By Martin Palmer, Commercial Director at Wincanton.


I think we’re fortunate to be living in one of the most exciting times imaginable. Mobile technologies, big data, automation, artificial intelligence; these innovations once thought of as the preserve of science fiction now have the very real potential to disrupt old business models and enhance the way we live, work and do business.

Of course, when it comes to the retail sector, these technologies are already having a significant impact.

The UK internet economy is the largest of the G-20 countries and UK consumers are becoming ever more digitally-savvy. They now expect their engagement with retailers – both instore and online – to be quick, user friendly and tailored to their needs.

As a result, responsive and reliable supply chains are now more imperative than ever.

The good news is that in recent years I’ve seen major technological advancements across the logistics industry, which are helping retailers improve efficiencies, enhance competitiveness and exceed their customers’ expectations.

Innovations in everything from fuel efficiency and enhanced driver training to data capture and data analytics have all changed fundamental aspects of the supply chain for the better.

Logistics providers that struggle to keep up with the pace of change can soon find themselves struggling to meet retailer’s (and their customers’) expectations. That’s why at Wincanton we’re constantly seeking to invest in and adopt new innovations, and ensure we continue to deliver the highest standards of operational excellence and customer service. And we are not alone; a recent Deloitte report on emerging technologies forecast that 70% of companies will use developments such as predictive analytics and wearable technology to support their supply chains by 2020.

For its part, the government has been hugely supportive in helping to create the right conditions for innovation in the logistics sector to take root. Following two new major public policy announcements last month, the pace of change and its impact on both the logistics and retail sectors looks set to truly take off.

Firstly, we’ve all heard about the considerable investment automotive manufacturers are making into the development and introduction of connected and autonomous vehicles. At Wincanton, we see these developments as natural opportunities to further streamline the supply chain for our customers, boost productivity and support the safer, cleaner and more efficient movement of goods around the world. That’s why I was pleased to see the introduction of the Modern Transport Bill in the Queen’s speech.

This legislation aims to reduce red tape around the development of these new technologies, speed up their adoption and put the UK at the forefront of safe technologies in the autonomous vehicles industry.

Perhaps most importantly, it will ensure that appropriate insurance mechanisms are in place to support the roll-out of these new technologies and enable sectors across the economy to begin reaping the benefits they will bring.

Secondly (and crucially), the advancement in technology we are seeing must be underpinned by a knowledgeable and skilled workforce. With that in mind, I’m sure the whole logistics industry welcomed the launch of the Department of Transport’s (DfT) new Motoring Services Strategy (MSS) last month. Our drivers not only power our industry, they play a crucial role in delivering goods and services for our customers that, in turn, power the UK economy.

The MSS will put in place new structures to support talent development including the provision of more resources to all those learning to drive HGVs. It will also offer greater support and flexibility in the way drivers are trained to ensure that the sector can meet future challenges and attract the best people. As a result, UK drivers will be well equipped with the skills they need to truly deliver for 21st century supply chains.

Combined, the Modern Transport Bill and the DfT’s Motoring Services Strategy have the potential to drastically change the supply chain landscape. Thanks to these developments, I think that by collaborating with the logistics sector, retailers can look forward to safer, greener, cheaper, more efficient and, crucially, more productive logistics solutions in the years ahead.

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