Q&A: The rise of an automated logistics community
Jacques Adem, Executive Director at Log Square FZCO, details how automation can transform the logistics community and help create a more robust supply chain.
Which parts of the chain is Log Square focusing on automating?
Log Square has always been an intralogistics automation solution provider. We focus on the flow within the four walls of the warehouse. Our systems touch on different activities namely goods Receiving, automated Storage, internal Transportation, Picking, Sorting and Consolidation. Our typical solutions usually encompass one or more these activities. It is always worth noting that we also engineer and supply automation storage structures in direct contact with the systems i.e. Rack Clad building, ASRS storage and Hybrid Mezzanines.
What are the primary benefits of automation for Log Square and for its clients?
Intralogistics automation is all about providing a working solution to fulfil a requirement. Log Square is possibly the only intralogistics automation provider with regional full fledge capabilities. We cover with our local team all aspects from design, engineering, development, deployment and after sales service.
Our domain knowledge and our local presence has helped us develop solutions that respond to the regional requirement. Our region combines high fulfilment requirement with availability of manpower. We have successfully combined these elements in our projects and leveraged both.
What kind of a challenge does cybersecurity pose to automation and what is Log Square’s approach to cyber threats?
The world is connected and cybersecurity is a serious threat. Luckily automated applications were till date not a prime target for different reasons. That said, we have always exercised due diligence in our set up. Log Square’s automation network architecture is quasi-independent with high redundancy. All touch points to external or higher level software (vulnerable points) are protected by stringent security protocols and firewalls. Remote support is carried through VPN access.
What are the other main challenges to rolling out automation?
Automation perception has been very positive for the past few years and we are witnessing more deployments on different levels and in different applications. If we were to narrow challenges within intralogistics specifically, these would revolve over initial investment and expertise availability. Unlike Europe for instance, we lacked the local experience in managing and deploying automation. Logistics professionals in Middle East are still adapting to automation and to the change in approach. As more facilities embrace automation, experience and expertise will ramp up on the short run.
On the other front, a typical automation project requires a higher initial investment yet if planned properly will render a good ROI and a drastically higher fulfilment.
Is the Middle East market particularly suited to automation in any way? Why?
Middle East encompasses within its borders different countries, different economies and geographies. Some economies are more suited than others yet the outlook is in general positive.
Economies have in general established trading sectors (retail, automotive…), a sizable F&B Industry in addition to country specific sectors (like logistics hubs in UAE). Majority of the countries rely on foreign manpower, even countries with relatively higher population have scarcity in certain manpower categories. Factoring in a population that is technically savvy, forward looking government policies (namely in the Gulf) and an entrepreneurial private sector, we see prospects in the coming few years.
Does automation necessarily mean less flexible processes?
The historical perception of Automation is the picture from Chaplin movies of serial production lines. This image has improved slightly but was never eroded. Today’s automation encompasses hardware as well as important elaborate software layers. It is a complete network ranging from field devices, machinery, robotics, PLC, WES and Interfaces to ERP… It is a fact that automation carries discipline but is by no means rigid. The level of intelligence and dynamic processes gives it a good a margin of adaptability. Take for instance flex conveyor and AGV applications.
Log Square recent implementation especially in E com carries a lot of flexibility and ensure solutions can cope with large operational fluctuations.
What kind of impact is e-commerce having on automation?
E Com has been for quiet sometime the talk of the town and is still on the rise. Our region is not indifferent to the changes. Several dedicated set ups were established by renowned players (Amazon, Noon, Namshi…) and by traditional Brick and mortar retailers.
The recent Covid-19 pandemic has played a vital role to push this transformation forward. Many traditional clients are embracing the technology and adapting their shopping habits.
E Com is a key vertical for automation. The fact of being under the spotlight is in this sense a benefit to the automation industry. E Com has boosted intralogistics automation across all continents namely in China.
E Com solutions focus on ‘eaches’ and VAS. It altered the conventional design approaches and opened new avenues for automated solutions.
The automation sector is currently worth $500 million in the Middle East, but is expected to triple in the next five years. What are the long-term opportunities for Log Square in this area?
A growing market sector is always an opportunity. Log Square will endeavour to consolidate its position in the region and leverage on its success stories.
We will continue to diversify our application offering and at the time improve our current products. Internally we envisage extensive research and solution development. Our ties with key technology providers will be vital there.
We are planning as well to enhance our geographical presence and support capabilities.
Most importantly we will keep the commitment to our partners.