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The Death of the High Street – What does it mean for Logistics?

The high street has long been a staple of British culture; rows of shops from high-end department stores to family-run businesses have historically formed the hub of local communities and created bustling cities, but today, shops are closing down at an alarming rate as many consumers turn to online shopping. As a result, the high street aesthetic differs dramatically to how it used to, with square metres upon square metres of empty space occupying a shell that used to house popular retailers.

The disparity between today’s high street image and that of ten years ago is so extreme that many experts are predicting it will diminish entirely – the ‘Death of the High Street’, as they call it. Whilst the high street has brought significant business for the logistics industry for many years now, how will the closure of physical shops affect the sector? Some claim that logistics will be unaffected; whilst shops are closing, people are still shopping – just not in store – and therefore mass delivery of goods is still a necessity. Other experts however, fear that the extreme growth in the popularity of online shopping will bring with it an even greater pressure and demand than that already experienced by the logistics industry – whilst driver shortage is the current, prominent worry, warehousing space and turnaround efficiency could also become a concern. So, with this comes the topic of this post and the critical question; how can both traders and logistic companies continue to operate efficientlyand profitably during the death of the high street?

According to ParcelHero, by 2030, half of (approximately 100,000) physical stores will be obsolete. Whether such businesses will disappear completely is an entirely different matter – it is likely that some will exist in the online sphere only, whilst many others may struggle to recover from the financial hit. Experts claim that by 2030, e-commerce sales will account for 40% of all consumer to retailer transactions, although the figures are already high – TextLocal reports that almost 80% of people report having used their mobile phones for online shopping at some point, with over 20% doing so at least once a day.

Whilst this is excellent news as it signals the strength of our developing networks and technologies, for the logistics industry it brings a growing pressure, and not just in terms of delivery. Whilst the driver shortage and uncertain future of EU workers certainly raises concerns – as we have explored before – there is an additional, pressing problem: warehouse space. Researchers from the BBC claim that demands for warehouse space have risen due to the growing popularity of online shopping, with demand doubling over the past ten years. The total purchased/leased warehousing space across the UK now mirrors the dimensions of 3,000 Wembley Stadiums, with 60% being used by retailers. A decade ago, they accounted for just 1/3 of the space. In correlation with this has come rise in warehouse rental prices. So in addition to the sector’s aim to maximise and organise warehouse space to optimise deliveries and cater for the digital changes, for some, financial worries are present, particularly for smaller businesses.

At this point, the path to overcoming these issues is not black and white. Truthfully, it may take a number of years to calculate the perfect formula, and trial and error may become commonplace. Although digital shopping has been around for years now, its popularity has never been greater, and so it will take time to find the right balance that suits each individual logistics operator and their unique demand. In the meantime, there are a number of aspects that need to be prioritised to maximise smooth-running: cost, warehouse location, space, machinery needs, monitoring systems, staff and fleet size. Should all these be considered, it’s entirely possible that current warehousing concerns can be lessened, but as we say, we expect that a key factor amongst these priorities is time and simply exercising various methods until all boxes are ticked.

In many ways, the ‘Death of the High Street’ is a sad mark for British culture. Of course digitalisation has its strengths and its growth is certainly reflective of its usefulness to business; both national and global connectivity is readily available at the touch of a button, expanding potential demographics and offering wider profit opportunities, but as the industry has worked alongside retailers and their stores since shopping became such a prominent feature of our society, it is saddening to see many closing their doors permanently. Here at Barnes, we therefore think it’s important to adopt a positive perspective on this by seeing it as a new ‘era’. The online movement does not alter the necessity of the logistics industry for UK retailers, it just changes the dynamics somewhat, and in a time when the number of drivers is already worrying, it can be frustrating that the sector is faced with an additional concern. But, as with the driver shortage and Brexit, we’re confident that the industry will remain vigilant and resilient in the face of warehousing concerns and that the perfect formula will be found in no time.

If you’re a business in need of warehousing space, we are able to help as we have over 50,000sq feet of secure storage. To find out more about our facilities and to get in touch, click here.

Why is There No National Logistics Day?

August has long been known as ‘silly season’; this month alone we have seen National Afternoon Tea Week, National Left-Handed Day, National Prosecco Day and National Dog Day. Despite the seemingly arbitrary nature of such days, they have become a daily commonality, so much so that the media has now passed comment; Radio 1 recently took to doubting the necessity of having days dedicated to somewhat ridiculous causes – if they can be defined as a ‘cause’ that is. In reality, national days are little more than a marketing ploy. Admittedly, the marketing invention has proven undeniably successful, although perhaps most frustratingly it seems to be more successful for the bizarre national days rather than those that are truly in need of awareness, such as those that recognise illnesses or socio-economic issues. However, this got us thinking that there were perhaps issues and industries that are not allocated an awareness day, despite being arguably more important than the likes of ‘National Lazy Day’. There are various occupations and sectors that are vital to the UK economy and yet receive very little recognition, so here at Barnes we delve deeper into the question that, in our opinion, bares no rational answer – why is there is no National Logistics Day?

