As you will probably know, the 2016 Annual Logistics Debate, held at Coombe Abbey in Warwickshire, was a resounding success, with many crucial points, novel concepts, and thought-provoking arguments raised over the course of the sunlit, tranquil afternoon. If you did manage to make the debate then firstly thank you for your attendance – its value really is significant and we’re looking forward to seeing you next year on the 6 July 2017 for next year’s Annual Logistics Debate. However, if you unfortunately missed the debate, fear not – here’s a comprehensive rundown of the main topics brought up by our speakers and audience alike;
- Brexit With the UK’s questionable decision to secede from the EU following the referendum results on the 24th of June, Brexit was a huge talking point during the 2016 Annual Logistics Debate. While there were, understandably, a lot of reservations concerning how the supply chain will be effected as a result, Ocean Suzhou’s Yong Wang suggested that Sino-British trade relations might actually improve, now the EU’s rules will no longer be implemented. Due to the unavoidable conjecture that comes with discussing an event that only happened a fortnight prior (and the implications of which won’t become manifest for at least two years) a lot of people’s suggestions culminated in a “wait and see” approach, implying that Brexit could have both positive and negative connotations for the UK logistics industry. Another issue that Mr Wang raised was the dangers inherent in supply chain disruption due to cost factors, a potentially dangerous matter that needs to be addressed immediately as soon as it becomes clear what the logistical implications of Brexit are.
- Collaboration Collaboration, by and large, is failing. The concept first came about from a desire to introduce a new system of strategies between supply chain partners, and although it has worked in seemingly almost isolated incidents, it’s become apparent that one of the main reasons for its failure to take off properly is due to the nebulous terms surrounding the concept – misunderstandings have proved detrimental to collaboration, but it should still be highly valued as an idea, as Dave Howorth (General Mills) noted
“As a branded manufacturer we want our products to be available wherever these consumers want to shop. The trouble is the marketplace is becoming more complex and becoming more fragmented. This means things like having to deliver things to different customers who operate in different ways to traditional retailers, more and different pack formats, and an expectation on service and delivery like never before.”
Dave also suggested that “Collaboration will be a critical priority in the next 12 months and beyond and we need to think of it as a skill, a core supply chain skill, and competency.” Dave noted that driving cost savings has been one of the most prominent problems of collaboration, and as a result will be one of the most important ones to address in the near future.
- Data The question of small data and big data, and the eternal dichotomy between the two, was brought up by Neil Ashworth (Collect+) and Mark Fogerty (Challenge Projects). Ashworth contended that the larger companies still actually had quite a significant amount of trouble collating and making sense of small data, let alone big data, noting that household names such as ADIDAS had struggled to make sense of data, with which Fogerty agreed, remarking that “Even once they get that small data right, applying it, and making decisions from it without the complication of more and more data that maybe makes the picture even more difficult to comprehend.” Like collaboration, the use of big data offers real benefits – it’s getting it right that’s the challenge, and being able to apply it to warehousing, transport optimisation, demographics, and the supply chain itself.
- Demand Driven Material Requirements Planning Mike Gauterin of BT, among others, addressed the importance of DDMRP approaches to the sector, principally regarding inventory, transport optimisation, and warehousing costs. He noted that “We’re using (DDMRP) with routers and set top boxes, and if that works then we’ll roll it out to the whole of BT, and we’re also hosting the European Demand conference in November. Careers in supply chain and logistics are also imperative in terms of generating interest.” Following on from this DDMRP consideration, SCALA’s own Keith Newton remarked that “while there are limits to what anyone can do in their position, if everybody’s doing it together then the overall result will be a lot more effective, and expand the impact of collaboration.”, relating to Dave Howorth’s point earlier. It seems that an optimal supply chain will be the one that strikes a successful, even balance between all these factors. Ian Stansfield of ASDA/Summit Consulting remarked upon the environmental and fiscal concerns of the supply chain as regards to collaboration, stating that “Sustainability is simply good commercial sense” as it saves money, and that the “driving down of supply chain costs will come about due to increased amounts of collaboration”. We have a long way to go, but it will be worth it in the end, as Mike and Keith remarked.
- Education and the Youth Demographic One of the most interesting points raised towards the end of the 2016 Annual Logistics Debate was the idea of how young people are thinking about careers in logistics, and how the industry needs to work harder at providing lucrative and potentially worthwhile careers to the “disaffected” youth, as Mike put it, pointing out that
“We need to stop searching for the perfect individual; in a disaffected youth population it’s crucial that we create career ladders and progression steps within supply chain and within the logistics industry, so concepts like cross-collaboration might be a good platform for this.”
Finally, Yong Wang noted the Chinese equivalency of how supply chain is presented to students/graduates/young people in general. “It’s a challenge in China because a lot of young people don’t want to be involved in the supply chain industry; parents prefer their children to be involved in finance/investment sectors. However, in Suzhou they have a specialised university for supply chain and logistics, so they have to make sure the students are passionate and interested about the topic. The same issues affect people all over the world, and are not nation-centric.”
We hope you can make it next year for our Debate, whether you attended this year or not. See you then!