This is covered via enormous industrial systems, more than on regular utilities sites. Everything is focussed on security and reliability“.

The relationship with AQ Group started with a tender process. Pieter: “It is our goal to create standard maintenance and management processes at Global Switch. We manage ten data centres at eight global sites. It is our goal to create an identical customer experience at all sites. We therefore put out a tender process for our maintenance services.”

We reduced the number of contractors by assigning certain packages to a single contractor. Cooling towers, water treatment, condensers and air treatment were joint in a single package. Pieter explains “there were four possible contractors, however, one party couldn’t deliver what we asked for, another party could only deliver using another party as well so there were only two parties left. We chose AQ Group not only because they met the financial criteria, but also due to the information provided on improvement areas in the installation.”

In retrospect, it was very exciting to find out whether things would plan out. But, as Pieter told us: “It all worked out. Contracts have now been standardised, which also requires a flexible approach from the contractor. We are now in the process of fine tuning, which also requires transparent and open discussions.”

The above mentioned standardisation also led to defining procedures, which asks a lot from the contractors. Pieter: “You need to put in writing what you are going to do, specifying a time frame when you will start, describe which work has been carried out and evaluate. We are not easy to work with, due to the industry we work in, we aren’t easily satisfied. It happens that a maintenance job is cancelled at the last minute, and, as we are a commercial company, we pay a lot of attention to the financial aspect. AQ Group understands where we are coming from, we have open discussions on this subject. This is not something every contractor can handle, but AQ Group can! Excellent communication and a high level of quality during the preperation processes.”

AQ Group deals with different departments within the organisation. Pieter manages the technical manager, who, in turn, is responsible for five shift managers. They have extensive technical knowledge and focus on a number of techniques. AQ discusses tactical issues, improvement proposals, contract changes, evaluations etc with the shift managers. The ‘inhouse contractor’ is point of contact when work needs to be coordinated, carried out and agreements need to be made.

The choice to take an integral approach to the tender process of water and air treatment proved to be a success. Pieter uses a recently completed maintenance job to a cooling tower as an example. “A lot of chemicals are used in this process, which asks for a specific approach. Often, chemicals have an undesired effect on technology, which we need to repair. We are currently discussing a different method of water treatment to keep the cooling towers in top condition. A positive side effect. It was our aim to create a single package to reduce costs and improve efficiency when it comes to making agreements, the so called cost advantages. But even better, we are taken an integral look at the entire system, which is when you really start to save on costs and increase reliability and security.”

“Global Switch wants to expand. Having a good working relationship with your contractors is a bonus, which luckily is the case with AQ Group”, according to Pieter Mels.

Pieter Mels | AQ GroupPieter Mels, Global Switch
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