Under One Roof

NTDE has expanded its Dubai warehouse to cope with increasing demand for storage space.

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By  Robeel Haq Published  April 4, 2006

|~|ntde2.jpg|~|Adil Alsmadi, logistics manager, NTDE|~|The National Trading and Developing Establishment (NTDE) is responsible for bringing heavyweight brands such as Cadburys, Haagen-Dazs and Lay’s to the Middle East. As the company continues to expand its product portfolio, the demand for storage space has increased, leading NTDE towards an ambitious logistics expansion plan, including bigger warehousing and more facilities in Dubai. Businessman Hassan Ahmadi established NTDE over three decades ago, starting as a small retail outlet with four members of staff. The company has since evolved into a multi-million dollar business with more than 6000 products distributed across the United Arab Emirates, the Sultanate of Oman and Iran. “The company has grown considerably since it was founded in 1971,” says Adil Alsmadi, logistics manager, NTDE. “We now offer a diverse portfolio of different products, which are distributed to over 9000 customers in the Middle East, including large hypermarkets, grocery stores, petrol stations and duty free outlets.” NTDE receives around 180 shipments each month with products imported from countries around the world, such as Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Japan, France and the US. “The majority of items arrive regularly by sea, although some of the more delicate products, such as cigars and luxury items, are time sensitive and must be handled carefully, so these are transported by air,” says Alsmadi. “Anything arriving from Saudi Arabia, such as Lay’s crisps, Orangina and Al Rabie juices, travels by land.” NTDE handles its logistics from a central warehouse in the Umm Ramool Industrial Area, located between Dubai International Airport and Dubai Festival City. The facility is one of the largest in the UAE, measuring 325,000 square feet. This was recently expanded with an additional 40,000 square feet warehouse, which increased the total storage capacity by 53%. “The facility now includes 12 separate warehouses, which are capable of handling 2000 orders per day,” says Alsmadi. Each warehouse handles a different division within the company, covering everything from confectionary and tobacco products to household and pharmaceutical goods. “There are separate warehouses for each division because the requirements vary depending on the products. For example, the storage specifications for a frozen product such as Haagen-Dazs is completely different to something from the snacks division, such as Lay’s or Doritos,” says Alsmadi. The warehouse is equipped with drive-in, narrow aisle and selective racking systems, which are produced by the Belgium company Stow International and reach a maximum height of 16 metres. Mobile pallet racking is also used for smaller items, such as tobacco accessories. The mobile system uses pallet racks that travel on tracks laid into the floor and can be moved as individual aisles or entire sections to provide access to each individual pallet, saving space and minimising costs. The pallets are accessed by a variety of different forklifts produced by STILL, including counterbalance trucks, reach trucks, heavy-duty diesel trucks and container handlers. A number of man-up forklifts are also used to handle loads in the taller racking areas. Each pallet position is individually numbered and pallet stickers are fixed onto pallets for easier management by the company’s warehouse management system. Staff use a variety of handheld terminals, produced by Intermec and Symbol, for scanning the data into the WMS. “We place labels on each pallet and each pallet position,” says Alsmadi. “When we put a pallet in the racking system, we can scan both of the labels to make a link in the WMS system. This automates the process and helps simplify the first expiry first out process.” NTDE purchased a customised warehouse management system around two years ago to handle inventory control. Upon implementation, the workforce received training to use the system, which covers all the points of the business operations, from the receiving point to the delivery point. “In order to meet our unique requirements, NTDE decided to opt for a custom-made warehouse management system,” says Alsmadi. Each warehouse is also temperature controlled. The company mainly uses a chilled water system, which cools the water before pumping it through pipes to the air handlers inside the warehouse. This type of system is becoming popular in large warehouses where the extensive piping and ducting of a split system unit is not practical. “The majority of our warehouses, around 80%, use a chilled water system. This is very expensive to install but the return on investment is good, because the system is more stable and also cheaper to run in the long term. It’s also much better for the environment and we are very happy with the results,” says Alsmadi. Once customers place an order, the goods are picked from each individual warehouse and transferred to a central dispatch section. The barcodes of the products are scanned to ensure the correct orders are being delivered to the right customers. The products are then loaded and transported to customers using the company’s fleet of over 550 vehicles. Whilst most deliveries are made through the main facility in Dubai’s Umm Ramool Industrial Area, which acts as the backbone of the company’s logistics operations, NTDE also owns extra storage depots at the Jebel Ali Free Zone, Hamriya Bonded area, Sharjah Port Khalid Free Zone, as well as Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah. “The main challenges in managing a facility of this size are inventory management and optimising operational speed,” says Alsmadi. “The new warehouse has addressed these issues by incorporating various different aids, such as the warehouse management system (WMS) and the chilled water system. The warehouse is now capable of quickly responding to customer demands in any part of the emirates.” NTDE is now planning to increase its portfolio of products in the future. Whilst the expanded facilities in Dubai are sufficient to handle the current flow of products, the company is already forward planning and preparing for the inevitable future demand for further storage space. “Of course, we will continue to expand further and this will place new pressure on the logistics operations,” concludes Alsmadi. “Therefore, we plan to build two more warehouses, similar or larger in capacity than the new one. One will be located in our Rashidiya premises and the second one will be in the Jebel Ali Free Zone. This way we are fully prepared for the future and the continued growth we are predicting for the company.” ||**||

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