James Burman (JB): Why now, more than ever, are we at such a key moment to shift from manual to digital solutions in the warehouse?
Tony Dobson (TD): It’s a very interesting time for warehouses and digital solutions. I think the shift would have happened anyway, but I think it's been accelerated by the lack of labour, and the ability to attract labour in the UK. Digital solutions in warehouses are a must, and we've got to find ways to make the warehouse more efficient without that labour.
JB: Why is it important to have a people-centric approach when it comes to the adoption of new technology in logistics?
TD: People are – as you say – becoming the very centre of the digitalisation process. To give you an example of how true it is, I was at a very large prospect 3PL the other day, and they were more concerned about people than their systems, or anything else for that matter, mainly because of the cultural problems; people still haven't got used to digitalisation.
With the labour shortage, retaining skilled labour becomes more and more difficult. The two owners of the business were saying that their priority is to keep the people that they’ve got, and that meant training them; investing in them. There is a lot of technology coming into logistics, but a lot of these workers see that as a threat. Some of these people they said had been with the business for 20-25 years, and they absolutely couldn't afford to lose them.
The business owners were very worried about technology upsetting them, but I told them that if the warehouse operatives have got a smartphone they can operate, they will be able to get to grips with the software and technology that we’re offering.
JB: What is the relationship between SnapFulfil and Bunzl? How did it come about and why is it such a good fit?
TD: Bunzl went out to market and considered all their options. I think the reason they chose us was because of our ability to adapt. Bunzl is a very acquisitive company, and we're actually dealing with different parts of their business all the time. So, we started off with the catering supply side. They put a team in place in the catering side and started to implement the technology with us, using the digital teaching tools that we've got inside the product. Once the system was configured within that team to their liking, it was already in a position to implement in other areas of their business, saving a fortune in implementation time. SnapFulfil is lightweight and easy to implement, and that really give them a competitive advantage, they thought.