Comment: Technology is moving the UAE’s logistics sector into new territory
As a steady stream of technological developments in IOT, robotics and automation continue to transform global industries, the UAE’s logistics market is one sector that is unashamedly driving process and returns optimisation via sophisticated technology adoption.
In recent years and despite economic headwinds swirling around the Arabian Gulf, the logistics sector continues to occupy the fast lane. Not only is the logistics arena outperforming other major industries, it is now rightly-regarded as a crucial enabler in the country’s economic diversification efforts.
According to the 2019 Agility Emerging Market Index, the UAE is the third-best performing nation - behind only China and India - of 55 emerging logistics markets. While the definition of ‘emerging’ is questionable, what is true is that industry-specific free zones, consistent investment in transport infrastructure and a rapidly-growing e-commerce sector are contributing to the purple patch.
However, and arguably most importantly, the widespread adoption of technology has catalysed increased efficiency drives in a super-competitive sector, one where same-day deliveries are touted by suppliers and expected by consumers. As online consumers regale in their options and flexibility, logistics companies have been forced to inject agility into their networks to deal with demand and shorter lead times. It is here that the UAE is thriving.
Well-established as a strategic trading gateway between East and West, the UAE leadership has invested heavily in infrastructure to maximise the country’s geographical location. In doing so, the UAE has become a major logistics and re-export hub in the global supply chain – and the growth shows little signs of slowing: a recent report by BMI Research forecast the country’s air freight market to grow at a CAGR of 4.8 per cent through to 2021.
As a keen technology adopter, the UAE seems well-poised to maintain its northward trajectory and continue to be a global force in logistics. Integrating the latest technological solutions will keep the UAE ahead of the curve in areas as diverse as domestic and international transportation (ocean and air), supply chain management, and shipment tracking.
As we prepare for the 10th and most-anticipated instalment of Materials Handling Middle East, the region’s dedicated trade show for warehousing, intralogistics and supply chain solutions, industry players are increasingly seeking products and services that will further enhance productivity and efficiency. The three core areas include:
Cloud technology: Providing flexibility and scalability across an entire organisation, the Cloud creates abundant opportunities to capitalise on new business lines such as ‘virtual freight forwarding’, an online system that matches shipments with available transportation providers.
Robotics and automation: E-commerce, retail and automotive are driving soaring automation demand in the Middle East as companies strive to survive in a competitive market by reducing human error, increasing productivity and boosting efficiency in warehousing (including sorting and distribution centres) and distribution.
Data analytics: Industry players now have access to an incredible amount of data and, as the UAE shifts towards a data-driven economy, access to analytics tools can assist in fine-tuning customer experiences and operational efficiency. Analytics also offer greater inventory visibility, management and improved ‘predictive maintenance’.
Materials Handling Middle East runs from 3-5 September at Dubai World Trade Centre.