How do you expect the COVID-19 outbreak to impact Oman's logistics and warehousing industry in the medium term?
The logistics and supply chain sectors have been severely affected in Oman due to the sudden drop in demand due to lockdowns and rigorous control of movement, especially at land borders and for air cargo. Air cargo is almost standstill. Sea shipments are still operational, but demand has fallen, and costs have started to rise. In the short term, the immediate and most evident effects are on the air transport, tourism, retail, and F&B sectors. As one of the leading cold chain 3PLs in Oman we have many retail and food customers. Warehousing has not been immediately affected, though it remains to be seen which businesses will pull through and sustain through the crisis, and how this will affect the overall demand for warehousing. Logistics are grinding to a halt with disruptions in global supply chains and low activity in some of the world's major ports. We are hedging this risk by sustaining our business with some of the local projects and diverting our resources to those. We have also created internal COVID-19 management team headed by our COO to evaluate the risks and manage the operations with highest precautionary standards.
How do you expect automation to impact the industrial supply chains in Oman, and what is your perspective on the future of warehousing?
Automation implementation is slow in the region due to readily available manpower at a low cost. As these systems get cheaper and more robust, we expect to gradually see more automation in the 3PL business. If the current COVID-19 threat persists for longer than expected, robotics and automation could be a solution to reduce people's presence in close proximity. We would expect the automation would grow in the coming years not only because of labor cost, but businesses started to value the quality and cost-benefit of automation and system driven operations for better visibility and quality control.