World-leading suppliers share centre-stage with local heavyweights at region's dedicated logistics and supply chain exhibition
Dubai, UAE: The Middle East's dedicated trade fair for intralogistics, supply chain management, freight and cargo concluded recently, bringing a successful end to three-days of busy networking and discussions of the latest trends and innovations in the market today.
Materials Handling Middle East 2017 featured 126 exhibitors from 21 countries, and welcomed 3,300 visitors from 50 countries at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The 9th edition of the biennial three-day event saw the participation of seven of the world's top 20 materials handling systems suppliers, including the global top three of Daifuku from Japan, German company SSI Schaefer, and the American-headquartered Dematic.
It also featured major local suppliers and service providers such as Kanoo Machinery, Al Futtaim Motors, General Navigation and Commerce Company (GENAVCO), SPAN, and ACME, while a two-day Supply Chain and Logistics Forum and a Forklift driving competition ensured visitors and exhibitors alike were informed and entertained.
Much of the discussion on the show-floor centred around the readiness of warehouse automation in the GCC, with exhibitors showcasing a full range of wares from manual wracking and semi-automated order picking solutions, to fully automated high-bay warehouses incorporating Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, otherwise known as Industry 4.0.
According research firm MarketsandMarkets, the GCC's automated material handling equipment market will grow 8.6 % annually through to 2023, when it will reach US$500 million from US$278 million in 2016.
That helps explain why Dematic, one of the world's leading specialists in automated intralogistics solutions, was a debut exhibitor at Materials Handling Middle East 2017, along with the fact that in January 2016, it secured the contract for what will be the Gulf region's largest automated distribution centre upon completion toward the end of 2018.
Michael Kreeft, Sales Manager from Dematic's European office which handles the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) region, was on-hand at Dematic's Materials Handling Middle East 2017 booth. He said while he couldn't go into specifics, the Dubai-based project was the largest Dematic had secured in the company's 100-plus year history.
“We signed the project in January 2016 and it's going live next summer hopefully,” said Kreeft, adding that it was in the general merchandise industry. “There'll be people working in pick stations, but it's highly automated. We have project managers working on it, and 50 resident engineers based here along with a customer service office. It'll take two and a half years to build along with testing and then it'll go live.
“We specialise in highly automated solutions but we know in this region labour is cheaper so the ROI is always more difficult with automation. However the addition of VAT in 2018 will eventually lead to higher salaries comparable to Europe, making automation more attractive,” added Kreeft.
UAE-based ACME is a regular exhibitor at Materials Handling Middle East, and a full spectrum industrial and warehouse automation solution provider with more than 40 years' experience in the Middle East.
This year the company was launching Cavalry, a semi-automated man to goods order picking solution. Holger Humburg, Vice President of Projects at ACME, said the ACME-designed solution is a mobile version of the Sort to Light system, using a guided manned mini-load crane, and capable of travelling along aisles 100m long and up to 25m high.
“When we tell anybody that we have a fully automated system, some people get scared because they need trained people for operation, and they need maintenance from experienced staff,” said Humburg.
“People can operate Cavalry without specialist skills or qualifications, and that's why we're going to the market with a more or less semi-automated system. This type of system will be particularly popular in this region because the first step of automation is semi-automation and we would use it for different goods with small and midsize throughout. If you have standard operations to deliver, for spare parts or pharmaceuticals with delivery once a day, you can manage with Cavalry.”
Humburg said it was important for the ACME to continue exhibiting at Materials Handling Middle East to keep its existing and prospective customers up-to-date with its latest solutions.
“We've been in the market for more than 40 years, mostly as a supplier for static wracking and shelving systems,” he added. “Two years ago we started with semi-automated and automated systems, and we've now secured a huge automated project for Saudi Arabia's second largest dairy operation where we're installing their main distribution centre with 25,000 pallet locations. It's a huge step for us.”
Other top 20 worldwide suppliers at Materials Handling Middle East 2017 were Mecalux from Spain, Beumer Group from Germany, and Swiss companies Swisslog, and Kardex Remstar. UAE Company Kanoo Machinery was also on-hand as the regional agent for its material handling equipment brands Hyster, Utilev, Aisle-Master, and Combilift.
Mohamed Elabd, Brand Manager for Kanoo Machinery, said the rental division of its material handling equipment department was becoming increasingly important as a revenue-generating stream.
“Our rental division has grown by 25-30 per cent over the past two years, and there's more and more enquiries now,” said Elabd. “Most of the third party logistics providers are asking for rental equipment for long-term leases of three to five years. We were one of the first companies to offer rental of material handling equipment and in the past three-four years it's really grown.
“It's popular firstly because customers don't have to have service team. If there's a problem with the machinery we will fix it. It's hassle free and the most important part is there is very little initial investment and risk.”
Materials Handling Middle East 2017 also featured the 2nd Forklift Operator of the Year – a unique competition where more than 80 of the UAE's most skilled Forklift jockeys were judged on their ability to safely and efficiently manoeuver three-tonnes of electric forklift machinery in tight and narrow spaces, replicating a warehouse environment.
The competition was sponsored by SPAN, which provided its Jungheinrich forklifts to be guided by the finest operators from more than 30 companies, including IKEA, Aramex, Global Food Industries, Airlink International, Unilever, RSA Logistics, and Agility Global Logistics.
After several preliminary rounds, the contest was eventually narrowed down to several finalists, with Deepak Kataria from CWT-SML Logistics crowned the Forklift Champion of Materials Handling Middle East 2017.
Kataria, who had learnt his trade at CWT-SML Logistics, and for whom he had worked for seven years, said: “It's a great thrill to win this year, the competition was tough with many highly-trained forklift operators, but I was confident in my ability to impress the judges enough.
“I'd like to show my appreciation to my company who nominated me and my colleagues for this competition and I look forward to coming back in two years to defend my title.”
Representing more than 200 brands, Materials Handling Middle East 2017 also introduced a new Transport and Logistics section to the show floor, putting the spotlight on commercial vehicles and adding more focus on a sector that is poised to experience significant growth in the region.
Ahmed Pauwels, CEO Messe Frankfurt Middle East, the organiser of Materials Handling Middle East, said: “Significant investment is being made throughout the Middle East to develop the materials handling industry and support its growth, and key industries such as e-commerce, retail, and FMCG will fuel further growth.
“At Materials Handling Middle East, the entire intralogistics and supply chain needs are covered, and we'll continue delivering an interactive platform benefitting all stakeholders. The show has not only attracted participation from leading industry brands, but has also garnered an encouraging response from regional trade buyers, local governments and industry professionals. This underscores the important role the show plays in creating valuable networking and interface opportunities among key stakeholders and this rapidly expanding market.”
The 10th edition of Materials Handling Middle East will take place in 2019.