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Upping the ante: ACME poised for the big lift

The eminent material handling professionals offer comprehensive turnkey solutions

The ACME Group, the long standing materials handling specialists, is a full spectrum system integrator with over 44 years of experience in the Middle East. ACME’s expertise in warehouse and industrial automation lies in solution development, installation, system integration and life cycle support. With an experienced in-house team based in Dubai, ACME is able to react to customer needs quickly and develop solutions that are tailored to the needs of our customers in the region.

In a recent interview with Global Supply Chain, Navin Narayan, Founder-CEO, ACME, spoke at length on a variety of subjects affecting the materials handling industry, the opportunities and challenges, expansion plans and his vision for the future.

Global Supply Chain (GSC): Give us a sense of the size and scale of ACME’s current association with the logistics & supply chain industry in the Middle East?

Navin Narayan (NN): ACME is one of the oldest storage and material handling companies in Dubai. Over the years we have transformed ourselves from a purely industrial components and racking systems supplier into a technology driven intra-logistics solution provider catering to customers in MENA and Indian Subcontinent.

To reaffirm our commitment to the region, ACME has opened a full-fledged manufacturing facility in Jebel Ali that is capable of manufacturing conveyor systems as well as AS/RS stacker cranes and mini-load systems which we design in-house.

Presently, we have over 80 team members located in our various offices in the region catering to industries such as FMCG, retail, E-commerce, pharmaceuticals as well as food and beverage.

GSC: How significant is Materials Handling 2019 for ACME? What potential do you foresee for the future?

NN: Material Handling 2019 gives ACME the opportunity to connect with existing customers and partners as well as to meet with potential customers and partners that are looking to work with regional intra-logistics solution providers such as ACME. It allows us to showcase the range of solutions that we provide as well as the new ‘Made by ACME’ range of products.

GSC: How is ACME currently faring and how does that compare with 2018? What is your outlook for the remainder of 2019?

The market on the whole has been impacted by the issues affecting the region. However, we have been blessed and have been successful in tiding over this and keeping our order-books full.

2018 has been a record year for ACME and 2019 has been good so far too. Our core customers have used this period to reassess their supply chain processes and have decided to go ahead and invest in new technologies to bring in efficiencies. By working closely with them, we have been able to continue on the growth trajectory.

GSC: What are your short and or long-term expansion plans for the region?

NN: At ACME we have begun to work on projects in Turkey, wider MENA as well as places as far away as Bangladesh. We are also proud to announce that starting 2019, ACME is an authorized distributor for Kardex Remstar’s range of intra-logistics solutions for UAE and Saudi Arabia.

We are also keen to ramp up our ‘Made by ACME’ range of products that we manufacture at our Jebel Ali facility.

GSC: What are the opportunities in store and challenges confronting ACME in the region going forward?

NN: Customers are now looking to stem inefficiencies in their supply chain and are now focused on improving their intra-logistics processes and looking to incorporate best practices. This is where our role comes in to share our expertise garnered over four decades in the region.

Further, labour shortages coupled with the enhanced push for industrialization and the movement away from a purely oil-driven economy has greatly opened up new opportunities for us. We are very confident that the intra-logistics automation industry will move forward in this region.

GSC: How is the surge of E-commerce impacting your business?

NN: E-commerce has definitely given a beating to the brick and mortar business in the region. Ecommerce fulfillment is a totally different ball game in comparison to the traditional sales channels. Many big players have begun the transformations needed to cater to these demands.

With Kardex solutions in our range, we are now in a position to support SME’s who need to revamp their supply chain processes to cater to the demands of the Omni channel market.

GSC: What trends do you foresee in intra-logistics automation for the region?

NN: Previously we used to see a fear in customers towards mechanization of the warehouse. This fear of machines is slowly withering away. MENA customers have been slow in adopting the latest warehouse automation solutions that are popular in the rest of the world.

However, this has changed; over the last 2-3 years we have been receiving inquiries from many customers on how to move from traditional overstaffed manual warehouses to automated efficient intra-logistics systems.

In order to remove the fear of automation we now also offer complimentary warm-up support to many of our customers.

GSC: ACME is a privately held business. Do you plan to go public and separately do you have mergers or acquisitions in mind?

NN: We have been successful in growing our business organically over the last few decades. We are on the lookout for companies in developed markets that we could acquire that would help us leapfrog technologically and expand our range of solutions in-house built solutions.

Our focus at the moment is to continue to grow organically without the need to tap the financial markets for additional capital.

GSC: What have been some of your recent major accomplishments in the region? Please elaborate?

NN: ACME just completed a high-speed high-density ASRS installation in Jeddah, Saudi for one of the largest dairy companies in the region. The facility has a capacity of over 40,000 pallet locations and is built on a very small foot print. With automated trailer unloading, shuttle storage and a throughput of over 160 pallets per hour, it is definitely a unique facility in Saudi Arabia.

We have also just completed an automated distribution warehouse in Kuwait for one of the largest fashion retailers in the region. Another project closer to home is a high speed sorter system for one of the largest hypermarket chains in the region. We expect this project to go live mid 2020.

GSC: ACME moved its head office to the plush Business Bay enclave. What implications does this relocation move have for the company?

NN: Our new corporate head office in Business Bay is ideally located for customers and partners who would like to visit us. Easy public transport as well as traffic free access is definitely a plus point. This office manages administration as well as pre-sales.

In addition to Business Bay, we have a new 45,000 sq foot facility in Jebel Ali Free Zone that is central to our ‘Made by ACME’ strategy. At this facility we are capable of manufacturing conveyor systems, stacker cranes and other intra-logistics systems.

We are proud to say that currently we are the only organization that has the technical expertise to design and manufacture these systems in the region. This greatly improves project implementation timelines in addition to giving customers peace of mind with regard to local support for the systems that run the backbone of their business.

GSC: As CEO and Group supremo, what is your long-term vision for ACME? Where do you hope to take the company hereon?

NN: Over the last years, we have built a team of dedicated and highly experienced intra-logistics professionals that can design, build, operate and maintain highly complex automation solutions that cater to a wide variety of industrial and retail businesses. We are now in the position to not only deliver an automated warehouse solution, but also to manage and run the system for our customers.

One of our greatest strengths is the talented and dedicated team that we have on-board. The team along with our new manufacturing facility in Jebel Ali should definitely empower ACME to achieve our long term vision and that vision is to be the market leader in innovative automated intra-logistics solutions in MENA and the Indian sub-continent.

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