When ‘Operation 300bn’ was launched in March by the UAE’s Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, it set out its intentions to almost triple the financial contribution that the industrial sector makes to the country’s annual GDP, from Dhs133bn to Dhs300bn. All of this – in just a decade.
For the UAE to become a manufacturing powerhouse on a truly global scale, the government needs to focus its resources on building an infrastructure that is superior both physically and digitally. And, whilst world-class physical infrastructure is crucial, a digital ecosystem that is inherently sustainable is business critical: in a fast-changing network of global supply chains, manufacturing hubs need to provide agility and immediacy for businesses to remain competitive. With increasing automation up to the edge, data exchange and the use of artificial intelligence and IOT, a cloud computing model that is as dynamic and adaptable as it is cost effective is considered a true enabler to the new realities of the manufacturing sector that is moving to the Industry 4.0 era.
The great news for manufacturers around the world is that the UAE is already exceptionally well placed to meet this challenge. It is undoubtedly in one of the world’s most enviable geographical locations: a natural halfway between east and west, connecting the supply chains and markets of Asia with Europe and the Americas. The success of DP World’s Jebel Ali is a testament to what can be achieved in this part of the world – the port is ranked 10th largest container port in the world and has been recognised for 24 consecutive years as the best seaport in the entire Middle East.
The UAE already offers manufacturers incredible opportunities thanks to its top of the line physical infrastructure: world-class logistics, free zones, a highly competitive tax regime, transparent regulatory frameworks, and diverse international trade agreements. And, by virtue of being a comparably young country, its digital infrastructure is world leading – the UAE has the highest penetration of fibre broadband in the world and now moving to 5G technologies.
These dynamics allow the UAE to lead the way in the regional adoption of cloud-based technologies for manufacturing. The cloud model offers the ability to respond to market conditions in a real-time distributed way, connecting with partners and supply chains across the globe. Software can be updated and scaled immediately compared to traditional infrastructure, where manufacturers would have to rely on physically defined compute resources, with software that must be updated and that can quickly become obsolete. Cloud solutions can span from on to off premises servers easily including edge systems. These platforms can be accessed and shared anywhere in real-time, and they are easily scalable.
Democratising scalability and agility
The cloud-based manufacturing ecosystem is increasingly sophisticated, touching upon every aspect of the modern manufacturing process through integration into next generation digital innovations.
‘Smart manufacturing’ delivers everything from advanced remotely managed sensors to workforce training, computer-aided design, and fabrication. Cloud has the capacity to democratize small-scale manufacturing through 3D printing and supports growth through real-time analytics (big data), much more affordable and adaptable customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, integrated human capital management systems, and partner integration.
Increasingly manufacturing businesses are required to adapt and pivot to new techniques and product lines. Agile development techniques rely on the abilities of cloud to rapidly and reliably reconfigure the IT landscape to incorporate innovative technologies and expand the partner ecosystem.
The benefits cloud offers manufacturing are endless, and the reality is that manufacturing barely resembles what it used to look like as little as ten years ago. Already in pole position, the UAE’s incredible manufacturing aspirations combined with their adoption of cloud as a concept makes their success of “operation 300bn” well within reach.
Cherif Morcos is the vice president of Digital Business Solutions at GBM