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Logistics - this is your time

20 July 2020

People don’t always see the value of warehousing and logistics but the coronavirus crisis has really brought home how essential it is.

Emergency services and utilities engineers are readily seen as vital frontline staff, but it’s time to recognise logistics alongside them, and as the backbone of the UK economy. In reality, this has long been the case, and yet industry associations have seen their pleas for recognition and respect repeatedly ignored.

I hope this will now change as, for as long as this crisis lasts, we are all going to rely very heavily on the dedication of people working in logistics, particularly in food supply. So here’s to all the lorry drivers, warehouse staff and planning teams. Thank you and be safe.

As a media outlet, we will do all we can to make sure you have industry-specific information on best practice to help you perform your jobs to the best of your ability.

Event

The Nineteen Group have made a prudent decision to delay The Health & Safety Event in the light of the coronavirus crisis. It was due to take place at the end of April at the NEC and this has now been put back to later in the year. It will now take place on Sept 22-23, once again at the NEC in Birmingham. You can read the full story here.

The health and safety of attendees and exhibitors must be the top priority for everyone at this uncertain and worrying time. Indeed, we have seen a number of large scale exhibitions such as LogiMAT in Germany, and MACH in the UK making similar decisions.

We do need to strike a balance between business as usual, particularly with regards to key services, with warehousing, logistics and supply chain being, of course, front and centre in these considerations, and making sure unnecessary risks are not taken.

This is easier said than done and the next few months will be a learning process for all involved as we grapple with these unprecedented circumstances. But, as I said earlier, life goes on.

The warehouses and logistics networks of the UK must be efficient – now more than ever. The products and innovations that would have been on show at events such as LogiMAT have by no means diminished in importance. These products are still needed and warehouse operations still need to continually improve.

Handling & Storage Solutions magazine aims to be a coronavirus-proof information delivery vehicle for the industry to provide the guidance and product information to help you in your vital roles.

Warehouse Optimisation

In this issue, we have a very timely Special Report on Warehouse Optimisation. We’ve broken this down into optimising space and optimising process, although to be honest, they often go hand in hand. Indeed one of the key warehouse challenges is balancing optimal use of storage space with throughput speed.

We lead this Special Report with an in-depth report from Britvic. I went up to Leeds recently to chat with team there and saw how they had to re-engineer their facility to cope with a big investment in new production lines. The warehouse and despatch side of the ops had to get some big decisions right to keep pace. It was a sizeable investment and that came with the potential for disruption, but has paid off with numerous benefits in throughput, capacity, and safety.

Ocado

There are always winners in every situation, and it seems Ocado is very busy as consumers ramp up orders, stockpiling essentials ahead of potential anticipated shortages. Certainly, this must be a tonic for the innovative online retailer after a very expensive year. The firm has faced two massive outgoings, each hovering around the £100m mark.

The first was payouts to board members for achieving and sustaining massive growth in market capitalisation over the last five years. The second was costs associated with a fire that burned the Andover distribution centre to the ground. The firm lost over £200m in the last financial year, and what is perhaps just as worrying for the long term, it has always struggled for profit. It’s one thing riding the helter skelter of fast growth, quite another turning that into sustainable profit. It has always been an issue for Ocado, and when you consider the next big step, it doesn’t look like it will get easier.

Ocado is set to build and run a number of fulfilment centres in partnership with other retailers around the world from Europe, to the USA to Asia. Large scale building projects are tough enough in your home market, but tackling multiple projects all around the world at the same time seems very risky to me. Coronavirus, Aussie bush-fires, the China-USA ‘trade war’, even Brexit, all show how delicate supply chains can be and how they can be readily disrupted.

Simon Duddy, Editor

 
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