Materials handling continues to be big business in the GCC market, where the ongoing growth of the logistics sector is creating parallel demand for intralogistics, warehousing, and the materials handling equipment required to run these operations.
The combined logistics market across the GCC region is currently estimated to be worth around $47bn, with Saudi Arabia accounting for around $19bn, or a 43% share.
Saudi Arabia is also one of the fastest growing countries in the world for logistics and warehousing, with an average annual growth rate of around 6%, and the country is increasingly being positioned as the primary entry point for goods entering the GCC.
This top-line growth in the industry is likewise translating into growth in demand for materials handling equipment — the market for which is forecast to grow by over 4% annually to an estimated $4.8bn to $5.0bn by 2020, according to Frost & Sullivan.
The largest markets in the region for this segment are Saudi Arabia, with a 46% share, and the UAE, with a 35% share, and both countries are expected to continue to lead market expansion going forward.
The sector is being driven by a high dependence of many of these countries on imports of goods and services, as well as the ongoing efforts by regional governments to develop their logistics infrastructure, including ports, free zones and export processing.
At the upcoming Materials Handling Middle East 2017 exhibition in Dubai, two themes focused on by the organisers and exhibitors will be automation and the concept of Industry 4.0 — a term for the growing data exchange between the cloud and physical systems, or cyber-physical interaction.
These developments represent both good and bad news for the workhorse equipment of the logistics and materials handling industry. Indoor forklifts and both powered and manual lifts, for example, could all find themselves increasingly phased out in a range of intralogistics and warehousing style operations. Wherever goods are stored in distinct parcels or pallets, warehousing solutions can be both automated and robotised.
This is precisely the business of the likes of Japan’s Daifuku, and Switzerland’s Swisslog and Kardex, which will all be attending the show. Together, they represent some of the world’s most advanced material handlings systems and integrated logistics solutions.