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Sustainability at IMHX Connect

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In the next in a series of columns sponsored by Continental, SHD takes a look at some of the sustainable trends and initiatives from across the industry, as featured at this year's IMHX Connect.

Kim van der Weijde, Program Manager at Transaid, discussed how improving access to transport has enhanced wellbeing, health education and livelihood in developing countries.  

Van der Weijde described the Enterprise Box model, formed in Madagascar: quality second-hand bicycles are shipped by international partners to e-boxes set up in rural communities. Local volunteers become part of the team, from management to sales and event bicycle maintenance. To date, over 6,500 bicycles have been received and the e-boxes have consistently sold almost their entire stock. She highlighted several benefits, including an increased ability to maintain an emergency transport system and increased transport affordability. 

The Zambia scheme which Transaid has launched concerns the introduction of bicycle ambulances. These crucial transport solutions strengthen links between rural families and healthcare facilities: since 2017, over 4,000 children with early signs of malaria have been transported, and severe case mortality has dropped by 71%. In districts with community mobilisation around the emergency transport system, overall health is better and women feel more empowered to make decisions related to healthcare. 


Professor Richard Wilding, Supply Chain Strategy at Cranfield University, described the challenges of a more complex and unpredictable world. He emphasised how supply chain strategy is rooted in delivering value to a particular market, and that those working in corporate and competitive strategy have a need to work closely with their supply chain counterparts to increase efficiency.  

Wilding identified the focal points of the bimodal supply chain: mode one focuses on predictability and ‘lean’ operations while mode two focuses on exploration and agility. Prior to the pandemic, 80% of the supply chain was operating in mode one, whereas now the tables have turned. The challenges lie in managing both modes simultaneously while coping with the majority of operations in mode two. 

Pointing to the ‘Supply Chain 4.0’ model of 2019, Wilding correctly identified several areas for growth, including autonomous vehicles, remote-working technology and collaborative robotics. The pandemic created a fire underneath these areas: processes which should have taken five years to implement were complete in five months, and in some cases, five weeks. The costs associated with deploying these processes dropped dramatically as a result. 

Wilding emphasised the importance of committing to net-zero projects as early as possible. He highlighted nine components of Supply Chain 4.0: system integration, Big Data & analytics, simulation and virtualisation, IoT, cloud computing, cybersecurity, autonomous systems, augmented reality, and additive manufacturing. These nine areas are the crucial building blocks for building a supply chain ready for the challenges of the future. 

With some supermarket shelves becoming increasingly bare, Tom Southall, Policy Director at the Cold Chain Federation, discussed the crises which have affected the UK’s cold chain. He began by addressing the 5-year Brexit saga: since the vote in 2016, the UK have experienced five cliff-edge deals in the last two years. This has resulted in shortages in both staff and produce.  

The second crisis which Southall identified was the pandemic. While online retailers thrived, stockpiling caused supermarkets to demand more product. The hospitality industry collapsed, though the Eat Out To Help Out Scheme gave it a much needed boost in August 2020. The surge in online delivery saw £1.5bn spent on online groceries in February 2021, giving it a record-breaking 17% market share. Additionally, food delivery service Just Eat reported sales soared by 54% in 2020. 

If staff shortages weren’t difficult enough to contend with, the ‘pingdemic’ kept employees out of work, said Southall. Even with wages going up drastically to lure in new workers, the dual crises of Brexit and the pandemic mean that there is no easy solution to this. 

Southall acknowledged the climate crisis and the role the cold chain plays in it. He explained that while significant levels of CO2 are generated from buildings and vehicles, cold stores are vital in reducing post-harvest food losses. He pointed to the Cold Chain Federation’s net-zero project to support its members in working towards a low carbon future.  


Answering questions on the newly-formed UKMHA, Tim Waples, Chief Executive, explained that the joint venture between BITA and FLTA had been on the table for many years. They recognised the value in consolidation, for example, through shared networking events, and recently decided the time was right to formalise these arrangements. He considers the UKMHA a knowledge hub, providing a framework to share the experience of both organisations which in turns offers a stronger service package to its members. 

Waples identified the ongoing staff shortage as an area where UKMHA has been supporting its members. By putting employers in touch with accredited training companies for HGV drivers, supervisors and managers, UKMHA ensures the employers meet the legal standards of compliance. He also suggested that members who have been struggling through the Brexit turmoil can access a tax advice service for VAT issues, such as whether they are obligated to pay taxes on temporary exports. 

The key to solving safety issues in the warehouse are ensuring supervisors are trained and competent, according to Waples, and he suggests that employees who have taken relevant accredited training courses can positively impact behaviour of drivers and bystanders. Another recommendation was to prevent as many incidents as possible by carrying out regular risk assessments and to take the relevant action to mitigate identified hazards. 

Amelia Dales, Commercial Director of Garcon Wines, drew attention to the climate crisis and the role that the supply chain plays in emissions. Wine is traditionally sourced from across the world, however between 56-86% of suitable wine grape growing regions could be lost at a global temperature rise of between 2-4 degrees Celsius. Dales illustrated this by stating that in recent years, wildfires in France, Australia and California have devastated vineyards. She examined the role that the wine industry have to play, and found the key culprit of the carbon footprint of wine is transport and packaging, accounting for between 50-68% of emissions. 


With almost a quarter of shipping containers empty at any given time, 122m tonnes of CO2 is emitted every year by shipping empty space. The bottle manufactured by Garcon Wines is a cross section of a traditional wine bottle, made from 100% recycled PET. Not only does this make the bottle 87% lighter and significantly more robust, but recycled PET is the best scalable solution for packaging and results in lower greenhouse gas emissions.  

Simon Houghton, Head of Sales & Marketing at Geek+, was keen to highlight the benefits of integrating AMRs into warehouse operations. He showed that the picking process was three times as efficient than manual picking, and the utilisation of storage space increased efficiency by up to 30% with the option for multi-floor integration.  

Houghton showcased Geek+’s floor-based sorting application, FleetSort, which provides flexibility and sorting efficiency to warehouse operations. The solution was deployed at ASDA’s South Elmsall warehouse, and the system was designed to only operate robots while they are carrying parcels, to reduce energy usage and cut emissions. The operation employs sixty conveyor top robots, with an induction system which requires very little tactile from the operator. The system sorts 2000 parcels per hour to 34 destination locations, and has lowered labour costs and intensity by around 70%. 

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