The Logistics Point: Warehousing and Fulfilment online conference took place on the 7th of March and was aimed at discussing the industry trends, challenges and opportunities by the industry leaders through presentations and fireside chats. A number of experts presented on their respective topics in the field, with animated exchanges on the topics throughout. The Parcelly team attended the event to learn from the experts, as well as to participate in a fireside chat on the micro-hubs and their future in the sector (Sebastian Steinhauser, CEO & Founder).
Source: The Logistics Point
The conference opened with a presentation by Libby Pritchard, an Associate Director at Backhouse Jones Solicitors, a road transport specialist firm. Libby’s presentation focused on the topic of Clean Air Zones and their effect within the commercial space of logistics. With the increasing concerns about sustainability and governments’ efforts to make cities cleaner, more and more pressure has been placed on the transport logistics sector. Besides the obvious challenges of adapting to the new rules quickly enough, she stressed that “the application of the law isn’t straightforward at all”, hence, many run into issues surrounding clean air zones. Especially, considering that rules vary city by city and the intricate differences can be difficult to navigate. Overall, Libby stressed that although the Clean Air Zones are an important global development and will continue to grow their presence in our lives, it’s vital for governments to consider the effects of the laws on the commercial sector and how the changes will affect transport logistics on a day-to-day basis.
Source: The Logistics Point
The conversation continued with a fireside chat between Sebastian Steinhauser, CEO & Founder of Parcelly and Russell Holmes, Business Development Director at AutoStore. Their conversation focused on different warehousing solutions and their importance for future developments within the logistics industry. Sebastian started off by pointing out that there is a growing presence of technology within the space, important examples of such include on-demand management of stock levels, analytics (replenishment & data), automation (HGVs), wearables and mobile tech. In terms of trends within urban logistics, the increased demand for hyperlocal warehousing and mini hubs is highly evident. Even though they provide less storage capacity, the benefits of being super-geolocalised and the proximity to consumers far outweigh the potential downsides of the solution, especially when they are considered with additions such as predictive tech, automation and faster delivery speeds.
Russell agreed with Sebastian’s outlook, adding to his points that the speed of delivery and scalability are the most important factors for any business within this environment. He highlighted that “most of these solutions will start small and grow with an emphasis on a certain solution depending on the business”. Having robust and scalable systems in place which will provide a seamless customer experience is what will make a difference in the long run.
The conversation then moved on to the specifics of the respective solutions that Sebastian and Russell were presenting. From Sebastian’s perspective, the use of micro-hubs enables us to expand our understanding of what a warehouse is. Within different urban environments, the availability of real estate is different. Hence, we need to broaden our understanding of what can contribute to optimising fulfilment, especially in remote areas or on the contrary, a very densely populated city centre. The ultimate answer to this is that anything with excess space can and should be activated for logistics purposes, so long as it ticks a number of other criteria like being staffed and having sufficient security measures.
When talking about automation, Russell highlighted that it can only happen in two ways, either upstream or downstream. The result of automation will depend on which part of the chain is being automated, but ultimately, the aim is to drive results and see positive change within every part of the business.
The conversation continued with a quick focus on consumers. Russell highlighted that anything customer-facing must be safe to use, as well as incredibly simple, he stressed that any automation must be “robust enough to not fail 99.9% of the time” as it all ultimately comes down to customer experience.
Sebastian agreed that anything consumer-facing must be very easy to use. Besides that, his main point was stressing the standardisation of communication and the accessibility of information. Ideally, there should be no requirement for software downloads or logins; easy access to information on the cloud with certainty and control is key to a seamless customer experience.
The conversation wrapped up with both speakers letting the audience know that they will be attending the in-person iteration of the event on the 21st of March in London. Russell’s talk at the event will be focusing on the top challenges of warehousing and fulfilment operations in 2023 and an insight into how AutoStore can solve them. Sebastian’s talk will be exploring the trends in e-commerce, opportunities and challenges within fulfilment in the current environment and some use cases of how retailers and carriers can tackle those challenges.
Source: The Logistics Point
The conference continued with another fireside chat, this time with Charlie Ford, a cargo bike fleet consultant at Hatat Solutions and Max Wilson, the Founder of Spokesafe – their conversation focused on cargo bikes and the future of that logistics solution.
Max started the conversation by highlighting that cargo bikes are increasingly becoming a preferred way of fulfilment. With more regulations around sustainability, as well as rising demand from consumers for goods to arrive faster, cargo bikes are coming to the forefront of solving these challenges. Charlie continued by referencing the presentation from earlier in the morning about clean air zones - the challenges that relate to moving in city traffic, as well as increasing fees inside the low-emission zones, can be solved by using cargo bikes.
The conversation moved on to discussing facilities that are required to enable the cargo bike solution, Charlie highlighted the importance of repurposing the existing infrastructure in various urban areas. However, Max pointed out that there is a number of challenges to that, especially within the city-centre locations that are not prioritised for logistics, but rather for housing and commercial use.
