Transparent logistics

Warren Jacob, regional director at Freight Systems, discusses the 3PL service provider’s future plans to target niche markets throughout the Middle East.

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By  Robeel Haq Published  July 2, 2006

|~|fsl2.jpg|~|Warren Jacob, regional director, FSL|~|After successfully handling the logistics for international auctioneers Christie’s in the Middle East, the Dubai-based company Freight Systems (FSL) believes niche markets are the future for the logistics industry. By offering customers high visibility throughout their supply chain, FSL has now decided to target its services to other specialised markets in the region. The company initially specialised in consolidation following its Dubai launch in 1988. In addition to receiving cargo from multiple vendors, it also custom loaded containers to suit each customer’s individual requirements. More recently, FSL has expanded its service offering to include complete supply chain management solutions, such as warehousing, packaging and distribution services. “Customers are now looking for a total logistics package from 3PL service providers,” says Warren Jacob, regional director, FSL. “In order to remain competitive, it is important to offer everything under one roof.” FSL currently has offices in 14 different countries throughout the world, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Pakistan, India, China and Canada. However, the head office is located within the company’s flagship facility in Dubai’s Jebel Ali free zone, which consists of three separate warehouses. “The first warehouse was constructed ten years ago, offering dry storage conditions, which is suitable for electronics and computer hardware,” says Jacob. “The other two warehouses are temperature controlled and currently store products such as chocolates, cigarettes, perfumes and cosmetics.” The warehouses, which feature 14,450 ambient pallets positions and 2400 cool pallets positions, are equipped with a variety of different warehouse forklifts, including Bendi VNA vehicles, Crown reach trucks and Caterpillar forklifts. The racking is mainly standard, although the most recent warehouse has VNA systems in place, purchased from Alshaya Trading Company, to help optimise space utilisation. “The Bendi forklifts and Mecalux VNA racking system are great for maximising the use of warehouse space. In the future, we will probably implement more VNA designs too,” says Jacob. One of FSL’s biggest clients is the international auctioneer company Christie’s, which recently held its first auction in Dubai at the Emirates Tower Hotel. Following a three-day viewing at the venue, the company sold a large number of modern and contemporary paintings with an emphasis on Arab, Indian and Iranian artwork. “FSL is the official forwarders for Christie’s in the Middle East,” says Jacob. “We have dedicated a section of the warehouse for the company and hired a specialist packing division to handle the artwork. Each painting is wrapped in acid-free paper, bubble wrap and blankets, before it is crated. The team also wears white gloves to avoid damaging anything.” The artwork is imported from countries throughout the world and carefully stored in the warehouse. Following the auction, everything is returned to the warehouse, where customers can later collect their purchases. FSL has equipped the storage area with a number of security cameras to help protect the high value consignments, which can include paintings by renowned names such as Picasso and Andy Warhol. “We have provided Christie’s with online access to the security cameras, allowing them to view the warehouse on a 24/7 basis,” says Jacob. The contract with Christie’s has proved so successful, FSL is looking towards offering logistics services to other niche markets in the future. “We have already started entering niche markets, such as automotives and ship spares,” says Jacob. “I think future trends in the logistics industry will include 3PL companies offering services to specific markets, like FSL has done with Christie’s, rather than generalising and providing similar services to everyone. Everything from technology to storage will cater to specific requirements.” A software company based in India, which is part of the FSL group of companies, designs the warehouse technology used to offer online access to Christie’s and other customers. “All technology is produced inhouse and customised to meet the requirements of each customer,” says Jacob. “In fact, other logistics companies in Dubai have purchased our enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, which handles all aspects of the supply chain, including warehouse management functions.” Jacob believes the close association with the company’s software division provides a strong competitive advantage for FSL. “We can turn around customer’s technology requests much faster,” he says. “If the customer requires extra customisation, we can quickly make the changes within two days. This is rare in the Middle East logistics industry and allows FSL to offer a very flexible and transparent service.” The software, it seems, also improves transparency within the customer’s logistics operations, which is a popular part of FSL’s service. “The high level of visibility throughout the supply chain differentiates our service from competitors,” boasts Jacob. Since FSL is experiencing heavy demand for warehousing space, the company is currently using the services of another 3PL provider to store products for its customers. However, this is a short-term solution and FSL plans to create more space by opening a facility in Dubai Logistics City in the future. “The current logistics boom in the Middle East should sustain for at least another five years. Warehouses are full and customers are demanding more space,” says Jacob. “Although we currently outsource two warehouses through a third party in Jebel Ali, we have also reserved a plot of land in Dubai Logistics City measuring 40,000m². “FSL needs a presence there and the warehouse will probably provide cold storage facilities. There is heavy demand from a few niche markets for cold storage, so this is the direction that FSL is heading,” he concludes. ||**||

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