Speed, security and tracking systems make couriers what they are.

In a fast-moving world with tight deadlines, courier services are of vital importance to the growth of any business. Couriers are distinguished from ordinary mail by features such as speed, security, tracking systems, individualisation of services and a committed delivery time. Professionally organised and managed by a team of experts, who not only understand customer requirements, but also have an in-depth knowledge of the local market and the region, courier services operate on all scales — from within specific towns or cities to regional, national and global services. The UAE is home to all the major courier and express service providers such as Aramex, United Parcel Services, DHL, FedEx and the government's own Emirates Post. In the UAE, Dubai's unique geographical positioning, excellent infrastructure facilities and major economic growth patterns have made it an ideal regional base for most courier and express service operators who can serve a large client base from the country.

According to Janet Jweihan, UAE General Manager of DHL, "The Middle East is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The booming real estate market, rise in Foreign Direct Investment, investor confidence and unprecedented growth in non-oil trade are among the main factors contributing towards the region's rapid development. The Middle East has been involved in global trading for years as a centre point between Asia and Europe. Today the region's market presents enormous potential for several industries, including the express and logistics sectors." Jweihan says that the large number of inbound and outbound express services can be seen as an indication of Dubai's vitality.

Transporting documents

DHL's operations in 15 Middle Eastern countries are well connected to a wider DHL international network linking more than 220 countries and territories. "DHL links its Express Logistics Network to its strong Air and Express Road Networks, which extends from Western and Eastern Europe into the Middle East. By providing customers with these solutions, we can service customers outside the Middle East during the weekend in Europe or the rest of the world," said Jweihan. In addition to this DHL is able to respond to emergency orders within two to four hours from the time the order is received at the facility until it is in the hands of the end customer. From transporting only documents during the 70s, DHL now caters to more complex requirements involving heavy shipments. "We also offer real-time track and trace, customer automation, guaranteed transit times and consignee-sold range of services, thus serving the needs of not only customers but also others who fall in the line," said Jweihan.

John Tansey, country manager for United Parcel Services (UPS) UAE LLC, says, "We serve local companies as well as multinationals doing business in the UAE. We integrate with both small and large shippers as well as individuals to meet the delivery and supply chain needs of a diverse community. The UAE has a thriving economy.

We are seeing increased opportunity in the supply chain management segment of the market as well as in just-in-time delivery solutions to better manage the inventories in the UAE's booming retail sector."

In the UAE, UPS offers a comprehensive range of services from small package to heavy freight via sea, air or road, spare parts logistics as well as third-party logistics. Recently it has introduced a time-definite delivery option, giving customers the option of receiving their packages and documents either before noon to selected destinations or by the end of business day to more than 200 countries outside the UAE. August 2007 will see the 100th anniversary celebrations of UPS.

"In the UAE, our customers are using UPS WorldShipTM technology to track packages online from origin to destination. Later this year we will introduce UPS's DIAD IV device that enables shipping status and signature verification to be uploaded in seconds to the internet so that delivery can be verified in a faster and more reliable way," said Tansey.

According to Jweihan, "Technology has always played a decisive role in proper execution of express and logistics operations. DHL has incorporated automation and technology to support better industry functioning. Investment in new technologies has increased with significant amounts of money being allocated to develop new and improved ways of going about the business of logistics, including integrated inventory management, enhanced call centres, customer relationship management software and radio frequency identification research. All these investments are aimed at improving customer satisfaction."

Express Logistics Web Reporting

DHL has, in fact, invested in developing an Express Logistics Web Reporting (EWR) system. This allows a client located anywhere in the world to view a transaction of his goods or to view his inventory in real time. "This means a client using EWR based in Berlin, who executes an order from a facility in Dubai, can view the exact transaction taking place and the progress the order is making during its journey to the end customer," said Jweihan.

Empost, the UAE's national courier service, has also expanded its global reach by announcing recently the opening of a new service to North and South America.

The new service will benefit American expatriates in the UAE, who look for a time-saving and cost-efficient way of sending important documents and packages home. Customers in the UAE can select from a whole range of packages offered by Empost, such as the track-and-trace facility or Empost's call centre service to track the status of documents or parcels.

Effective management

Besides pre-packaged services, Empost also offers customised courier solutions designed to meet specific requirements of clients. As part of its ongoing initiatives to improve operational efficiency, the group is also investing Dh6 million in installing an advanced IT communication system. Empost courier vehicles will be equipped with the latest in wireless communication technologies such as mobile data service, General Packet Radio Service, the satellite-based navigation system, Global Positioning System, messaging and tracking systems. The advanced communication system, provided by Cisco, updates itself automatically. The information is entered once, and thereafter, it will be updated automatically from time to time. The system will also provide a billing programme that will make it easier for the customer to pay everything online.

Market research has shown that the express and logistics sector in the UAE is set to grow by 20 per cent in the next five to 10 years.

"One key factor for effective supply chain management is information. The effective transfer of data and visibility between all involved parties is what convinces companies to entrust their supply chain management to others,' said Jweihan.

Considering that the UAE is a regional distribution centre that is reaching a multinational audience, the importance of reliable service providers with a global reach is likely to grow even more in the next few years.