How AI is helping deliver smarter supply chains
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How artificial intelligence is helping deliver smarter supply chains

How artificial intelligence is helping deliver smarter supply chains

Taarek Hinedi, vice president of FedEx Express Middle East and Africa operations, showcases why the company is a pioneer in express transportation

Neesha Salian
supply chains

What are some of the key milestones that FedEx is celebrating with its global operations hitting the 50th-year mark?

One of our most outstanding achievements was establishing the tracking number in 1979, which was game-changing for FedEx and has since become a standard in the logistics and shipping industry. In 1994, we launched, making it the first transportation website to offer online package status tracking.

Twenty years later, FedEx launched SenseAware in the UAE, making it the first country in the Middle East to implement an innovative solution for businesses shipping time-sensitive and high-value products.

The device can monitor the current location, precise temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, light exposure and shock events. The near real-time updates make it possible for customers to stay connected to their high-value shipment throughout its journey, providing them peace of mind.

In 2020, SenseAware monitoring technology was used in the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines.

How is the company leveraging innovation to boost express distribution in the region?

We are continuously embracing digital innovations while keeping customers at the core of everything we do. For example, during the pandemic and the surge in e-commerce shopping, consumers’ delivery expectations grew increasingly specific, demanding ease, simplicity, and convenience. This is where our e-commerce delivery solutions helped recipients customise their package delivery to fit around their busy schedules, enhancing the last-mile delivery experience.

In the UAE, FedEx also integrated WhatsApp into our delivery solution, providing consumers with peace of mind through the traceability of their package on their mobile devices. In addition, offering online shoppers picture proof of delivery gives them assurance that their package has been delivered to their door.

Tell us how the company is harnessing mobility, automation and sustainability.

Many technologies – from internet of things, artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous tech to advanced robotics – are already integrated into our daily lives. Technology and innovation are ingrained in our DNA, driving us to transform and adapt to this digitally changing world.

For instance, we are teaming up with Microsoft and putting data to work through our digital and physical networks. Our data-driven transformation provides advanced visibility and control over worldwide goods movement, enabling faster and more efficient deliveries.

We are also taking advantage of AI and automation in our facilities. The upcoming FedEx Express regional air and ground hub near Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) at Dubai South’s Logistics District, will incorporate advanced technologies, including an automated and advanced sorting system, hi-speed security screening equipment, cold-chain services and capabilities to manage dangerous goods.

Like any other industry, we are leaning on advanced technologies to support sustainability and operational efficiency. For example, we recently concluded the electric vehicle (EV) trials in the UAE. Once these EVs are deployed as part of our fleet, they will contribute to reducing our carbon emissions.

From rising electrification of transport to sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and biofuels – how are they transforming the logistics industry?

The logistics industry is undergoing a major transformation as businesses look to reduce their environmental impact. Our journey to greener transport is one we have been on for some time. In 2003, we set a record for being the first delivery company in the world to use hybrid vehicles for pickup and delivery. And way back in 1994, we even operated our first EV – a lead-acid battery-powered vehicle in California.

Fast forward to today, and we are on our way to achieving carbon-neutral operations by 2040. Across the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa region, we are bringing more EVs into the network. The EV trials in the UAE have concluded, with more planned in the coming year in other markets.

To help advance emissions reduction goals, the company has deployed EVs in a number of countries, including India and South Africa, with the region’s largest EV fleet in China.

We are also working to replace 30 per cent of our jet fuel with alternative fuels. We are investing in aircraft modernisation and advocating for the scale-up of the SAF market, which can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80 per cent.

We have also invested $100m in 2021 to help establish the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture and support research for developing methods to capture and store carbon from the air using natural systems.

These new technologies offer several benefits, including reduced emissions, improved fuel efficiency, and increased sustainability, and will continue to play an increasingly important role in the logistics industry.

Tell us about the key trends you are seeing in the supply chains and logistics business.

The supply chains and logistics industry is experiencing significant trends driven by digitalisation. One key trend we are seeing is the adoption of connected logistics, which enables efficient and timely shipment management.

Our teams are using machine learning, AI, and other advanced analytical methods to improve complex processes, prevent problems or make decision recommendations in real-time. Using technology and ever greater amounts of connected, continuous, and contextual data, we are transforming the way we operate. Most importantly, it helps us deliver more intelligent supply chains for our customers.

What are some of the key challenges impacting the industry?

The logistics industry is currently grappling with several challenges. These include labour shortages due to changing demographics, supply chain delays stemming from unprecedented global demand and disruptions, and evolving regulatory frameworks that affect cross-border operations. Additionally, increasing customer expectations for faster, more transparent deliveries put pressure on operational efficiency.

How is AI helping deliver smarter supply chains?

In logistics, technologies such as AI are opening new possibilities for process efficiency and customer convenience. At the current rate of AI development, the industry will soon see customers placing shipment orders with simple verbal instructions via digital personal assistants.

We are responding to changing consumer lifestyles and needs, too. We have solutions that empower the end customer to manage their packages from their mobiles, scheduling deliveries and choosing from several delivery options at their convenience.

Tell us about FedEx Returns technology and how its introduction has impacted business.

The ease of returns is now one of the most important factors in customer satisfaction for e-commerce businesses, after price. FedEx Returns Technology closes the gap between digital and physical, giving merchants full visibility into returns, enabling them to track shipments easily, manage inventory, analyse returns trends, and make more informed decisions based on shoppers’ returns behaviour.

Also read: Here’s how FedEx, Floship aim to support e-commerce companies

Also read: How leveraging connected experiences in logistics can build resilient supply chains

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