June 2020 Cover Story: Saud Abu Al-Shawareb, Managing Director of Dubai Industrial City
Saud Abu Al-Shawareb, Managing Director of Dubai Industrial City, tells Logistics News ME how Dubai Industrial has emerged as a strategic hub for logistics and manufacturing industries
As the global economy restarts and business adjusts to a new sense of normal, Dubai’s logistics and manufacturing industry can proudly reflect on its response to the pandemic. An unsung hero in the UAE’s fight against COVID-19, its readiness and preparedness delivered social and economic value on a national, regional and international level.
This came into focus when Dubai Industrial City delivered on the vision of the UAE leaders to provide aid to those in need. We allocated additional strategic storage capacity for the International Humanitarian City to supply medical aid around the world.
It enabled the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the United Nations World Food Programme to store, pack and ship personal protective equipment, testing kits, surgical gloves and masks, disinfectants and other items of emergency medical aid.
To date, I am proud to say that more than 150 shipments of supplies from the community have been distributed to more than 100 countries. This represents approximately 80% of the WHO-procured supplies sent to support the United Nations’ agency’s global COVID-19 medical response.
Dubai Industrial City emerged as a strategic hub ready and able to support the international community, and this was made possible thanks to our world-class infrastructure. We are strategically situated close to Al Maktoum International Airport, Jebel Ali Port and major highways which enables business partners to easily export goods to two-thirds of the world’s population in eight hours. Equally, this means we are ideally located to receive and store goods from all over the world before distributing them to local, regional and international markets.
We understand the importance of infrastructure. In terms of development progress, we are close to completing two highway extensions linking our business hub to Emirates Road earlier this year. The infrastructure has provided heavy-tow trucks with direct access to the causeway linking Abu Dhabi with the Northern Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia. We also inaugurated a new 14,000-bed worker accommodation that brings the total number of beds to more than 56,000. The modern, well-equipped, buildings comprise living quarters, dining areas, leisure facilities and other best-in-class amenities.
To date, we have made direct investments of more than AED5.2 billion in our ecosystem to improve ease of doing business and create an environment that supports players in the light and medium manufacturing sectors.
Among the key trends to emerge from the pandemic is that the UAE has greater food security than many of us might have realised. Despite the fact that 60-90% of the food consumed in the GCC is imported, our hypermarkets remained fully stocked during the lockdown. Logistics and an integrated supply chain has been crucial to ensure locally-produced food arrives just in time. For this to work, however, you need an efficient distribution network with direct access to major roads and storage facilities in close proximity to airports and ports.
In 2019, we welcomed new food-related business partners to our community. China’s Baofeng Grain Mills will open the region’s first fresh rice noodle factory with a capacity of 250,000 kg per day. Badia Farms is building a high-tech vertical farm that will produce 3,500 kg of high-quality fruits and vegetables per year.
Technology-enabled production will contribute to the UAE’s food security, but the effects of industrial innovation extend far beyond increasing output of edible goods. We have witnessed an acceleration of trends that were in motion before the pandemic, namely the digitisation of warehouses, supply chains, fulfilment centres and manufacturing facilities.
The fourth industrial revolution is tipped to create major opportunities across logistics. Robotics will make warehouses smarter, interconnected and less labour-intensive and, alongside artificial intelligence, it will create new jobs moving forwards.
In 2018, the World Economic Forum predicted that machines will carry out more current work-based tasks than humans by 2025, and the rise of robots and algorithms will create millions of jobs. I do not believe the aftermath of COVID-19 will change this prediction; it may even accelerate the widespread adoption of automation and AI.
Our business partner Unilever is one of many companies at the forefront of new technologies. The FMCG giant operates an AED1bn Personal Care Plant that manufactures household beauty and personal care brands and was named an ‘Advanced Industrial Revolution Lighthouse’ by the World Economic Forum in 2020.
Across the industry, predictive analysis will empower warehouse operators to forecast volume demand for goods and identify risks in the supply chain at speed. Blockchain will add greater transparency and traceability to supply chains, making them more open, sustainable and secure. And enhanced data and analytics capabilities from the Internet of Things will improve productivity and profitability.
As we look to the horizon and future-proof our vital sectors, manufacturing and logistics companies in Dubai and the UAE will continue to strive towards a common goal: unlocking economic growth. And in this new era – one that I should point out holds plenty of promise alongside very real challenges – the masterplan for our community becomes even more important.
This is because our ecosystem is divided into sector-focused zones representing minerals, base metals, food and beverages, trading and distribution, transport, chemicals, and machinery and equipment. What this has done is create an end-to-end supply chain representing every aspect from raw materials such as cement and asphalt to vertical farming, production, packaging, warehousing and logistics.
We have more than 550 million sq ft of industrial land, providing ample space for self-build. We also have 8.4 million sq ft of leasable area, alongside high-quality, high-powered and scalable warehouse units ranging between 5,000 sq ft and 11,500 sq ft. This provides companies with the flexibility to merge multiple warehouses and create larger industrial units.
This is advantageous, but Dubai Industrial City’s greatest asset is our community. We have successfully created a vibrant live-work-play ecosystem with continued infrastructure investment, the AED 100m Sapphire Mall which was completed in December 2018, and various year-round services to improve engagement among our 750 business partners and 56,000 workers living in Dubai Industrial City.
Logistics and manufacturing may have been among the unsung heroes during the pandemic, but the social and economic value of these critical non-oil sector kept the economy going during the lockdown and will ensure a swift recovery. As a catalyst for growth, Dubai Industrial City will contribute to this. We are key enabler and strategic driver of the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030 and will work alongside our business partners to unlock the UAE’s potential to become a global platform for knowledge-based, sustainable, innovative industries.