Transport & Logistics on the Cusp of a Technological Transformation
Host Lars Jensen concluded the first session of the Future of Logistics conference by asking the panellists if they saw anything in the Middle East region - and UAE in particular – that can make it a pioneer and driver for the technological transformation of global logistics?
Responding to the question Mr Badel Al Ali, Senior Commercial Manager with Etihad Cargo said that the UAE has indeed established a very advanced infrastructure and this has been possible only because of the close cooperation between various stake holders in industry and government.
Thanks to this initiative the UAE was transforming into a “global hub for logistics, pharma and technology.” Mr Al Ali said that he was personally witness to the birth of the Hope Consortium. This major partnership allowed the country meet all the major challenges of the pandemic in terms of supplying medicines and PPEs while successfully maintaining food supply chains.
Mr Al Ali added that the Hope Consortium was a prime example of how the region has combined superior technologies with the right partnerships to successfully meet the uncertainties and trials of the pandemic.
Mr Al Ali concluded by saying that the way the government and private players had been promoting the three sectors, the UAE has very “good foundations” to keep building on to become a leading country in the world for logistics, pharma and technology.
TLME Chairman Joe Beydoun, speaking on behalf of Fast Logistics, said that “great leadership” had a lot to do with the success of the region. Speaking about the ports and airports in the UAE, Mr Beydoun said that their advanced infrastructure gave them a great advantage over the rest of the world in becoming global hubs for transport and logistics.
Mr Beydoun added that countries surrounding the UAE could also take advantage of these ports and airports “to connect to the rest of the world.”
Mr Beydoun concluded by saying that the great leadership and vision of UAE has made it possible today to seamlessly move cargo between the region and the rest of the globe.
Mr Hans Ettengruber, MD of Unitechnik FZE said, “The climate for innovation has always been good in the region.” He gave the example of the advanced flight catering system that Unitechnik had supplied to Emirates which Lufthansa has come to take a look at in Dubai and ordered a “copy-paste system” for their own airline.
Giving another example Mr Ettengruber mentioned DP World’s innovative boxbay sea container storage system. “So the region is very advanced and very open to innovation,” he concluded.
Retired Aviation and Air Cargo Executive Ram Menen felt that the advantage of the Middle East is that it is able to: “Leverage technology from elsewhere in the world and bring it all together in the region.”
Giving a wider perspective of the region Mr Menen pointed to four countries that were competing to become global transport and logistics hubs i.e. UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
This competition has ensured that “innovation automatically gets fired up”. This will ensure that the Middle East becomes a very powerful force in transport and logistics in the foreseeable future, said Mr Menen.
Kay-Wolf Ahlden, President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Trucks and Daimler Commercial Vehicles MENA said that UAE was one of the best testing grounds in world for future technologies.
Mr Ahlden said that the region has seen heavy investments in hydrogen technology which is what will power the trucks in the future. The UAE is also one of the few countries in the world to have regulations related to telematics.
Therefore, the in UAE Mercedez-Benz is able to deploy and test electric vehicles. “It is not only the willingness to push the envelope by authorities here but also the willingness to invest the money necessary to get this done.”
Speaking on the manpower talent required to deploy new technologies Mr Ahlden said the UAE - and Dubai in particular - not only had the technological infrastructure but also the right cultural environment and lifestyle options that are attracting many of the most technically qualified and talented people in the world.
“That’s what makes this place so special. On one hand we have a government that wants to get things done and on the other hand it also provides the right environment for the people who are needed to get things done,” concluded Mr Ahlden.
Lars Jensen concluded the session by stating that the advent of technology in the logistics industry was coming inevitably. However he added: “The world is not going to be autonomous tomorrow.” The implementation of technology in systems and operations was not simply a question of “scaling up.”
Mr Jensen said that technological transformation was step-by-step process. The real challenges will be changing legal frameworks and the business processes to properly adopt the new technologies.
These technologies will also require a high degree of departmental collaboration and up-skilling of personnel so companies have the right, technically qualified people to build, operate and maintain these hi-tech systems.
Mr Jensen said that companies have to start thinking beyond simply buying the technology but figuring out how they are going to transform themselves and build partnerships and processes to realise the full potential of the new technologies.
So the way forward for transport and logistics companies is to start small-scale with pilot projects and find out on the ground how to make technology work best for their particular use cases, Mr Jensen concluded.