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Simon Duddy

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Kicking the can down the road 24/04/2019

Neither the UK nor the EU are particularly known for decisiveness. Perhaps the only thing they really share over Brexit is a deep-seated fear of being blamed if they do make a decision… and it all goes wrong. 

Thus, it’s not a great surprise that businesses face further uncertainty as we still don’t know quite what kind of Brexit we will have, when it will happen, and there is even a chance (a small chance) that it won’t happen at all. For politicians, it is, as always, much easier to say what they don’t want, than it is to take a chance of what they do want.

This means businesses must remain agile. I had a recent chat with Andy Butters, MD of temporary building specialist Aganto, and he made a lot of sense as he explained his company’s outlook to Brexit, and how he is helping companies hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.

Safer Logistics

Just last week (at the time of writing), our parent company Nineteen Group held The Health & Safety Event at the NEC. For the fifth year, I chaired the Safer Logistics seminar area, and we had more than 600 people attending the sessions, which tackled topics such as forklift training myths, safer rack management, helping HGV drivers operate safely at night, looking out for the potential failure of ageing cranes, and understanding the dangers repetitive work can pose to forklift operators. Thank you to our partners CILT, FLTA, LEEA, RTITB, SEMA and Southalls, and special thanks to sponsor Toyota Material Handling UK.

I also recently attended the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) Awards for another fantastic and exciting night. We are so proud to be the media partner for the event, from taking a role on the judging panel to publicising the event and enjoying the night itself. From Page 24 you can read about all the winners from the night, from the innovative products scooping highly coveted Archies, to the teams being rewarded for going the extra mile on safety, and the individuals recognised for service at the end of distinguished careers as well as those highlighted for promise at the beginning of theirs.

Your warehouse: service & repair

Also check out our new feature, which highlights an excellent viewpoint from Siemens on effective monitoring and maintenance of automated warehousing - set to become an increasingly important issue. This feature also sees a report on an A-Safe customer day, and how Mainmark fixed the subsiding floor of a warehouse.

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How to fit a quart into a pint pot 21/11/2018

Brexit has only exacerbated spiralling demand for warehouse space. The eComm boom had already greatly increased the need for warehousing, and we are still stewing in the hangover of the recession where years passed without new spec build warehouses coming online. But there is no doubt Brexit has brought this into sharper relief.

Consultancies are now telling companies to stockpile products in case of problems and delays with importing, which is particularly likely if there is a ‘no deal’ Brexit. This flies in the face of years of advice on running supply chains lean.

This is a good time for you to review your logistics and storage operations. Can you better utilise the warehouse cube? Should you invest in temporary buildings? Should you explore cross-docking? In this issue, we have no shortage of space-saving solutions for you to consider, as we provide in every issue.

Check out the shuttle-based storage system a food firm has installed across multiple temperature zones. Pharma firm Cultech bought itself more space to keep pace with growth by deploying a permanent, steel-clad building and two extensions at its Port Talbot location. A specialist forklift can help you make the most of yard space and make cross docking more efficient.

Making the most of space is also a key concern for Muntons, a food ingredients firm based in Stowmarket. By the way, Muntons warehouse manager Nicki Milner won the reader’s prize (£100 of Amazon vouchers) when we surveyed the readership about future innovations for our Tomorrow’s Warehouse Special Report. It was great to follow this up with an interview at Muntons in Stowmarket and see the warehouse and logistics operations first hand. Nicki has developed a broad range of strategies to make the most of space at the plant, allowing the firm to grow considerably in recent years, particularly via exports. As she says ‘we fit a quart into a pint pot.’

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Last chance to prepare for Peak 22/10/2018

Even if you are well prepared for Black Friday mayhem, often a little tweak is required to make this critical period go smoothly. Whether it is extra manpower, some equipment to help load more efficiently, or to add some flexibility to operations, or indeed extra MHE, or handhelds to ensure the staff you’ve hired are fully productive, you can’t afford to mess around and miss targets at this time of year.

