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How is digital innovation changing the logistics landscape?

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Wichy)

As the largest British logistics company, Wincanton is at the heart of the UK’s physical economy, enabling other companies to sell and deliver their goods across Britain. However, our world is rapidly changing, and it’s clear that our lives and workplaces will be vastly different places in the future. With a growing requirement for advanced technology and digital capabilities, workplaces are being transformed, and the logistics industry is no different.

As the world embraces this change, Wincanton is focused on evolving the digital supply chain to enhance the experiences of our customers, with speed and efficiency at the core. In driving this change we are seeking to enable our customers as they seek to continuously build and maintain a competitive advantage in their markets. This allows for not only the best service for our customers, but will also provide us with the same benefits. 

I enjoy working in an industry that is continuously looking to adopt the latest major developments, whether they be robotics or big data analytics. The fast pace of logistics keeps it interesting and engaging, and allows all of us to constantly reassess our environments, and address the next challenges in our path. The logistics sector provides the ideal opportunity to reap the rewards of the always-on digital world in a business context. We are able to use this opportunity to utilise data-driven solutions and intuitive design with a collaborative approach.

Nevertheless, it is paramount to ensure that the logistics industry is correctly positioned to make the most of this rapidly shifting and expanding landscape. New technologies will inspire an entrepreneurial culture, which opens a space for start-ups to put forward disruptive ideas with the potential to redefine the way we work.

New ways of thinking, introduced by innovative new projects, will provide us with the opportunity to develop ideas that push the current boundaries and, as a result, shape our own future. This is the premise of the fast-paced logistics sector that exists in the new economy.

Our future will be one that is based on seamless interactions, a journey that the most successful digital consumer companies are already well practiced in providing. We must adopt a similar mind-set when it comes to developing digital services to the highest possible standard.

For instance, when hiring new employees, their transition should be characterised by a smooth shift from one side of the digital landscape to the other. They must be able to interact with each other at work in ways that are similar to the ones they use in their personal lives.

However, we must recognise that even large and innovative organisations like Wincanton do not possess all of the ideas and expertise internally to make this happen, meaning collaboration is necessary, and indeed welcomed, in order to achieve the best results. By retaining an open and nurturing approach to service improvement, the logistics sector will have the best opportunity to make the most from the resources available to it.

Being proactive

Wincanton has decided to be proactive when it comes to encouraging collaboration, which is demonstrated by the launch of our W² Labs programme earlier this year. W² Labs is an initiative that allows start-ups to pitch their innovative solutions to supply chain challenges, with the opportunity to reach a commercial agreement with Wincanton, and ultimately see their ideas implemented across the business. Their ideas will be scaled up and used within the business where appropriate, in order to increase efficiency, and pass the benefits on to our customers.

We aim to tackle the big issues facing the logistics industry, and as a first step we are focusing our efforts into the following areas:

·         Asset Utilisation – Using physical assets effectively, such as trucks and warehouses. This will allow us to maximise ROI

·         Optimisation of capacity – Ensuring that all space is used, preventing operating with spare space in logistics, whether that be for shippers or road hauliers

·         Connected vehicles – A further increase in vehicle and driver interaction, including autonomous vehicles and platooning, to increase supply chain efficiency and speed.

·         Collection of data – Collating, analysing and utilising data from supply chains to improve efficiency across the company.

·         Wildcard – Brand new and unprompted ideas to improve operations which recognise that logistics is a broad and varied sector. We hope that innovative designers can bring our attention to issues that we may have overlooked.

From the 92 applications we received, spanning 12 countries, 6 start-ups went through to the final stage. Throughout the summer our business experts and key customers worked with the start-ups to allow them to demonstrate their key concepts. They have been able to showcase their ideas to prove how their concepts can have a positive impact on Wincanton as a company and the logistics industry more broadly. We are already excited about the value these organisations could bring to our business and the entire logistics sector.

Technology can be better used to benefit not only us, but our customers, and ultimately the broader logistics sector. We have come a long way since our humble beginnings in the milk industry, becoming the largest British logistics company. To do this, we have always embraced change to help us and our customers succeed.

Innovation is at the heart of Wincanton and we are constantly looking forward to the new and exciting opportunities that the digital economy provides. Ultimately, the evolution of the digital supply chain allows us to constantly seek out the newest technologies to the ultimate benefit of our customers. . The five challenges we have identified are just the beginning, and they indicate how we intend to define the future of the UK logistics industry. 

Marcos Hart, Business Optimisation & Transformation Director, Wincanton (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/Wichy

Marcos Hart is Business Optimisation & Transformation Director at Wincanton.