The speakers then discussed the future of the cargo bike sector. Charlie was quick to point out that many large carriers are looking at and testing the solution, Amazon UK is among those who’re actively engaging with it. Although switching to cargo bikes is not the easiest move for carriers, considering all the factors that are pushing towards the micro-fulfilment, the switch will prove to be a viable long-term investment. Max built on Charlie’s points by noting that viewing cycles as transport rather than sport is still at a very early stage, hence, it may not feel like the switch is justified now. However, having the infrastructure in place for when the change in mindset happens, will put businesses that made that investment well ahead of their competitors who didn’t. Max highlighted that we need to be “making things work for the future that we believe will be an improvement to what we have now”.
To wrap up this fireside chat, Charlie shared that he will also be attending the in-person networking event on the 21st of March. He will be discussing more on setting up and bringing cargo bikes into operation, alongside topics around sourcing, insurance, storage and financing. The presentation will also dive into key insights and trends in that market.
Source: The Logistics Point
The next speaker in the line-up was Jonathan Walker, Head of Cities & Infrastructure Policy at Logistics UK. His presentation focused broadly on the ‘Warehousing and Fulfilment: Opportunities, Challenges & Support’. He started off by emphasising the “major rise in the use of property and transport for logistics - 88% rise in the last decade, 21% within the pandemic timeline”. The demand for warehousing increased dramatically, especially with an emphasis on modern and flexible spaces, with room for automation and carbon-free operations. Unfortunately, in many cases, the warehousing spaces are outdated and require modernisation, which calls for further investment.
Some of the key current issues the industry is facing are the shortage of skills (HGV drivers & key skills like forklift operation), issues around planning and supply (land allocation, local inconsistency & connectivity) and decarbonisation (fleet transition, self-generation & grid access). Jonathan then went on to explore a number of the solutions for these issues, some of them are already running, and some that are achievable in the foreseeable future. To solve the issues of skill shortage there have been multiple initiatives put in place, such as apprenticeship levy reforms and the Generation Logistics campaign. To mitigate planning and supply there have been large-scale reforms in the pipeline such as NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework), as well as greater planning authority awareness and ‘Future of Freight: National Freight Network’. Lastly, to tackle sustainability and decarbonisation businesses will have to look at on-site solutions that feed into their operations, as well as permitted development and good connection support.
Source: The Logistics Point
The last fireside chat of the conference was between Sandra Rothbard, Urban Planner freight consultant at Freight Matters and Simon Rispin, Director and Principal Architect at Smalley Marsey Rispin Architects. This chat focused on the practical side of building warehouses and what that should look like in the future. Sandra highlighted that in the current climate, carriers and retailers will have to be more creative with warehousing space, due to the limitations posed by densely populated city centres and areas that have limited development capabilities. Simon agreed with Sandra and emphasised the need for innovative solutions. Micro-mobility, car parks, and sub-terranean (underground) space are all viable options for warehousing solutions. He further highlighted that the design needs to get smarter in order to get satisfy the needs of modern businesses.
The conversation continued with a major discussion about who should start the process of innovation within the warehousing design space. Sandra noted that government regulations are the most important variable in this conversation. She emphasised that “we need to allow developers to build buildings a certain way and have the transporting infrastructure in place to support that”, spaces such as bike parking, wider bike lanes that can accommodate cargo bikes, and spaces for truck drivers to park overnight. Simon concurred, pointing out that innovation also doesn’t need to be expensive, for example making bike lanes wider is a relatively cost-effective improvement from a government perspective. Furthermore, developers need to start considering the last mile in their projects, for example having an equivalent of concierges in high rises (who accept parcel deliveries for the building) in a form of a micro-hub for urban development. Bringing in key small differences can start a big change is key, yet Simon agrees with Sandra that the major change will have to come from governments and legislative regulations.
And with that, we wrapped up The Logistics Point: Warehousing & Fulfilment online conference. We’ve heard from many industry experts - there were many thought-provoking ideas and visions for the future that is certainly worth considering as we move forward within this ever-evolving industry.
Key quotes of the day:
Sebastian Steinhauser, CEO & Founder, Parcelly: “We need to broaden our understanding of what can contribute to optimising fulfilment, especially in remote areas, or on the contrary, a very densely populated city centre.”
Jonathan Walker, Head of Cities & Infrastructure Policy, Logistics UK: “The demand for warehousing increased dramatically, especially with an emphasis on modern and flexible spaces, with room for automation and carbon-free operations.”
Sandra Rothbard, Urban Planner freight consultant, Freight Matters: “It’s not just about the building design itself, which is still important, but it’s the infrastructure around the cities that has to come from legislation and government initiative”
Overall, we truly enjoyed this year’s The Logistics Point: Warehousing & Logistics online conference, participating as speakers and audience members alongside so many industry leaders. A massive thank you to Nikolay Bozhilov for organising this event!
If you missed us there and would like to arrange a meeting with us, contact