One possible quick response is rugged IT hardware firm Renovotec offering Black Friday discounts on orders. Taking a step back, definitely have a look at the kind of tech solutions that can drive efficiencies and much better service in the long run. If you are confident these peaks are here to stay for your business, then these solutions make sense.

For example, BITO has launched the U-Turn container which is designed to help logistics operations such as e-commerce fulfilment, through features such as smaller sizes (suitable for the larger range, smaller unit numbers profile that is typical in much of eCommerce), as well as being designed for easy use with automated handling systems.

Speaking of automation, another example is how Dematic helped a beauty brand consolidate two very busy distribution centres, one of which was managing peak volumes of 88,000 packs a day, and the other fulfilling eCommerce orders of 142,500 items per day. This was achieved with a blend of picking solutions coordinated by smart software. And having spoken to a wide variety of automated equipment suppliers over the years they are unanimous that software is the difference maker. 

The Timber sector has its own challenges. It might not to subject to the same towering peaks of demand, but handling and storing long and awkward loads needs careful thought, design and the right solutions. In this feature we highlight some standout products and systems, such as BS Handling’s design of a pallet conveyor system specifically for a timber firm, integrating specialist features such as a baling machine, a robot arm for the movement of packed bales, and a shrink wrapping machine with turntable into the process. We also see how Baumann has tweaked its sideloader range.

There are many other examples of kit to help with Peak, or specialist verticals such as Timber, as well as a multitude of other materials handling challenges on this website. We hope you get something out of it that sparks debate in your office, and helps you reach your goals, whether it is upping your game in terms of customer service, getting raw speed up, or simply saving cash.

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House of Fraser impasse highlights limits of collaboration 16/08/2018

These are uncertain times at House of Fraser for staff, customers, and suppliers. HSS editor Simon Duddy says it's a setback for collaboration.

The high-end retailer went into administration and was bought by Sports Direct.

This is not the end of the story, however.

What we are seeing now is a scramble as parties seek to maximise opportunity and minimise loss from the collapse.

For example, House of Fraser’s logistics operator XPO Logistics wants to get paid what it is owed, whereas Sports Direct wants to avoid costs where it can.

Equally other retailers are rumoured to be looking to out-bid Sports Direct on prime House of Fraser sites. 

It’s chaotic and it is cut throat. There will be winners and losers. That’s business. It is fundamentally adversarial.

For a long time, collaboration has been championed by supply chain professionals seeking to add efficiency to logistics. This is a brilliant idea and it makes perfect sense to supply chain and logistics managers who are primarily concerned with keeping the machinery of UK plc moving as smoothly as possible.

No one can argue with its logic. 

But business is not motivated primarily by logic. It’s more about chasing profit, and that doesn’t always lead to logical or pleasant places.

Or if you are a logistics business, how far can you go in sharing information and processes with a customer, knowing that one day, they may hit the rocks and leave you arguing over millions in unpaid bills?

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Tomorrow’s Warehouse - Survey Results Revealed 24/07/2018

The world is changing and logistics and warehousing has to move with it.

We’ve asked our readers how they anticipate trends changing in the future and the results from the online survey, sent out in July 2018, make fascinating reading.
There was a strong consensus in some areas, with respondents looking expectantly towards new technology such as automation and lithium-ion powered forklifts. 74% of respondents saw Automation as an important future technology. Furthermore, 56% of those surveyed are actively considering lithium-ion powered forklifts in their investment plans.

One thing is certain, there is a need for flexible logistics that can quickly adapt to changing circumstances.

Click here to read the TOMORROW’S WAREHOUSE Special Report.
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Tomorrow’s Warehouse: have your say 20/06/2018

We are asking YOU - dear readers - to tell us the key trends you observe in the warehouse and logistics sector and make predictions for the warehouse of tomorrow.

