Air Logistics Interview

What is the main purpose of a warehouse management system and where does ALS come in to this? What sort of customers (if you are able to say) have you been working with?
With open borders and global economic developments, businesses are always changing and looking for innovative solutions to stay up-to-date and competitive on the market. Warehouse automation, with its sophisticated technologies such as ASRS, variety of conveyor systems, transfer vehicles and modern IT-solutions, is one of the attributes of the successfully operating distribution & production centres.

In ALS we specialize in the automation of materials handling systems, air cargo centres and car parks. As a specialized designer of these solutions, we know the value of accuracy and engineering proficiency because when it comes to automation, the millisecond matters; when it comes to operations, improved results speak louder than any promised sales statements.

To Automate or not to Automate, is necessarily the question anymore even though automation requires significant investments. It is essential to conduct research, evaluate the potential and predict the results – consultancy will minimize and almost exclude the risks of mistakes. It is always a good idea to learn from case studies, ask advice and apply the knowledge to your field with the help of reputed solution providers.

ALS has worldwide reference: some of our well renowned clients are Kuehne Nagel, DANZAS, DHL, FEDEX, SATS, Emirates Airline, Dubai Duty Free, DNATA, Abu Dhabi International Airport, WFS, Kuwait Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Baku International Airport, Panalpina etc… to name a few.

Our recent projects: Fully Automated Cargo Terminals in Oman: Muscat and Salalah, ASRS for BFS in Bangkok, Fully Automated Cargo Terminal FG5 – DXB, Fully Automated Cargo Terminal FG8 – DWC, Empty ULD Handling System – WFS Franfurt, OSR System for Dubai Duty Free (3rd expansion), ongoing installation for pharmaceutical hub – Al Dawaa, KSA.

I see ALS offers both basic manual operation and fully automated operations – can I ask which is the more common/popular? What is the most common request you are receiving from clients at the moment and the most common challenge they are looking to address with their handling system?
From our experience, we always recommend clients to understand and evaluate the need, the capacity required and material flow level. The basic planning and understanding what you would like to receive at the end sometimes is crucial. We have always been a good advocate for automation but this is not the only solution. Some customers do not require fast and dense material flow and others have huge bottlenecks in their operation which requires a very high level of Automation to deliver on time.

ALS usually keeps in mind whilst designing a facility enough space and opportunity for a client to expand the facility in case of need in future and not to redesign the whole site from A to Z.

Here we usually use the quote of Bill Gates: “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

What does it mean for ALS? Sometimes automation is not the answer to all ways to increase throughput. Material handling management varies from client to client, from facility to facility.

Talking about challenges, thinking about company development, every player in the logistics market at least once came up with idea of automation. Taking a strategically important decision, warehouse management should weigh the pros and cons. Automation in logistic centres mainly bring benefits to operational processes including space savings, lower building costs, improved productivity, more efficient material flow, less manpower, safer operations, reductions in inventory, increased reliability, reduced running costs, better ROI and lower lifecycle cost etc… Talking about disadvantages, we need to mention that automation implementation is a very costly process, and the financial aspect is usually the main concern. That’s where an experienced and reputed consultant would offer the proper advice.

What’s new – or in the pipeline – in this area of technology? Does ALS work on developing innovative systems? And regarding the technology aspect, do you partner with an IT provider?
In the age of progress and innovation, modern world is searching for solutions that maximize efficiency and boost the profit. And logistics is not an exception. Robotics, Internet of Things, drones, driverless vehicles, autonomous vessels, consumerization of sensor technologies and move toward 5G wireless communications illustrate the need of prompt and reliable logistic service.

Internet of Things (IoT) is not a new advent anymore, it is the reality of modern life and business. Designed to serve customers in the most convenient way, the link between devices are aimed to minimize the human involvement and increase the operation process. That is what logistics operations have successfully implemented in their day-to-day activities.

Speaking about air cargo terminals and high bay warehousing, the IT-infrastructure is fully based on the principles of IoT. Taking into consideration the staff availability, high cost of equipment and their breakdown, such machines as Elevating Transfer Vehicle (ETV) and Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) are built to speed up and effectively operate the material flow inside the warehouse by using the latest technology currently available.

The storage, transfer, sorting and retrieval of cargo between the warehouse and the landside or airside is fully automated with interfaces to the airline and customers. All vehicle movements are guided by the Inventory Control System without human interface but with a possibility of operator override in manual mode in case of an emergency.

    Talking about the recent ALS software integration this year, we can name:
  • • ORACLE database used for the ASRS system
  • • Internal NAS WMS with Microsoft database used for machines and warehouse handling
  • • Phone Applications to handle semi-automated car park systems for private homes