During 2018, Dubai World Trade Centre will play host to 116 major exhibitions and events in the emirate alone. During some days, multiple exhibitions take place simultaneously, while during the month of March alone, DWTC hosted 25 separate events.
“DWTC hosts and organises more than 500 global events annually, attracting more than 2.74-million visitors,”says Khalifa Al Marri, infrastructure director, Dubai World Trade Centre. “Hundreds of thousands of visitors attend mega trade shows such as Gulfood, The Big 5, Arab Health, GITEX Technology Week, GITEX Shopper, Dubai International Motor Show, among other global events.”
Each of these requires the movement of equipment, the construction of stands, the placement of products and the assembly and takedown of everything as well. It’s a mammoth logistics nightmare, and the challenge is exemplified most by GITEX Technology Week, the largest technology exhibition of its kind in the Middle East.
Khalifa Al Marri, infrastructure director, Dubai World Trade Centre
The numbers are truly impressive. For GITEX alone, 500 freight tons are flown in, 3,000 freight tons are brought in by sea and another 4,000 are transported by land across the UAE’s borders. In particular for GITEX, the event required the transport, handling, storage and final delivery or assembly of some of the most complex and expensive items and equipment in the world.
For GITEX Technology Week 2017 for example, a one-of-a-kind US $85,000 exoskeleton designed for an infant had to be transported from Spain to Dubai and placed on the exhibitor’s booth. The Makr Shaker, a portable robotic bar system, had to be shipped in a 20ft container weighing 12 tonnes, and placed on the upper floor of the Etisalat stand.
A Mercedes F105 luxury motion concept car, as well as a Tesla electric car needed it to be placed on the top floor of an exhibitors stand and all of this had to be done in just four days before the show opened.
“A key factor to the success and development of these events are the significant efforts made by the logistics teams behind the scenes,” says Al Marri. “Working behind the scenes, the infrastructure team is responsible for the management of large quantities of material, equipment, products, and is core to DWTC retaining its position as the leading exhibitions venue in the region.”
The logistics partner that DWTC works with is Al Naboodah Cargo Centre (ANCC), a leading 3PL and freight-forwarder in the region, with the international network of agents required for a mammoth logistics project like GITEX. “We are the sole contractor that handles all the cargo movements in and out and around the show. We take care of all cargo associated with each show from the time it arrives at Dubai International Airport. We handle it in the marshalling yards and deliver it to the stands,” says Raed Hiassat, general manager, Al Naboodah Cargo Centre.
ANCC covers the logistics for all of DWTC’s events, from the Dubai Motor Show to the Dubai Boat Show, but GITEX is undoubtedly the most daunting. “Meetings between ANCC and DWTC start two to three months ahead of the event, and then become weekly and eventually daily,” explains Hiassat. “Everything has to be planned to the smallest details. We get a floorplan telling us exactly where every single item in the show needs to go, and from that we plan what needs to be moved and when.”
Raed Hiassat, general manager, Al Naboodah Cargo Centre.
This level of detail is necessary in order to meet the four day window. “The key challenge for GITEX is the timeframe,” he says. “We have just four days for the build-up and two days for the take down. So there is an immense amount of coordination and planning required in terms of when each container is arriving and when it will be delivered to the stand for assembly.”
During that four day window, there are more than 1,000 truck movements bringing equipment into the marshalling yards, and 35 forklifts work round-the-clock making the ‘last mile’ movements to each stand.“We have a system by which we track each truck, each is assigned to one of seven marshalling yards and the cargo within each is tracked as well. We have software that monitors the flow of all drivers, and through this the supervisors can remotely order trucks to different areas to keep everything moving,” explains Hiassat.
“Then on the ground within the exhibition itself we have forklifts that are connected to the system as well, and each job has an estimated time for completion, that lets us plan ahead for where the forklift needs to be next. Through this we’re able to use all MHE to its maximum efficiency,” he adds. This is necessary because GITEX in particular has very large stands. “You need to bring in all the stand fittings, the pieces for each stand. The Etisalat stand alone was more than 25 containers,” says Hiassat.
None of this would be possible, though, without the DWTC’s marshalling yards, which Al Marri says are fundamental to its logistics operation. “At the heart of DWTC is the Marshaling Yards, which are located directly behind the event halls. These areas receive 1.4 million trucks of different sizes annually, containing everything from stands and display materials to yachts and cars. This area is closely managed to ensure teams offload, assemble, and disassemble the equipment within the allocated time to ensure that exhibitions happening concurrently run smoothly.”
It is the infrastructure team at DWTC that oversees all these logistics operations, including unloading nearly 10 million tons of materials annually. ”The team also regulates vehicular traffic surrounding the venue. The team guides all trucks to a designated parking area near the complex, where the trucks are numbered, arranged according to their designated halls and exhibitors, and are scheduled to enter the Marshaling Yards to unload their contents and depart within a specified period. The team also oversees the management of advanced machinery, levers, and carts that are used to load and unload trucks,” he adds.
Then when the show finishes, it all has to be done in reverse, but in just two days instead of four. Events such as GITEX, the Big 5 and Gulfood present a huge logistics challenge then, requiring at least 100 logisticians in the case of GITEX alone, but it’s well worth the effort. “By establishing itself as a catalyst for the development of Dubai as a global business gateway, DWTC is contributing AED 12 billion to the economy annually,” says Al Marri.