Leading Logistics

RHS Logistics has witnessed considerable success in the UAE over the past six years. The company is now preparing to offer its customised service to other parts of the Middle East.

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By  Robeel Haq Published  February 1, 2006

Leading Logistics|~|rhs2.jpg|~|Richard Bell, general manager, RHS Logistics.|~|With so much competition in the regional logistics industry, RHS Logistics is keen to differentiate itself from the competition. By actively embracing technology and reaching high standards in human resource management, the 3PL provider states it has already achieved its goal and now wants to replicate its success in other parts of the Middle East. RHS Logistics represents the 3PL division of the Rais Hassan Saadi (RHS) group of companies. Although Rais Hassan Saadi has traditionally focused on shipping and freight related services since its inception in 1910, the company has evolved and diversified its services over time. The rapidly increasingly demand for logistics services in the Middle East resulted in RHS Logistics being conceived around eight years ago. Within two years, the 3PL provider had successfully started trading. “Early in the project stage, we undertook a detail research project, exploring the services being offered by some of Europe’s best logistics providers,” says Richard Bell, general manager, RHS Logistics. “We later ensured that RHS Logistics would match these international standards.” RHS Logistics offers a local delivery operation within the UAE and a regional replenishment operation throughout the Middle East. It has attracted a diverse clientele in the Middle East, including companies such as Hewlett Packard, Western Digital, Mothercare and Nine West. “We cut across all industry segments,” says Bell. “However there is a common theme amongst the various companies using our services. Instead of focusing solely on the storage solution, each customer wants a 3PL that offers added value and ongoing support.” The company customises its service offering depending on the customer’s requirements. This means each company will receive a unique service to suit their individual needs. “Our clients cannot be treated in the same way,” says Bell. “They sell different products, using different systems and manage their inventory differently.” RHS Logistics operates from regional distribution hubs strategically located throughout Dubai, including Port Rashid, Dubai Airport and the industrial area, Al Quoz. Its main distribution centre is located on a 50,000m2 plot of land in Jebel Ali. The distribution centre spans 18,000m2 and the remaining area is used for the secure, open air storage of containers, cars, machinery, large project cargo and oil field supplies. “The size of the distribution centre is steadily increasing in different phases,” says Bell. “We recently completed phase two, where the facility was increased by 10,000m2. During the second quarter of this year, we should begin phase three, where an additional 10,000m2 will be constructed.” The facility includes 12,000 pallet locations for air-conditioned storage. The temperature-controlled area is ideal for products susceptible to the extreme temperatures and humidity of the Middle East, such as computer components. In addition, the facility is designed to maintain the chill chain within the loading areas. The centre has 32 loading and unloading bays, where a secondary door protection system further maintains the correct temperature. The remaining 14,000 pallet locations are used for ambient storage. This includes a section of the facility dedicated to the storage of point-of-sale (POS) material. These items require specially designed storage racks and the 4600m2 area is deliberately located away from the warehouse level to provide staff with easy access. RHS Logistics also conducts its added value activities in this section, including a dedicated re-labelling and co-packing service, allowing customers to make last minute promotional decisions. RHS Logistics has hired an independent company to handle security at the distribution centre. The arrangement includes a laser system used to scan storage areas. If smoke is detected, the system automatically triggers an alarm, shuts down the fire shutters and sends a message to Dubai Port fire station requesting action. To help combat the risk of such incidents, RHS Logistics enforces a strict no-smoking policy and bans the storage of hazardous cargo. In addition, all staff are regularly trained in using fire-fighting equipment. RHS Logistics uses a combination of counter balance and VNA (very narrow aisle) forklift trucks produced by Crown. Since VNA forklifts typically operate in aisles with little free space between the vehicle and the rack, the company has installed a wire guidance system in the distribution centre to ensure the forklifts are steered on a consistently straight path, allowing the operator to focus on picking and placing loads. “The wire guidance system runs the length of the aisle with a durable wire embedded in the floor,” says Bell. “The control system steers the forklifts in straight lines within the storage aisles. This allows the operator to concentre on core responsibilities and the potential risk of damage in the warehouse is also reduced.” The forklifts are equipped with vehicle mount computers, produced by Psion Teklogix. In addition, RHS Logistics uses a number of handheld terminals in the warehouse. “We continuously invest in technology, such as the wire guided system and forklift computers, as well as sophisticated management systems. This helps to ensure the service being offered to customers truly adds value. Only a few companies in the Middle East are offering the rich functionality of the warehouse management system, real time radio frequency barcode management, and also true internet accessibility and full EDI,” says Bell. RHS Logistics has implemented version 3.6 of the EXceed 4000 warehouse management system (WMS) to efficiently track and handle goods within its warehouse. The system provides complete end-to-end fulfilment functionality, from the order receiving process to product shipment. “A key feature of the software is user configuration,” says Bell. “This means the company’s in-house systems manager can customise the software to satisfy each customer’s requirements. Features such as menus, screen configurations, security levels and other parameters can be configured to meet the needs of individual users.” The warehouse management system integrates with the customer’s existing IT infrastructure, providing customers with secure access through the Internet or EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). RHS Logistics encourages access through EDI to avoid data integrity problems between connecting systems. By entering their individual username and password, customers can interact with the system to check purchase orders, view stock levels, place shipment orders, check freight costs and track inbound and outbound deliveries. With such a strong focus on technologies, RHS Logistics ensures the majority of employees are educated and computer literate. The company uses a recruitment agency in India to select quality candidates. All warehouse handlers must be educated to high school level, whilst all other employees should be graduates. “The company currently employs around 100 members of staff. Hiring individuals to work for the company is a long-term investment. We have strict criteria in terms of education, which results in lower head counts and higher efficiency levels,” says Bell. RHS Logistics also provides continuous training for employees to ensure everyone reaches their full potential. Whilst the training is currently outsourced, RHS Logistics is planning to develop its own learning centre within the Jebel Ali facility, which will offer a range of e-learning modules. “A budget is set aside for each employee in terms of training,” explains Bell. “Everything is documented and the process is very flexible. Each employee selects a learning module related to their position, together with another module of their choice. The second module can cover any subject matter, even cooking, depending on the individual’s interests.” RHS Logistics feels its focus on technology and staff training has helped it to differentiate itself from local competitors, which is extremely important in the competitive logistics industry. By developing its core competencies, the company has ambitious growth plans for the future. “It is important to expand at a steady pace and maintain the quality of service. This is not an immediate process,” concludes Bell. “In addition to the growth plans in the UAE, we are researching the possibility of entering other parts of the Middle East, such as Qatar. There are plenty of opportunities in the local logistics industry and companies really want added value from 3PL providers. In fact they are starting to demand it. By making the RHS Logistics brand prominent throughout the Middle East region, I can confident that we can help to meet that demand.”||**||

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