Your opinions, thoughts and ideas will be used in a ground-breaking Report that will shed light on these vital issues and trends. Take the survey here - http://bit.ly/2ydkcsG - it should take around ten minutes to complete.

You will also be entered into a draw to receive £100 of Amazon Vouchers when you complete this survey!

Back to the here and now, you can clue in to the DC of the near future in our lead story. Mike Vernon, head of innovation at Kuehne & Nagel UK shares his extensive experience in employing warehouse technology to reduce costs, increase throughput and deliver a better customer experience.

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The Safer Logistics Zone 19/04/2018

Recently, the team delivered our seminars at the Safer Logistics Zone, part of The Health & Safety Event at the NEC.

 We’d like to thank our partners for their fantastic presentations and especially thank sponsors Toyota Material Handling UK and A-Safe for helping make the Safer Logistics Zone possible.

The Safer Logistics Zone is a key part of the overall campaign and we are looking to extend it further.

Next stop Multimodal!

Safer Logistics will be exhibiting at Multimodal on the UKWA Pavilion, in tandem with partners UKWA, FLTA and Mentor Training. If you are at the show, come by and say hello!

Further news on the safety side, we have a comprehensive look at the warehouse safety measures brought in by multinational office supplier ACCO at its warehouse at Halesowen in the Midlands, as well as a look at how it builds a positive, global safety culture.

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KFC not exactly a zinger for DHL 20/03/2018

In October, DHL was awarded the contract to supply food to the UK’s KFC outlets, and the food company’s supply chain director Jens Hentschel said: “To date there has been little variation in foodservice logistics, but we have specifically chosen DHL and QSL for their reputation for innovation in logistics across other industries. It’s an ambitious plan, but by working closely with DHL and QSL we’re confident we’ll be able to deliver against our strategic ambitions.”

What a difference six months makes.

Whatever innovations were planned, it’s now clear that many supply chain basics were not met. Without inside knowledge, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong at DHL.

A number of possible factors have been suggested from mis-managing the changeover process, to underestimating the complexity of the tie-in with the order software provider QSL, to underbidding on the contract and allocating insufficient resources to follow through.

Perhaps there was also over-confidence that DHL’s  competence in general logistics would carry through seamlessly to a niche area such as food logistics. In terms of brand damage, DHL will take a bigger hit than KFC.

I’d imagine consumers are pretty forgiving when it comes to fast food. When weighing up whether to indulge in a zinger burger, the fact that some KFC outlets were closed recently won’t figure much. But people have longer memories in logistics, and are often risk averse.

The one positive for DHL, as I see it, is this isn’t the kind of thing you’d expect from them. This shows a strong core brand. That said, this is a serious setback for DHL in terms of breaking into new, niche logistics arenas such as food. We have comment on KFC’s logistics crisis here.

One interesting point raised by a consultant was the suggestion DHL’s Rugby facility did not initially have the correct licence to handle food, which led to food being dumped. This spooked me a little bit as I’m thinking about how the country will adjust to Brexit.

If we have a cliff-edge, no-deal Brexit, logistics operators will need to very quickly work out which regs and charges apply, and this could lead to delays, and perhaps even product wastage.

Let’s hope sense prevails before March 29, 2019 and logistics operators are briefed beforehand and given time to make an orderly transition.

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New tech to tackle downtime 19/02/2018

There is always enthusiasm around new technology but for me, the more interesting time is when such technologies find a market rationale.

Lithium battery technologies have been emerging for a number of years now, but with the first big fleet in the UK investing in it, it seems to now have found a solid business case.

Fowler Welch have a number of reasons for investing in Linde lithium-ion powered forklifts, but the main driver was reducing downtime.

The food transport specialist has a number of very busy locations and works its trucks hard.

Too often forklifts were not pulling their weight due to issues around lead-acid batteries, and how they were managed.

In fact, operational meetings came to be dominated by battery problems and the company decided enough was enough.

Fowler Welch is looking to lithium-ion powered forklifts to have much better uptime and so far the outlook is good.

