CWT-SML Logistics is set to double its presence at Jebel Ali freezone during 2007.
A joint venture by established Singapore companies CWT Limited and Sembcorp Logistics Limited; now known as Toll Asia, CWT-SML Logistics arrived in Dubai's Jebel Ali Free Zone in 1999. With 35 years of experience in the logistics sector of Singapore, CWT-SML acquired regional expertise in the form of shareholder Ali Albwardy, a local entrepreneur and chairman of the supermarket chain Spinneys, and the company are now looking forward to a period of growth in 2007.
"In the beginning, we set up in Dubai to become a quality logistics provider," explains Ken Lua, general manager, CWT-SML Logistics. "I believe we accomplished this within our first two years and now our quest is to expand, both in terms of facilities and customers."
Jebel Ali has always been home to CWT-SML, they began operations from the current warehouse over eight years ago. The facility is 13,000m2, having doubled in size since 2003. Looking to do the double again, the logistic providers have revealed a new facility located in the south of Jebel Ali that is set to be an impressive 20,000m2.
"Our new facility will be operational by March so we are heading strong into this year as a major logistics provider. Right now, we are still considered very small compared to other logistics providers in the free zone. We are a smaller player but with our new area coming up we have more than doubled, so we are going to become a significant player in the market. We are seen as a quality logistics provider," explains Lua.
The next wave of logistics infrastructure expansion for major players in Jebel Ali will be at the Dubai Logistics City. However, these are likely to come on stream only from 2008 onwards. The new facility in JAFZ South will become operational in the second quarter of 2007 and is timely for CWT's continued growth.
"Jebel Ali FZ is still very important even in light of Logistics City. I think Logistics City will work as an extension of Jebel Ali. Its air-logistics focus will be complimentary to Jebel Ali's sea-logistics although there may be some overlap. The pie will continue to grow. It is not a zero sum game. In fact, I think the success of either one will attract more successes. Even in the more mature Singapore logistics industry, CWT adds on more than 100,000m2 a year in capacity," he says.
Considering CWT-SML's line of work, Jebel Ali is a particularly beneficial location. Essentially the company sees itself as warehouse operators but over the years has developed an extensive network that stretches across North and Central Africa and the GCC countries. CWT-SML therefore has a strong partnership with freight companies in Jebel Ali, in particular Bax Global. Together, the partnership services a number of multinational companies, including OKI, Lockheed and Rehau.
"In the Middle East we are basically a warehouse operator. Customers confide their cargo with us and we ensure it is stored and distributed correctly. You have companies who see warehousing as a side part of their business, but for us it is our core, it is our expert area," says Lua.
The majority of products stored in the Jebel Ali warehouse tend to be consumer goods. Canon, the technology company most famous for its range of cameras and imaging systems, is an important customer to CWT-SML. All of Canon's products for the region is stored at CWT-SML's warehouse, which even has the brand name prominently displayed on its wall.
CWT-SML also has a number of other multinational companies that use the warehouse as a regional distribution centre; Colgate-Palmolive, Hager Tehalit Systems, and Prince Sports to name a few. Of course, the Spinneys connection is strong and the warehouse has often been used to store dry foods enroute to the supermarkets.
"Consumer goods is currently our primary business but we do not limit ourselves to a certain section of the market," elaborates Lua. "We are good at handling a wide range of products with high transaction volumes, accurately and efficiently. Half of our warehouse space is temperature controlled for cool storage."
CWT-SML compliments its customers' goods with a combination of double deep and selective pallet racks, in conjunction with the reach truck range of forklifts. It believes this provides the highest degree of selectivity and speed for order picking, but most importantly for operations, it is flexible. Additionally, a storage area is reserved exclusively to cater for customers who have a full range of products at the warehouse, through the provision of shelves and space for bulk storage. An example of this would be Canon, who stores anything from small digital cameras up to large office imaging systems.
Over 60 employees man the warehouse, all of which must pass the company's OJT (on-the-job) training programme. Lua explains why such an emphasis is placed on training staff. "As with most companies here, our workforce comes from countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. They have a diverse social, cultural and educational background, with some coming from remote villages. We have to conduct intensive induction programmes and OJT to narrow the communication gap and level up their basic skills."
"The key challenges are in improving communications and adherence to systems and processes. More than 90% of service failures can be traced to these two reasons. We want our staff to be able to communicate all the way down the line. To have people capable of understanding one another is very important to us, we want everyone to be keep informed via transparent communication. In this part of the world they are not used to doing that," reflects Lua.
The emphasis on systems and processes is also supported by the company's inhouse designed warehouse management system, iWMS. Developed in Singapore by CWT's own IT team, the WMS has all the features you would expect from a leading logistics provider. Offering inward shipment advice, receipts, tally, putaway, inventory management, kitting, order processing, order picking and dispatch functions, customers are able to access and print inventory and transactional details remotely via the company's website.
Similarly, CWT-SML is not to be found lacking in the security department, a vital ingredient when you consider the value of stock inside. "We have all the modern requirements," says Lua. "We always hire leading professional security experts and the facility is completely monitored with CCTV cameras."
Reflecting on the evolution of CWT-SML in the UAE logistics industry, Lua confidently identifies an annual growth of 20%. This he believes is incomparable to the potential for the year ahead.
"We have been getting more and more customers and have a lot of interest from multinational companies moving into the region. Most of these companies prefer to do their business within the 3PL sector because that leaves them free to concentrate on their core business," says Lua.
"The growth of logistics in 2006 was high, but the prospects for CWT-SML this year will be huge when you consider the extra storage we will have available at our new facility."
"Dubai is a trading and distribution hub similar to Singapore. The logistics industry will continue to experience high growth, in both volume and diversify," concludes Lua.