From the likely impacts of Brexit, new regulations and labour shortages through to online retail and real estate, 25 expert speakers pulled no punches on the key issues affecting the logistics industry over UKWA’s two-day National Conference, held in Chesterfield last week.
120 delegates heard directly from HMRC about the potential options for new Customs processes post Brexit and harsh penalties for those not complying with the new Fulfilment House Due Diligence Scheme, due to come into force at the beginning of April this year.
On behalf of HMRC’s EU Exit Policy team Tom Parry Jones declared he was ‘here to listen’ to conference delegates, but was told by Barbara Scott, founder of Customs Associates and a UKWA special advisor, that two years was simply not enough time for businesses to adapt to the post-Brexit world.
In a live poll at the conference, 52% of delegates said they were ‘as ready as they could be’ for Brexit, with 23% saying they were ‘not at all prepared’.
Savills’ Director of Research Kevin Mofid told conference that 2018 has seen the best ever quarter for take up of space, but that it remains a landlord’s market. He said with only 6.5% vacancy nationwide and 3% in London, property developers were failing to react to market demand, while global investors are taking advantage of weak pound and are snapping up available real estate.
Mr.Mofid also identified a shift of focus for new warehousing, with big operators looking north and east to be close to available labour markets and a requirement for proximity to the national grid to meet the huge energy requirements of major fulfilment facilities. ‘Online retailing has changed everything’ he said.
Conference delegates were first to receive the results of CBRE’s recent national survey into occupier attitudes from Andrew Marston, Director Research UK at CBRE and heard from Lynn Parnell of Logistics Partners on the importance of benchmarking to building an adaptable business ready to cope with the challenges of the future.
Tim Ward of award winning architects Chetwoods shared his vision for the potential Warehouse of the Future and presented the company’s proposal for transforming London’s longest brownfield site, a little-known underground Postal Railway known as the WELL-line, into a logistics supply line to serve the city.
After the conference networking dinner, guests were entertained by anecdotes and recollections from guest speaker John Harvey, highly respected veteran of the logistics industry whose seminal contribution was to lead the intercontinental logistics service provider Tibbett & Britten Group plc during a 20-year period of diversification and growth. A passionate supporter of TransAid, UKWA’s chosen charity, Mr Harvey was delighted with the generosity of delegates, who raised over £600 and the association who added a further £500.
On day two of the conference, John Munnelly announced latest figures from John Lewis Partnership, which showed a format change shift to 40% online. He said that while the future shape of logistics was still to be defined, predictions suggested the high street/online split would be 50:50 by 2020 .
Lucas Dawe, Commercial Director at Gist brought a perspective from the food retail and food services sector, describing the ‘tyranny of scale’ that has made it difficult to make money in the wholesaling sector and looked at the potential reasons behind the recent KFC debacle.
He said that Ocado had changed the game in food home delivery, recognising the opportunity in the UK for high drop density in wealthy population areas with a high degree of centralised food shopping.
Mentor and Logistics Learning Alliance both called for investment in training and staff development to combat skills shortages and high workplace churn in the industry. Stuart Taylor of Mentor said that training improves productivity and raises morale as well as reducing costs associated with accidents and damage, while Peter Jones highlighted the growing success of the UKWA Warehousing Manager and Supervisor CPC courses in helping set national standards across the sector.
The final session of the conference was on the use of technology, introduced by Mark Thornton of Maginus, who picked up on some key themes of UKWA’s Adivosry Boards, stating that the smart logistics operators are adopting new technologies and dispelling the myth that automation is the exclusive preserve of the big players; suppliers were reminded of the need to deliver affordable and portable solutions.
Summarising the event, UKWA CEO Peter Ward said that the conference had been intense, informative and exciting, with interactive technology enabling live polls and questions to be posed by delegates to speakers throughout presentations.
“We have identified many of the challenges and issues we are facing as an industry, discussed opportunities and considered potential solutions” he said. “This year’s theme ‘Adapting for success in an unpredictable world’ was well received by delegates and comprehensively addressed by our expert speakers.
I’m proud of the UKWA’s contemporary approach and current direction. Increasingly this association is facilitating vital knowledge transfer, sharing best-practice and driving the dialogue between our industry and those influencing the policies that will affect all of our lives for many years to come.”