Complete control

Although APL Logistics has a greater presence in Asia and America, the company is now looking to increase its operations in the Middle East.

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By  Robeel Haq Published  October 15, 2006

|~|ajit_jangle2.jpg|~|Ajit Jangle, general manager of APL Logistics’ Middle East and Africa operations|~|APL Logistics is a global company in every sense of the term. With offices located throughout the world, the company handles the supply chains of major international customers, such as Marks & Spencer, Colgate-Palmolive and Procter & Gamble. Indeed, its financial results – revenues have grown to US$1.3 billion – are enough to secure its position as a logistics powerhouse. Although APL Logistics has a greater presence in Asia and America, the company is now looking to increase its operations in the Middle East, following a surge in demand for supply chain services. “The logistics industry is constantly growing in the Middle East,” says Ajit Jangle, general manager of APL Logistics’ Middle East and Africa operations. “As a result, we are continuously developing our service offering to help customers manage their inventory more efficiently.” The Middle East logistics industry has experienced a noticeable shift in customer demand, with more companies opting to outsource their supply chains, rather than handle everything inhouse. As a result, offering a ‘one-stop’ logistics solution has become more lucrative for 3PL service providers in the region. “Companies were initially too worried about privacy and security to consider outsourcing logistics. Now, the concept has gained widespread acceptance and companies looking externally for integrated supply chain solutions,” says Jangle. “It has become our core competency to manage the customer’s entire supply chain, from the factory floor to consumer outlets.” Instead of focusing entirely on the movement of cargo from one location to another, APL Logistics also provides front-end activities, such as advising clients on economically sourcing products, helping them to identify suitable suppliers and leading them through the thicket of international trade regulations. It also handles back-end activities, delivering cargo, as well as payments and information, to provide visibility across the supply chain. “The explosive growth of logistics services in the Middle East is built on the premise that customers can increase efficiency and reduce distribution costs by improving inventory control,” says Jangle. “As such, we already have the knowledge and infrastructure in place to offer competitive advantage in the challenging Middle East marketplace.” Although demand for supply chain services is currently booming in the Middle East, the current political crisis has resulted in some negative predictions about the industry’s future. However, instead of focusing on the gloomy outlook, logistics companies are actually helping clients to overcome difficulties created by the upheaval. “APL Logistics can enable customers to make informed decisions, reacting quickly to volatile market demands,” says Jangle. In addition, APL Logistics’ parent company Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) wants countries in the Middle East and further afield to work together and make international trade more secure, especially with the recent increase in transport security. The company has outlined practical steps to help achieve this goal, which includes a concentrated focus on public-private sector collaboration, more information for the effective targeting of suspect containers, an intelligent regulatory framework and the development of security technology, such as non-intrusive inspection systems. “There is an avalanche of technology solutions looking for a problem to solve. We need to find the right technology in a more systematic way,” says Jangle. Technology has always played an important role in APL Logistics’ growth. The company, which has appeared in InformationWeek’s list of innovative IT users, provides a range of technological solutions to increase visibility in the supply chain. Its warehouse management system (WMS), for instance, aims to create competitive advantage in efficiency, cycle time and order fulfilment. In addition, AP Logistics has opened a testing centre for RFID technology in partnership with Sun Microsystems. The US$2.7 million facility in Singapore evaluates the latest RFID developments in a ‘live’ supply chain environment, providing a range of packaging and tag testing, compliance and integration services, along with training sessions for customers wanting an immediate RFID solution. “The potential for RFID to fundamentally change the management of supply chains is finally being realised,” says Jangle. “More and more of the world’s largest retailers require their suppliers to be RFID compliant. As a result, we’re seeing an increasing interest in this technology.” The testing centre has already received considerable interest from customers wanting to implement RFID technology to enhance their corporate earnings. “Companies can utilise the centre to test different technologies and pilot solutions without having to invest in high-cost infrastructure. The realistic warehouse environment at the centre could simulate the key segments in the logistics process and test information capture and supply chain visibility at each stage, using the latest RFID hardware and software,” says Jangle. “This is a prime example of APL Logistics’ innovative outlook, something we believe will help the company grow further throughout the world, including the important Middle East market.” ||**||

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