Lithium-ion technologies are said to be longer lasting, with manufacturers often claiming that ten year lifetimes will be possible, with less power degradation over time than with lead-acid batteries.

They are also maintenance-free and faster to charge.

This saves time in itself, and without battery maintenance, the potential to introduce error during maintenance is removed.

This is a significant step, but lithium-based solutions won’t be optimal for everyone.

Lead-acid has been around for a long time and works effectively, particularly when accompanied by joined up battery management and a methodical approach to maintenance from warehouse staff.

The threat of Amazon

Much of the talk at The Delivery Conference this year was on Amazon and the growing threat it poses to the rest of the retail industry. This got me thinking. Is Amazon too big? Is it time to break it up?

There is precedent. Standard Oil was broken up into 34 companies in 1911 after being judged by the US authorities as having a monopoly.

However, while there is no doubt the scale of Amazon is having a massive impact on across logistics, logistics property, retail and other sectors, it’s hard to see this happening to the retail behemoth any time soon.

The main rationale for breaking up a company is to promote better prices for consumers. And, say what you want about Amazon, its approach is driving value for consumers.

The conference also featured a wide range of speakers offering interesting advice. One was Accenture Strategy MD Harry Morrison, who urged end users [in the context of Brexit uncertainty] to think of ‘no regrets’ moves such as increased investment in automation to mitigate costs in the future.

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The elephant in the room 17/01/2018

As with many things that are heavily hyped, there is a lot to unpack in Industry 4.0.

In essence, it’s about the increasingly pervasive use of IT in industry and logistics. This isn’t that interesting in itself. The data generated by this IT is more important. Indeed, the data is in itself, not that important, it is how this data can be used to create insights that will count for businesses.

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, smarter automation, 3D printing etc are also significant. But many expert commentators are emphasising that processes and people are more important than technology.

In essence they warn that technology in itself is limited, so don’t think that a certain new tech, or investment will provide a magic bullet. All good common sense.

There’s also a lot of related issues, such as commodification of hardware, and the continued rise of China as a sophisticated industrial power. All of this means that manufacturers are more likely to need to develop advanced solutions, or software and service extensions, if they want to maintain high-margin globally competitive businesses.

This last point is key. It will be possible for UK manufacturers to ignore the hype and continue as normal. But in the long term it may become impossible to do so without becoming essentially a budget, me-too business.

I think all of this will have an impact on the logistics world. It will bring disruption. The good news is that won’t be on the same scale as the disruption seen by the retail world with the growth of eCommerce, and indeed having gone through a sharp process of profound change in one sector, the logistics world should be ready and able to adapt to new challenges.

We have a Special Report on Modern Manufacturing, see here.

Its another excellent month for innovative product launches. For example, Narrow Aisle’s Warehouse Systems division has launched Flexi Easi-Change – an intelligent forklift truck battery charging and management system. ROI looks particularly attractive on multi-shift operations. For more details click here.

The upcoming IntraLogisteX show is also proving to be a rallying point for product innovation. We have a preview as part of our Connected Supply Chain feature. 

New solutions to the market include an Excel spreadsheet-driven box sorter that is said to be one third the price of an average sortation system. The is a collaboration from Red Ledge and Stockrail International. Red Ledge RedRail is said to sort most items that can be scanned at a rate of 500 to 1,000 boxes an hour.

Also in the January issue look out for a UniCarriers pedestrian pallet truck series with a central tiller arm, and semi-automated order picking trucks equipped with t-mote remote drive from Toyota.

Lastly, 2018 is shaping up to be the biggest and best yet for The Health & Safety Event at the NEC, 10-12 April 2018. The H&SS Safer Logistics Zone will form a key part of the Show, with its own dedicated Exhibitor Zone & Seminar Theatre.

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Simon Duddy is an experienced B2B editor and has worked across a range of titles including Handling & Storage Solutions, Heating & Ventilating News and Arabian Computer News.