EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: Taarek Hinedi, Vice President of FedEx Express Middle East and Africa Operations
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How has the pandemic impacted the Cargo industry in the Middle East?
COVID-19 fundamentally changed the way organizations of all shapes and sizes approach their day to day business, and logistics and air cargo providers were no exception. The initial reduction of manufacturing activities and demand for goods, border restrictions, and temporary grounding of passenger flights in 2020 tremendously impacted cargo capacities and global trade. To support the shortfall of air cargo capacity and meet the doubling in demand for critical medical supplies and emergency relief efforts, FedEx added approximately 40 flights per week originating in Asia.
The situation is steadily stabilizing. The long-term effects of the pandemic highlighted the need for more agile and resilient supply chains. It encouraged the logistics and cargo industry to update business models to keep up with customer demands and expectations from the new normal.
Have industry players been quick to adapt technology to cater to the changing needs in the market?
Yes, the logistics industry was quick to adapt technology within its business and supply chain operations in response to the challenges created by the pandemic. We are utilizing our SenseAware monitoring technology and Priority Alert service to track vaccine shipments as they move through our FedEx Express network. And we have dedicated customer support agents who are monitoring vaccine shipments, ready to intervene if delays caused by issues such as weather, traffic congestion or customs clearance threaten delivery times.
Advanced technologies such as automation, robotics, blockchain, and analytics also rose to prominence because of their capabilities. For example, automation and robotics have enhanced sorting and packaging operations at fulfillment centers and warehouses.
Whether team members were working remotely, from operational facilities, or on the road making deliveries, FedEx made online tools and digital resources available to enable team members to stay connected and continue their learning and development journeys. By using technology-driven tools and resources, we were able to ensure that normal work routines were not disrupted while team members worked remotely.
In which areas and geographies do you see strongest potential for growth?
The logistics industry in the Middle East exhibited great resilience against the pandemic and quickly responded to the needs of the community. We expect trends like increased e-commerce activity, digital transformation, automation, and investment in emerging technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence - that were already steadily advancing in the Middle East - to gain momentum, and support the growth of the regional economy.
What technologies do you predict will impact the Cargo industry most in the next five years?
Emerging technologies have strong potential in the logistics industry. Robotics, blockchain, automation, artificial intelligence, and data analytics show promise to play a greater role in our last-mile delivery, tracking processes, and warehouse operations.
What are your expectations from Dubai Airshow 2021 - which will be the first of its kind event since the coronavirus outbreak?
We expect to see significant knowledge sharing and advanced aviation and logistics solutions; helping industries stay one step ahead of customer expectations.
How can the cargo industry reduce its C02 impact while keeping up with the next day delivery culture?
Committing to carbon neutrality is a big step in the journey to reduce the impact of carbon emissions on our environment. FedEx recently announced its goal to achieve carbon–neutral operations globally by 2040. We will also designate more than USD 2 billion of initial investment in vehicle electrification, sustainable energy, and carbon sequestration. In addition, we will continue to invest in aircraft modernization, fuel conservation, and alternative fuels to reduce aircraft and vehicle emissions. We are also testing Roxo™, the FedEx SameDay Bot for last mile deliveries, which is designed to reduce carbon emissions, traffic congestion, and noise pollution.
How can we streamline the fragmented logistics chain with interconnectivity?
Technology is key to ensure interconnectivity between different aspects of the supply chain. For example, blockchain technology has the potential to make supply chain processes more transparent, reduce inaccuracies, and collect digital information in one central location. With consumers becoming increasingly conscious about where, how, and when products are manufactured and delivered, blockchain technology can provide proof of authenticity, thus helping to build trust between industries and their customers.
Lastly, what are FedEx plans ahead in the region?
We continue to look for ways to enhance our services and provide digital solutions with a focus on outstanding customer experiences. We understand the significance of e-commerce as a platform for consumers and aim to provide customers with greater access to the global marketplace, thanks to our global air and ground networks.