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Position your ops for the future

07 January 2022

The Tomorrow’s Warehouse Event offered insights, predictions and advice on how to position your business to best benefit from future trends. HSS editor Simon Duddy reports.

THE EVENT took place on November 30, 2021 at the Coventry Building Society Arena (formerly the Ricoh Arena), and featured 10 presentations and four discussions panels covering; the big picture for warehousing in the UK, automation and robotics, warehouse space, and the future of forklifts. All with 22 exhibitors on hand to offer solutions and partnership.

The event opened with keynote speaker Clare Bottle, CEO of the United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA) presenting on the importance of sustainability, automation and digitalisation in the context of logistics and warehousing. Challenges are coming towards  warehouse occupiers and developers at pace and forcing them to consider trade-offs to best optimise facilities for the future. It is no simple task. 

Drilling into specifics, Clare also highlighted the elements that draw most on energy in the warehouse, with warehouse lighting by far the most intensive, accounting for 65% of energy use, according to a 2010 Carbon Trust report. That said, increased roll-out of LED lighting in the intervening decade will have lessened this.

From the strategic introduction offered by Clare, we zoomed in on one explosive market segment next, as David Noll, from consultancy BearingPoint explored the Q Commerce market, asking how do we keep up with consumer demand for faster delivery?

BearingPoint highlighted that Q-commerce player GoPuff had a market cap. of £11 billion, much bigger than, for example, established grocer Sainsbury’s at almost £7bn.

App-led grocery delivery firms such as Zapp, Getir and Gorillas are offering sub 30 minute deliveries, in contrast to the windows measured in days offered by the major grocers.

This may be a nascent market but the market capitalisations are already soaring. For example, BearingPoint highlighted that Q-commerce player GoPuff had a market cap. of £11 billion, much bigger than, for example, established grocer Sainsbury’s at almost £7bn. The challenges, David explained, will be how quickly these companies can scale, and can they scale profitably? Continually improving warehouse and delivery processes will be key.

Swisslog UK business development manager Adam Fox presented on mounting supply chain opportunities and challenges for manufacturers, with the Direct 2 Consumer (D2C) channel growing massively in recent years.

Automation can help manufacturers cope with the increase in complexity that comes with adding item picking at scale to already busy pallet and case distribution operations. Swisslog has the range of automated solutions to help, and critically, the software to manage these installations effectively. Nestle’s Warehouse of the Future at the East Midlands Gateway is one of many examples. Contact Adam at Swisslog for more details - adam.fox@swisslog.com.


For the automation session, Thomas Andersson, principal analyst and co-founder at STIQ provided an overview of the robotics and automation market, predicting increasing appetite for mergers and acquisitions, and growing adoption of automated systems in warehouses, with many firms starting to catch up with Amazon.

From this overview, we wanted to drill down into the actual problems faced by operations managers and provide some tangible answers. Joe Metcalfe presented on implementation challenges and tips for installing warehouse automation, tackling common preconceptions, such as that automation will do ‘all the thinking’. The reality is that automation requires companies to go through change throughout the business, particularly regarding skills and systems support. While automated projects are growing, many integrators are very busy and projects must be carefully planned to ensure success. 

Simon Woodward, head of accelerated digitalisation and innovation, UK & I, at DHL gave us an excellent presentation on Automation and the Digitalisation journey at the 3PL.

Simon Woodward, head of accelerated digitalisation and innovation, UK & I, at DHL gave us an excellent presentation on Automation and the Digitalisation journey at the 3PL. Among many highlights, Simon discussed the deployment of assisted picking robots from Locus Robotics, which were tasked with improving productivity while maintaining pick accuracy and meeting service levels. The bots delivered a 30% increase in units picked per hour, minimised worker fatigue, reduced error rates, and decreased training time by 80%.

Simon concluded by outlining DHL’s vision to optimise supply chains from end to end, using best in class robotics, automation, and actionable data.


Kevin Mofid, head of industrial research, Savills provided an invaluable insight into the warehouse market, with factors such as the rise of eComm, the pandemic and Brexit pushing the demand every higher. But while demand is surging, supply is at historically low levels. Although spec build is strong at the moment, there was a long period post recession when it was in the doldrums. Warehouses are also facing increasing competition from other land use types, some novel, and often with very deep pockets. These include for data centres and film studios as a result of booming demand for media streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Kevin also struck a note of caution that business rates are due to be re-evaluated in 2023, which could see rates rise for in-demand land use types, such as warehousing, while those in relative decline and with traditionally high rates, such as retail, should benefit from a cut.

A key part of the event is progressing from issues to solutions. That’s why we moved from Kevin to Louisa Hosegood, Digital and Strategy Director, BIS Henderson Consulting, who gave a presentation on how to make the warehouse work for you, which was jam-packed with tips on how to maximise what you already have, in terms of capacity, efficiency and sustainability.


We were delighted to have Nicola Jaynes from the Health & Safety Executive speaking on forklift safety. This presentation highlighted how incidents involving lift trucks happen practically every day. How technology has an important role in safety management, but care must be taken not to overly rely on it. A key message was that technology must complement, not replace effective health and safety management.

Toyota Material Handling UK sales training and product development manager Gary Ison presenting on the evolving landscape of forklift power options. This contrasted the pros and cons of each energy type, and highlighted the increasing regulatory squeeze on diesel and other IC engines. With forklifts no longer eligible for the red diesel tax exemption from April, this is set to increase further. While it is still horses for course to some extent, electric forklifts, and particularly lithium powered electric forklifts are quickly building market share.

The next Tomorrow’s Warehouse Event will take place at the Coventry Building Society Arena on 16 June 2022. This returns the event to our original preferred time of year. Unfortunately Covid forced us to change course last year. A summer date will help us better cater to the retail sector, which will be planning for Peak in June, and not disadvantage any other sector.

For more information, visit www.tomorrowswarehouse.live