With such a large number of material handling providers in the Middle East these days, it’s hard to remember a time when the market was served by only a handful of dedicated companies. However, for Walid Daniel, managing director of SPAN Group, those early days are fresh in his memory, providing a pleasant reminder of how his business has not only survived the numerous peaks and troughs of the past 20 years, but developed into a regional powerhouse along the way.
SPAN started its operations with humble beginnings in 1989 as a Dubai-based company that provided system shelving and pallet racking to customers in the United Arab Emirates. “Back then, the main activity was focused around the industrial areas of Aweer, Mussafah, Rashidiyah, Al Quoz and Sharjah. There were very few warehouses as we know them today and very few companies were using racking systems,” Daniel reminisces. “Although our start was modest, we had a primary objective from the beginning and that was to utilise our knowledge to benefit clients and provide them with solutions that made sense.”
Looking back at the late 1980s, around five companies were active in the local storage solutions market, of which only a couple are still around today, the most prominent being the SPAN Group. “Competitors have come and gone, which shows that companies require a lot of attention and effort to survive and adapt to changes,” Daniel smiles. “To be honest, it has been an interesting and challenging uphill journey. We have managed to develop our company by constantly improving and bringing storage solutions that made sense to customers, while maintaining quality and personalised services.”
The growth of the SPAN Group has been staggered over the years, starting with the import of racking solutions from Europe and North America, followed by the launch of a design and customer service unit that helps businesses to incorporate the most suitable warehouse layouts. In the early nineties, this portfolio was expanded to include light material handling equipment, dock levellers, packing equipment, carton sealing, strapping and stretch wrapping machines, while warehouse management systems and barcoding were also incorporated into a new IT division in the mid-nineties.
To support the diversity of these activities, SPAN Group also established a centre of excellent for warehouse design and operations, managed by a dedicated engineering and research division. “This was a focal point in our growth strategy, as we managed with the help of a professional engineering unit to work on large project designs for the most prestigious warehouses and distribution centres in the region,” states Daniel.
“This led to an increase in business volumes and gave us the knowledge base and opportunity to design and contract manufacture our own branded racking products, with added features and advantages specific to our local market. We further expanded by acquiring distribution rights for the full range of Jungheinrich trucks, in addition to the launch of our warehouse automation division, which provides solutions such as ASRS, sorters, conveyors, garment on hangers, carousels and shuttle systems.”