Brexit Boost for Sustainability and Supply Chain Sectors

Annual Logistics Debate

The SCALA Annual Logistics Debate is now over and we can safely say that it is one of the finest events we’ve hosted, so a huge thanks to our illustrious speakers, sponsors, and delegates for making the Debate such a success. The afternoon took place in the stunning scenery of historic Coombe Abbey in Warwickshire, and was attended by over 100 senior industry professionals to debate what the key supply chain priorities are for businesses over the next twelve months.

SCALA’s Managing Director John Perry commences proceedings

An added thankful acknowledgement is owed to the speakers who doubtless had to rapidly amend what they’d prepared in the wake of Brexit; SCALA Consulting would like to thank Neil Ashworth of Collect +, Tom Schalenbourg of Toyota Material Handling, Ben Farrell of John Lewis, Mike Gauterin of BT Supply Chain, Dave Howorth of General Mills, Ian Stansfield of ASDA/Summit, and Yong Wang of Suzhou Ocean. Keith Newton, a SCALA Senior Partner and Secretary General of CILT International, opened the evening with some interesting views on the EU referendum and voiced the opinion that businesses should now employ a positive mindset. Following on from this was David Grahamslaw’s excellent chairmanship, which allowed for the speakers to engage both each other and the other delegates about a number of paramount issues that have direct logistical implications on the supply chain either already or in the years to come following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Ocean Suzhou’s Yong Wang and SCALA’s Keith Newton
Ocean Suzhou’s Yong Wang and SCALA’s Keith Newton

Without a doubt one of the most enlightening discussions of the afternoon concerning logistics and Brexit came from Yong Wang of Suzhou Ocean, who offered his refreshing Chinese perspective. He noted that the UK is regarded as a bridge between China and Europe, meaning that Brexit may directly interfere with this link. However, he did then go on to explain that the relationship between China and the UK is entering a decidedly ‘Golden Era’ of trade, as a lot of new finance and investment opportunities will emerge as a result of the referendum, as well as the acquiescence of bilateral deals designed to ease trade for products and services, coupled with the rapid growth of China’s FMCG, eCommerce, and automotive sectors which already provides ‘significant new opportunities for the highly respected and mature British supply chain industry’. There are some big opportunities to sell our expertise into a growing and developing marketplace worth £1.2 trillion; SCALA are visiting China again in October to follow up on recent work undertaken there and to hold further discussions, so please let us know if we can assist anyone here during that visit.

Another significant factor was the notion that those involved in supply chain and logistics needed to seriously take the reigns of the post-Brexit economy. Such a large amount of fear and doubt (hardly hindered by the press) has resulted in a nationwide uncertainty concerning trade details, importation, and more; speakers like Mike Gauterin, Keith Newton, and Ian Stansfield urged the audience to overcome their understandable hesitancy and take control of the situation, as the supply chain is one of the things that the EU referendum’s result will have the most drastic impact on.

Ian Stansfield from ASDA/Summit Logistics Consulting
Ian Stansfield from ASDA/Summit Logistics Consulting

Another significant point brought up over the course of the afternoon was an emphasis on customer service. Ben Farrell, Head of Central Operations and Transport at John Lewis, contested that recent instances of changing shopping behaviour forecasts an uplift of 18% for Black Friday in November later this year, whilst Ian Stansfield of ASDA and Summit Logistics noted the rapid change of consumer shopping habits coupled with the growth of eCommerce. Mike Gauterin, MD of BT Supply Chain, offered a logistics-oriented approach to customer service, suggesting improving transparency for forward and reverse logistics and ensuring to deliver with certainty (with some emphasis on improved pace being an option too). Finally, Dave Howorth, Supply Chain Director for General Mills, championed collaboration as a way of overcoming current customer issues, naming it as the priority for supply chains and adding that it’s the supply chain’s responsibility to respond to a more complex and fragmented market, as well as the current main barrier to collaboration is owed to a tactical mindset as opposed to a strategic one, where parties focus on maximising their share of any wins.

BT’s Mike Gauterin and and Ben Farrell of John Lewis
BT’s Mike Gauterin and and Ben Farrell of John Lewis

The idea of collaboration gained traction as the afternoon progressed, as Ben noted collaboration’s opportunities within the John Lewis warehousing and transport network, linking in with Dave’s observation that supply chains are having to handle additional delivery points, additional pack formats, and fit-for-purpose production presentation. Demand Driven supply chain management also enjoyed some animated discussion during the Annual Logistics Debate, with one of Mike’s central points being centred on reducing inventory using the Demand Driven MRP supply chain planning methodology. Combating the issues that the supply chain will face over the next twelve months also required discourse concerning sustainability and the environment, and how each of the speaker’s organisations and companies hoped to ensure that they executed their respective supply chain and logistic strategies in an environmentally agreeable manner. Ian Stansfield noted the growing political pressure to cut emission and number of vehicles in urban areas (and that becoming an environmentally agreeable company was basic economic sense), but most of the discussion stemmed from Toyota Material Handling’s Tom Schalenbourg, who observed a series of separate points surrounding the issue. His main contention was that sustainability is a business opportunity first and foremost (and is one of the 5 points in China’s 5-year development plan), and that the UK is 10 years ahead of the continent on sustainability and has the opportunity to take advantage before continental Europe. He noted that the answers to sustainability will be business driven, not regulatory, and that that will require innovation, as sustainable firms are proven to have better financial performances.
 

tom-schalenbourg
Tom Schalenbourg of TMH

Following on from this was the question of the implementation and managing of big and small data, which was one ofthe major speaking points for Collect +’s MD, Neil Ashworth. Neil argued that small data, contrary to popular belief, is often more valuable than big data, and that the ‘solutions lie not in one $100,000 question, but in 100 $1000 questions’. Data has the power to differentiate supply chains relatively drastically, according to Neil, and especially so now that data is now about insight and will be about foresight, whereas beforehand it was about hindsight.

Delegates cast their votes using a realtime interactive voting system
Delegates cast their votes using a realtime interactive voting system
 Supply chain positioning and careers was one of the persistent themes discussed during the afternoon, but remained as one of the most prominent questions raised. Ben Farrell once again raised some valid arguments concerning this, and noted the supposed centrality of the supply chain as a ‘profession of the future’, set to employ the use of substantial data analysis and robotics. Ian Stansfield made an engaging observation about the ongoing need to educate the UK about the logistics sector (which has a Net Promoter Score of -49), and Mike Gauterin pointed out that supply chain is not a support service and that we need to bring the supply chain experience to the forefront of the customer offer, linking back to Dave Howorth’s point earlier in the debate concerning the main barriers of collaboration.
Dave Howorth and Neil Ashworth
Dave Howorth and Neil Ashworth

The afternoon’s success was owed to these thought-provoking and original speeches, as well as their relevance to contemporary supply chain structuring, so once again we thank all the speakers for their attendance and efforts, their superb organisation and their professionalism. In addition, we hold the debate in association with West Midlands CILT and final thanks go out to our headline sponsors – partners Toyota Materials Handling (Tony Wallis), and also to Autologic (Graham Carter and Andy Parsons) as well as FSDF (Chris Sturman). The Annual Logistics Debate has become one of the highlights of the logistics calendar and the sponsor support is vital for the industry and enabling such wide ranging and topical discussion. We very much hope to see you all again for next year’s Annual Logistics Debate on the 6th of July, 2017.