According to a report from McKinsey & Company, it estimates that the transportation and warehousing industry has the third-highest automation potential of any sector, yet, most logistics companies have not yet taken the plunge, globally, it states. With this in mind, T&FME speaks to Alain Kaddoum, general manager of Swisslog ME, on the side-lines of the Materials Handling Middle East (MHME) exhibition, about the trends that are today transforming the ME logistics industry and how software is a key driver towards an efficient, data-driven, and robotic warehousing.

What is your view on the current state of automated logistics for businesses in the UAE? 

In the Middle East we are seeing more and more businesses considering or making investments in automated logistics. This is translating into increasingly advanced levels of digitisation and integration. A report by PwC Middle East state that 41% of participants surveyed from the region say they have already reached an advanced level of digitisation and integration and over 62% expect to be at such a level in five years’ time.  This is a high level of digitisation as compared to other parts of the world.

The business focus globally and here in the region is no longer on the production of mass goods, but on the development of customised products and thus on the customer’s requirements. More importantly, leaders have the right mindset and forward-thinking vision as can be seen from smart initiatives such as Expo 2020 or trade events such as Middle East Materials Handling.

Rapid growth in eCommerce is also expected to increase the demand for modern warehouses with advanced tech solutions. Moreover, an increasing number of FMCGs, which are typically a significant contributor to the economic growth in the region, are expected to increase the demand for modern warehouses. This is likely to transform warehousing operations in the region, specifically in areas of inventory management, order picking, and real-time monitoring of stocks.

What are some key business challenges you see here in the region?

One of the key business challenges is that while businesses here are aware of the benefits of automation and are keen to adopt it to improve operational efficiency and processes, less than half are actually actioning such a transformation. This is due to a difficult economical environment in some cases, compatibility issues as well as hesitation on account of costs.

This industry is dynamic in nature, with seasonal peaks. How does Swisslog’s solutions manage these seasonal peaks?

Intelligent, modular robot-based automation delivers the flexibility to manage seasonal or sustained growth while minimising the risk of over reliance on human labour. Industries like e-commerce, for example, are characterised by high levels of volatility which have caused e-commerce warehouses to think twice about traditional approaches to manage seasonal peaks. The solution that delivers the necessary flexibility is automated robotics.

What is the role played by software in making automated logistics more efficient?

Software plays a critical role in making automated logistics more efficient.

An integrated intralogistics software platform offers opportunities to gain insights and better manage the operation in ways most typical WMS systems cannot. By combining warehouse management capabilities with the real-time execution of a warehouse control system, and adding in the intelligence gained from the data, businesses have a system that can revolutionize your operations.

Swisslog’s SynQ software, for example, includes an automation-centric design, a full suite of business intelligence tools that can transform big data into smart data and a modular architecture that allows users to deploy the exact capabilities they need without limiting future flexibility.