Logistics companies in the UAE are increasingly turning to advanced technology to enhance their efficiency amid stiffening competition in the regional market.
Huge warehousing complexes under construction or being planned will instal latest systems to secure a competitive advantage.
Enormous investments are being channeled into new supply-chain technologies that will revolutionise the face of the industry.
“Logistics companies in the Middle East are now waking up to the reality of the enormous challenges in the market and are fast realising they can only overcome them through advance technologies,” says Michael Waechter, Managing Director of Westfalia Logistics Solutions in the UAE.
“With more players entering the market the only way to have a competitive edge is by applying the latest technologies,” he said.
Among the most significant innovations in the fully automated warehouses are mobile racking systems and driverless retrieval cranes.
Automated warehouses remove the need for a large workforce as they require only a handful of controllers and maintenance staff.
“A big workforce is an additional cost to companies and it can be eliminated,” added Waechter. “Two years ago labour was cheap in the UAE and it made no business sense for logistics companies to venture into automated warehousing systems.
“But this has changed as labour has become costly on the back of the weak dollar. Labour accomodation costs are rising fast, prompting logistics companies to seek non-labour oriented alternatives. Companies are weighing up the options and most are seeing the benefits of an automated warehouse.”
Logistics companies are realising that over-dependence on labour for solutions can have disadvantages, especially when people trained for specific tasks are absent or leave the company.
Westfalia opened its office in Dubai two years ago to introduce logistics technologies that were already in use in most European countries.
“As Dubai aims to become a global logistics hub it is important that latest technologies used in the West are introduced in the region.
“There is a growing demand for warehousing facilities here and as a global player in logistics technologies and solutions, Westfalia is performing an important role in meeting this demand from local, national and international clientele.”
The company is a solution provider for in-house development and production of logistics system components such as storage and retrieval units, loading technology, conveyor roots, vertical lifts and checking stations aimed at guaranteeing continuous quality and reliability.
The company designs, manufactures and supplies the necessary tools for integrated logistics co-ordination and provides clients with technical training, advice and planning through to realisation. It also manufactures special heavy goods vehicle superstructures, automatic loading and unloading systems and tailored material handling systems.
The rapid loading systems improve the efficiency of vehicle fleets and internal logistics. A truck loader is linked directly to the warehouse to enable rapid material handling in minimum space and with fewer loading gates.
Luigi Radaelli, Westfalia’s Technical Director, said: “Logistics companies are trying to become more professional and provide quality work geared towards the satisfaction of clients – this is becoming a leading priority.
In order to achieve quality companies are opting for new technologies.”
He said the company provides the expertise necessary to optimally combine material-handling systems.
Loading systems were coupled with material flow systems to transport goods into company warehouses.
Westfalia’s supply chain solution is linked to the automated warehouse to help minimise time windows for goods retrieval and to eliminate common mistakes related to goods specifications.
“Optimum distribution and warehouse technology is a pre-requirement for correctly-functioning interplay within logistics,” added Radaelli. “This is growing in importance within the fabrication and logistics sector.
Westfalia is already in talks with major logistics companies to supply logistics solutions, including automated warehousing, supply chain solutions and automated car parks.
With less building volume and no slabs or ventilation required, its parking solutions are cost-efficient in terms of space optimisation and environmental friendliness.
Currently, a handful of logistics companies have fully automated warehouses. These include major international companies such as Fedex and DHL that are already aware of the benefits of the technology through their overseas operations.
Some companies run semi-automated warehouses but the majority of new warehouses being planned are likely to be fully automated.
Al Futtaim Logistics is hoping to build new fully automated warehouses fitted with the latest technology over the next two years.
Westfalia is currently responsible for more than 600 warehousing and automated car parking installations throughout Europe and North and South America.
Its largest automated warehouse in Romania has a capacity of 200,000 pallets. Westfalia Logistics Solutions is part of Westfalia Holding, which is based in Germany, and has more than 300 employees.
Innovation new byword in logistics