The global energy spare parts market is valued at over $90 billion, with the Middle East representing about 35% of this sector. This sector remains largely untapped by existing additive manufacturing and digital inventory platforms that have spread footprints across medical, aviation, automotive and jewelry industries.
Unlike these industries, which have embraced additive manufacturing and 3D printing for over a decade, the energy sector only began adopting it not too long ago, and one of the startups at the forefront of this innovation is MENA-based Immensa.
Founded by Fahmi Al Shawwa, the Dubai-founded startup commenced operations in 2016, focusing on harnessing additive manufacturing and 3D printing for industrial applications. Two years later, it identified the energy sector as its target market and has now secured $20 million in Series B financing.
Globally, several industries face significant global supply chain issues as legacy structures often struggle to meet customer needs effectively. Industries such as oil and gas, petrochemicals and power generation have one of the most complex supply chains in the world. In an interview with TechCrunch, Al Shawwa noted that some of the largest companies, for example, Equinor, ConocoPhillips and Saudi Electricity Company, each sit on over a billion dollars worth of spare parts, most of which are manufactured in regions outside their headquarters. What additive manufacturing brings to the fray is allowing these conglomerates to access spare parts on demand without mass manufacturing in hubs across Southeast Asia, China, or Latin America.
In Immensa’s case, it assesses these parts for its clients and determines the percentage that qualifies for on-demand production, thereby diminishing its clients’ heavy reliance on imports. To illustrate, if a factory near London experiences turbine issues requiring an impeller replacement, the typical process involves placing a request with the procurement warehouse. If the warehouse possesses the part, it is sent; otherwise, the manufacturer is contacted. The manufacturer, based in Germany, collaborates with a contract manufacturer in China, leading to the production of the part. After quality control in Germany, the part is shipped to London and then to the client. This shipping-intensive process contributes to a carbon footprint that is likely 50% or more than what local production would entail.
Immensa’s approach is to streamline the process. When a part breaks, clients can go online, locate the required part and place an order. It can then direct the order to the nearest qualified 3D printing facility, often around Heathrow or outside London. The part is produced swiftly and delivered within days, slashing lead times. This not only reduces overall costs but also eliminates customs and shipping hassles from the equation.
This substantially reduces the spare parts balance sheet by $200-300 million for most of these energy conglomerates, according to Al Shawwa; annually, these companies grapple with unnecessary losses estimated at $30 billion. The transition to a digitized supply chain also offers significant environmental benefits like minimizing wastage and reducing the carbon footprint.
“Today, we are by far the largest company that focuses on digital inventory for the energy sector and the energy sector is effectively oil and gas refineries, petrochemicals, power generation, power distribution, utilities, water, nuclear and renewables,” said the founder, who holds multiple certifications in additive manufacturing and is one of the pioneers of additive manufacturing in the Middle East.
“These all fall under the energy industry specifications and this is where we focus on what we do to simplify as an offering: We go to large companies, we take a look at their physical warehouses, and we try to assess how much of this can be converted to a digital warehouse or a virtual warehouse whereby they can press a button and get the part produced on demand.”
The UAE-headquartered startup claims to be the only company to own and control the entire digital supply chain of the energy sector. Operating on the DIS RT platform, it provides comprehensive solutions spanning assessment, digitization and production-on-demand, effectively addressing the intertwined issues of data security and quality control, as all processes are conducted in-house or on-premise. The company also highlights integrating proprietary AI tools into DIS RT, enabling the management of extensive data volumes for real-time information processing. Immensa, which has over 100 additive manufacturing specialists and engineers, also claims to have developed its proprietary hardware systems, enhancing its competitive edge in the market.
Over the past six years, Immensa has meticulously assessed over a million parts, producing more than 15,000 components. It started in the UAE and Kuwait before expanding into Saudi Arabia. It operates from two main hubs — facilities located in Dubai and Saudi Arabia — serving clients across the Middle East, North Africa and soon North America as it gears up to extend reach to clients in the U.S., said Al Shawwa.
Al Shawwa says Immensa’s clientele predominantly comprises major oil and gas conglomerates, including renowned entities such as Aramco, Adnoc and Schlumberger. While its focus is on clients’ quality, the seven-year-old has successfully serviced a substantial number in the energy sector, including at least 40 companies, encompassing end users and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), the players whose market it’s disrupting.
“Until a year and a half ago, most OEMs fought us and accused us of counterfeit and copying,” said Al Shawwa. “We take a lot of caution and care about not infringing on copyright and intellectual property because we also create our copyright and aside from being part of our core values and ethics, if I copy someone’s asset, someone else is going to copy mine.”
Focusing on obsolete parts and those outside warranty or not being serviced, Immensa has found itself in an advantaged position. Interestingly, by the end of last year, OEMs started approaching the company; now, it has struck partnerships with four such companies, producing their parts under license, helping them digitize 3D-print components, and paying them royalties in return. This shift reflects a positive evolution in its relationships within the industry.
Revenues for the Dubai-based startup are generated through the assessment, digitization and platform exchange of these parts. Last year, it reached over $10 million in revenue, marking profitability; it plans to double these figures by the end of 2023.
MENA-focused venture capital firm Global Ventures led the latest funding round for Immensa. The investment attracted participation from new backers, including Endeavor Catalyst Fund and EDGO and continued support from existing investors, such as Energy Capital Group (ECG), Shorooq Partners and Green Coast Investments. This comes two years after Immensa raised $7 million in Series A investment.
Immensa says the funds secured will propel it from a regional entity to a prominent global solutions provider as it aims to construct the largest digital warehouse in the energy sector. The investment will also enhance DIS RT and fortify its AI tools, it said in a statement. In addition, Immensa plans to bolster its current operations in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, anticipating entry into at least two additional regional countries within the next six months, with Oman likely being one of them. The company is active in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Jordan. Meanwhile, expansion into North America is on the horizon within the next 12-18 months, while potential projects in Southeast Asia are currently under evaluation.