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In the first episode of the Arabian Business Enterprise Innovators Series, in association with UPS, we go inside the region's first robotic warehouse in Dubai, to see what innovations it is using to address the fast-growing demand from the e-commerce sector in Dubai

How do you process 27,000 warehouse orders a day with just 40 people?

In Dubai, shopping isn’t just a pastime it’s a national obsession, with Emaar Malls reporting that last year it recorded 136 million visitors across its network of malls and shopping centres.

But the trend is quickly moving online and consumers are increasingly choosing clicks over bricks when it comes to their shopping methods.

The pace of growth is phenomenal, as, according to a study by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the value of the e-commerce sector in the UAE is expected to reach $27.2bn next year, double what it was in 2016.

At the same time, e-commerce spending in the Emirates last year increased by 48 percent. So, how are online operators keeping up with this trend and what new innovations are they using?

As part of the first episode of our Enterprise Innovators Series, in association with UPS, Arabian Business visits the region’s first robotic fulfilment warehouse in Dubai in order to find out.

Supply chain advances

Launched by IQ Holding, the centre provides full back-end solutions using the latest in robotics, AI and software platforms to support the supply chain and logistics industry.

“IQ Fulfillment is the first robotics fulfilment solution in the entire region. We are powered by IQ Robotics and everything we have is built on technology so what you have is a capacity of 12,000 orders of robotic fulfilment per day and another 15,000 orders of sorting a day,” says Fadi Amoudi, founder and CEO of IQ Holding, the parent company of IQ Fulfillment and IQ Robotics.

Amoudi points out that by using intelligent, smart sorting robotics techniques, the warehouse only needs 40 people on the ground floor in order to process the 27,000 orders per day, while a conventional, less technically advanced warehouse would need 500 to 600 people to get the same job done. The robotic technologies used at the centre are 99.9 percent accurate and produce three times the human output, the company says.

SMEs and e-commerce

So what are the main sectors the centre is looking to attract?

“E-commerce is expanding a lot. That is the biggest sector that is expanding,” Amoudi says.

“Within e-commerce you have fashion, you have cosmetics, you have health and beauty and you have electronics that are really increasing. Pharma is also a bit increasing, grocery is also on the rise but those first three categories are basically extremely promising,”  he adds.

With the e-commerce sector on the rise across the region and beyond, the company has ambitious plans to expand outside Dubai over the next three to five years, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Kingdom, China, the United States, India and South Africa.

While many critics speculate as to whether such advances will lead to job losses and robots taking over key tasks from humans, Amoudi says this will not be the case.

“I honestly think it will always need humans as technology alone is great… but it would be a better mix and match if technology works alongside humans. You should always have that human touch,” he believes.

Expo 2020 innovation

The IQ Fulfillment centre is located close to the Expo 2020 Dubai site and is a clear example of the innovative ideas, inventions, insights and advancements the UAE is aiming to embrace during the six-month event when it opens on October 20, 2020.

As we pass the one-year mark ahead of the launch of the Expo 2020 Dubai, Arabian Business is launching the Enterprise Innovators Series, a new portal which will showcase the great range of innovations which are taking place across the UAE.

“The Enterprise Innovators Series will run across print, digital and video and we are looking for companies, large and small, who have seen the rewards from taking risks, who are rethinking and disrupting traditional models and who are developing new ways of operating,” says Shane McGinley, Editorial Director of Arabian Business.

Logistics partner

The Arabian Business Enterprise Innovators Series is being developed in association with global logistics company UPS, the official logistics partner of Expo 2020 Dubai. While UPS is a company that is more than a century old, has a global remit and has more than 481,000 employees, it has always been a catalyst for change and innovation.

“It’s hard to say what the single greatest innovation has been. Being in the midst of the technology revolution, there are so many. UPS is a vast organisation so areas like alternative fuel vehicles to healthcare drones come to mind but then there’s technology improvements in how our drivers capture package / shipment details have a massive impact on customer information and satisfaction. They improve the system significantly,” says Hussein Wehbe, managing director for UPS in the Middle East.

Check out Episode 1 of the Enterprise Innovators Series at www.youtube.com/user/arabianbusiness/videos

Get involved: What are you and your company doing to innovate?

The Arabian Business Enterprise Innovators Series, in association with UPS, is looking for local companies to get involved in the initiative. Our coverage will run across print, online, social media and video and we are looking for organisations to tell us about the programmes, ideas and practices they are working on and the impact and improvements they have witnessed across some of the sectors below:

Drones: The flying devices have made headlines for disrupting airspace and airports, but they are slowly being incorporated as fundamental parts of the challenge to deliver goods and services to every part of the globe. How is your company embracing drones?

Healthcare: This sector was previously all about treatment and less about prevention. Healthcare professionals are now increasingly developing new devices to predict illnesses and ailments and to bring the sector out of the hospital and into the home.

Facial recognition: Speed and security are two key considerations for many companies. Technological advances such as facial recognition are providing answers to these challenges.

3D printing: Dubai is already at the forefront of this technological journey, but beyond construction, what practical applications does this new trend offer?

Artificial intelligence: More than just robots replacing jobs, many companies are using AI to reduce mundane work practices.

Electric vehicles: While the region has a high percentage of car usage, it has been slow to embrace electric models. What are companies and organisations doing to be more sustainable in their transport strategies?

Fintech: Dubai has ambitions to increasingly move to become a cashless society, especially as e-commerce grows and digital payment systems become more mainstream. What are the innovations in this highly regulated sector?

For all the latest Enterprise Innovators news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.