Could you highlight Al Rawabi’s contribution to transport refrigeration and its commitment to improving the cold chain internally over the past 10 years?
Al Rawabi’s contribution to the transport refrigeration space has evolved over the past 10 years. We have expanded and have built new hubs across the United Arab Emirates and Oman. We are also improving our cold chain process, in terms of distribution to the outlets and presently have 320 transport vehicles. Seven years ago, we set up a monitoring system in every single vehicle. Today, we are able to monitor the temperature in these vehicles from the moment they start distributing to the time they come back. This ensures that the quality of the product is not compromised.
What are the checks and balances carried out, in terms of how the company functions, which ensure safe transport refrigeration along the cold chain?
The culture within the company is crucial. Technology is not the only solution, as eventually technology is driven by people. If things are not done properly, it will turn out to be an obsolete investment. Another aspect is training related to food safety. I have to put my hands together for Dubai Municipality, because they also enforce companies in the food business to have a high technological training for the team, along with the individuals involved in the food-handling process. As I mentioned, we talk about culture and not only about protocols. We have a checklist for the production aspect of our business. Before it goes through the final bottling process there are final checkpoints.
To what extent has Al Rawabi incorporated technology in the logistics end of the cold chain?
Even though I am sitting with you, I can see and monitor the temperature in all my stores from my portal. I have CCTV cameras in all the 17 locations in the United Arab Emirates and in Oman. I also can monitor the raw material even before it reaches the manufacturing site and before it comes to the factory. I must highlight that I have some products coming in from the United States, and the lead time for them is 50 days. Because of technology and our monitoring process, when the food is in the container or vessel, there is a temperature log, where you can read and exactly see whether the temperature fluctuates during the process. Overall, technology does help us have better control, but the challenges are still there.
With reference to the farm-to-fork concept, what are the stressors in maintaining temperature? And how is the company dealing with them?
Farm-to-fork has so many levels, and there are so many issues that can arise, especially with dairy products. However, with the technology in our hands, we are able to know if the driver opens the door of the vehicle. We have a process of monitoring temperature inside the box, the engine and the doors. We have sensors on everything, and if a driver fails to deliver on time, he will get a call. Our entire efforts are steered towards food safety, and our target is to deliver food in the safest way possible. Al Rawabi recently invested around USD 112 million in automating the process from A to Z, where there is no need for human interference.
How much has Al Rawabi invested in technology and training over the past few years, and where does the focus presently lie?
We at Al Rawabi have invested close to USD 70 million in the past 10 years just to improve our refrigeration process and ensure that the quality of our product is as per the standards that we have set as a lead company in the United Arab Emirates. As a part of the investment, we focused more on the infrastructure of the cold store. The investment begins with the attentiveness to storing the ingredients at the right temperature to the point of delivering to the outlets. This is all refrigeration technology coupled with training. Food manufacturing and production companies in Dubai today are highly attentive to technology and keep on investing. Technology pays back, and it is never a waste of money.