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Sat 5 Jan 2019 02:07 PM

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2019 Outlook:: The year ahead will be a transformational one for the Middle East's manufacturing sector

Manufacturing sector is now on an upward trajectory both globally and in the region, writes Badr Al Olama, Head of the Organising Committee for the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS) and head of mubadala aerospace

2019 Outlook:: The year ahead will be a transformational one for the Middle East's manufacturing sector
Key industry the manufacturing sector is expected to contribute 25 percent towards the UAE’s GDP by 2025

We are in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the ways in which it will help shape the future of the manufacturing sector are yet to be fully appreciated. Considering the dynamic, evolving demographics and economies of the GCC and wider Middle East, I believe that the impact of the 4IR will be especially amplified in the region in 2019.

Over the past few decades, globalisation has allowed transfer of knowledge and technology across borders enabling manufacturers to reach new markets.

The advent of the 4IR however, is causing us to enter a new era with redefined supply chains that in some ways, go back to basics.

For instance, new technologies, such as additive manufacturing, support domestic production and on-site printing, driving localisation that reduces transport costs and the environmental impact of transporting the goods. Consequently, it is likely that emerging economies in the region will evolve into significant contributors to the global value chain.

We will witness a push for more environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient manufacturing

Having made slow, yet steady progress over the past 20 years, the manufacturing sector is now on an upward trajectory both globally and in the region. As a result, industrialisation has become a national priority towards achieving economic diversification, requiring jobs to be filled.

However, these are not traditional manufacturing jobs in factories or labs, but instead, they are jobs that necessitate the use of computers, data, coding and analytical skills. This dramatic shift has resulted in a skills gap as the requirement for manufacturing workers to understand and operate 4IR machinery and technologies increases. Consequently, an effort to shift skills towards vocational training and digitalisation is essential, is already on the rise, and will intensify in 2019.

I also believe that this employment shift is an opportune moment for women to make their mark on the manufacturing sector. In 2018, Saudi Arabia made headlines with new initiatives for women empowerment and 2019 will see a regional build on this momentum. As the appeal of tech grows among women, the vast potential of 4IR technologies in manufacturing is being met with undeniable anticipation; as such, I expect to see more women joining the sector’s workforce.

I believe that the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution  will be especially amplified in the region in 2019

An urgency to act on climate change is likely to resonate well in to 2019. Here, we will witness a push for more environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient manufacturing, with many exploring innovative new materials and technologies that minimise energy use and carbon footprint, yet maximise production output.

Ultimately, 2019 will be a transformative year for manufacturing. With new innovations, a more gender-inclusive workforce, and a strive for more responsible industrialisation, there is much to look forward to.


Badr Al Olama, Head of the Organising Committee for the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS) and head of mubadala aerospace

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