2013 | What will be the most Significant Development in Supply Chain & Logistics in the Next Ten Years?


This year marked the 10th Anniversary of the esteemed SCALA Annual Logistics Debate which resulted in a remarkable opportunity for industry experts to network and discuss this year’s debate topic:

“What will be the most significant development in Supply Chain & Logistics in the next ten years?”

The debate – supported by Toyota Material Handling and organised in conjunction with West Midlands CILT – was held on a delightfully pleasant summers evening during July, inside the Marquee at the charming Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel. The prestigious evening kicked off with canapés and drinks, not forgetting the vibrant entertainment provided by the jazz band, giving the guests a fantastic networking opportunity in a relaxed environment.

Managing Director of SCALA, John Perry, took to the stage to welcome the guests of the evening and utilised the opportunity to share news of the set up of links with China for 2014 in a new training and development programme. John addressed the success of the annual debates over the past decade which have reflected the growth and success of SCALA. John spoke of the ‘Supply Best Chain Practice Forum’ and the value of collaboration, a theme that was very prevalent during the debate that followed.

The new debate format implemented for this year was led by David Grahamslaw of West Midlands CILT & SCALA Consulting, who successfully encouraged interactive participation and assessed delegate feedback after each of the nine guest speakers addressed what they believed to be future significant developments.

Clare Bottle, National Logistic Manager – LaFarge Tarmac was the first to take to the stage to share her beliefs that by 2023, HS2 could provide increased rail freight capacity for a potential increase in the mass of materials. She touched upon the idea of alternatives to diesel and self-guided vehicles resulting in a much more eco-friendly system including the replacement of coal with biomass which is lighter but significantly bulkier. This ‘just in time’ philosophy was also adopted by Catherine Weetman, Product Implementation Director –  DHL, who went on to discuss the current growth of the consumer class which currently indicates a complete overshoot of the Earth’s capacity.

With the population growth almost doubling in the past forty years, Catherine believes that ‘demand is outstripping supply’ and in the coming years, we will have another three billion people who will be spending their income, meaning the age of cheap energy – or cheap anything – is over. Her potential resolution to the current linear economy is a call for revolution, re-thinking and re-design.

The belief that manufacturers and retailers will look intensely at producing speedier supply chains to drive costs out was held by guest speaker Dave Howarth, Logistics Director – General Mills. He touched on the fixation of values and the challenge suppliers will face in meeting the needs of consumers who not only valued value, but also valued values. Referring to the horsemeat scandal, he acknowledged a loss of consumer trust: “There is significant change, and there will continue to be significant change.” A future challenge, according to Dave, will be in meeting the need for ethical and transparent sources and supply chains.

Neil Ashworth, CEO – Collect+, further substantiated the theme of consumer trends within the debate: “The future is about the consumer, but more importantly, it’s about supply chain professionals coming into the centre of the organisation.” Neil put across his view that the future of the consumer will be great, but less so for the retailer. He went on to proclaim the notion that traditional supply chains that have supported retail over the years will certainly be challenged. Neil believes demand can materialise at multiple different locations, consumers will be selecting products and creating new demand when it suits them – leading to the demand of more responsive and far more agile and flexible approaches. The services offered could be improved by offering accessibility, outstanding service, great products and great people – all underpinned by a solid product journey.

A global perspective was brought to the debate by Keith Newton – CILT International & SCALA, who reiterated the speed of change in the industry. Keith put forward the notion that UK industry professionals have a solid knowledge base and expertise that are valued on a global scale, and that young logistics professionals experienced in integrated supply chains are possibly facing international careers. With Eastern economies set to expand West, world experts on risk management will be of strong desire.

Technological advancement was also a strong theme for the debate. Chris Clowes, Supply Chain Manager – Costa Enterprises, believes that a fundamental change in the way in which we buy IT to service supply chains and logistics will be highly significant, especially with the development of ‘cloud’ software. This view was also upheld by Trever Ashworth, Head of Logistic – Waitrose, who confidently stated that the future of the industry lies with 3D printing, a major innovation that could play a fundamental part in increasing flexibility in services offered in the industry.

‘Soft skills’ are the future of the industry for Jane Burkitt, Senior Supply Chain Director – Pepsico. She disagreed with the view that technology alone will change the world, and doubts that investment in technology is the way forward. It would perhaps be more beneficial to invest in people rather than technology. For Jane, collaboration is key. She predicts a time where collaboration between competitors would be extremely common, and that adopting ‘soft skills’ will form solid industry links.

Chris Chaplin, Head of Implementation – Marks & Spencer, questioned “Does it Matter?” The increasing speed of change is only going to get faster. For Chris, in order to offer a good service, it is about reliability and going the extra mile to offer a personalised service to the consumer. According to Chris, only the agile will succeed.

The interactive and motivating debate left a lot for the senior delegates in attendance to think about. The main sponsor of the evening, Tony Wallis, Sales and Marketing Director, Toyota Material Handling Europe, brought the debate to a close and thanked the guest speakers for contributing to the very vivacious debate.

Post-debate voting saw a considerable increase of votes from delegates regarding consumer behaviours as the most significant development in the future of the industry.

Following the formal debate, the guests of the evening enjoyed a rather delectable hot supper and took this opportunity to network and unwind from the thought-provoking and highly interesting debate. With over 150 senior supply chains and logistics professionals present, the evening was, by far, a success.

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