In recent months, we have expressed a belief that often, consumers are unaware of the process that brings the deliveries to their doorsteps and items to their local shops. Whilst a national day celebrating this process may help to bring about greater awareness, it also opens up an opportunity for what we would consider to be more significant still; it would allow for companies, industry bodies and the general public to celebrate the people behind logistics. It is vital to remember that although the supply chain process needs to be considered when making purchases, behind the packing, warehouse stocking and truck driving is a human being who is dedicated to providing a much-needed service. And with pressure mounting in the midst of a driver shortage crisis and the risk to businesses of losing employees due to Brexit, a National Day in which the nation and employers could come together may just be what is needed to remind logistics employees why their dedication matters, and could help towards boosting the industry’s image by promoting it as a brilliant career path that values their own.

The Road Haulage Association has made progress towards a day of this kind; for the past four years the industry body has hosted a ‘National Lorry Week’ in September. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, it places emphasis on the machinery as opposed to those who operate it. Additionally, it only promotes a narrow view of the logistics industry – whilst we appreciate that the RHA is a supporting body for road transport operators, the campaign leaves warehousing and storage specialists out of the celebration. A ‘National Logistics Day’ on the other hand would offer greater inclusivity of the entire supply chain.

Here at Barnes, we are always actively campaigning on behalf of logistic employees, from ensuring that all their rights are addressed to supporting workplace wellbeing. Under the umbrella term of wellbeing falls appreciation, as it truly does affect individual welfare. To address the concerns raised within this piece, we propose that National Lorry Week is combined with National Logistics Day, for even if these events go unrecognised to the general public, receiving acknowledgement from employers will boost morale, motivation and commitment. With persistence, this movement has the capability to achieve public attention which would subsequently aid the driver shortage and influence the consumer behaviour which has become so dependent on the supply chain. We argue that a day celebrating the supply chain has only positive outcomes.

With National Lorry Week just three weeks away, the opportunity to incorporate a wider element is there. Let us know how you plan on recognising your employers by dropping us a Tweet.

Encouraging a Female Future

Having just celebrated International Women’s Day this month and following the recent news of the partnership between The Women in Logistics UK group (WiL) and The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), here at Barnes, we felt that it was an appropriate moment to comment on the current gendered state of affairs within the industry. We are, like many other logistic professionals, confident in stating that the industry is male lead – but whilst we are confident on this matter, we are also disheartened by it, and it is in this piece that we hope to not only raise awareness of the gender disproportion but to ask why this disappointing disparity exists.

As the joint venture between The Women in Logistics UK group and The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport was announced, the industry as a whole felt a movement of progression. The partnership, which came into effect on the 1st March, is significant as it allows greater opportunities for women to access support, whilst also allowing them a platform to confidently and safely discuss the issues and challenges that they face in both recruitment and retention. In addition to this, to create an encouraging ambience to the sector, the two bodies hope for it to also be a space to engage, motivate and inspire past, present and future female logistic talents.

Whilst this is a step forward, the road to equality within logistics still stretches ahead, and it is up to us and our industry peers to host conversations that aim to discover how we can continue the journey to a better, and more equal, working environment. In 2013, The Guardian reported that although the transport and logistics sector boasts an employee count of 1.5m, women make up less than a quarter of these numbers. Upon investigation, they offer a plausible proposal as to why; one which we fear may be the reality: poor perceptions.

Despite 2018 being marked as ‘The Year of the Woman’ – a reflection of the progression in the 100 years since women gained the right to vote and a reminder that there is still a way to go – it is thought that many women believe there to be (and have experienced) a glass ceiling within logistics. Whatever gender you may identify as, it is vital to understand and this perspective and the limitations it may pose. On a daily basis, if you deemed the working environment to be overruled by the projection of male stereotype narratives –  “heavy labour is a man’s work” – which lead to suspicions of restrictions in terms of growth, promotions and salaries – why would you enter such an industry?

Jennifer Swain, a logistic and supply chain recruitment expert, offered a thought-provoking piece on LinkedIn, whereby she discussed the reality of female enthusiasm to join the industry in the first instance. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, she had only interviewed three women for logistical positions in seven months; and although this is the experience of a singular company, we suspect that the numbers may not be all that different for other businesses within the industry.

With the key issues identified, the next steps are to tackle them. The WiL and CILT partnership is a fantastic place to start, but we all need to offer the body support by playing our part. To do this, we cannot emphasise the importance of speaking to those affected enough; reach out to your female employees and peers, provide them with a safe space and ask them for an honest conversation on their motivations, challenges, and the ways in which they might feel restricted. Then put these comments into action – address the points raised by continually working together and fighting to improve the working environment for all employees. Once these practices become common place within the logistic and transport industry, the sector will undoubtedly better promote itself – although this is not to say that marketing efforts will not need to be executed in order to reach a greater number of people.

Here at Barnes, we strive for an equal and motivating work space for employees of all genders. As we have commented before, we operate an open-door policy, and we welcome all our colleagues to discuss any matters, regardless of the topic, with us.

If you have any thoughts that you would like to share with us on gender equality within the transport and logistics industry, please get in contact with us via our website or Twitter page.

AI: Robots in the Warehouse

As the technological world continues to progress in leaps and bounds, there’s no doubt that all sectors and industries have felt the presence of modern automation affecting and shaping the workplace year on year. Arguably one of the most advanced but controversial technologies is Artificial Intelligence – but what price must we pay for this progress?

So what exactly is AI? When asked, many minds spring to the thought of human-like machines with the capacity for human intelligence and logic, but governed ultimately by human restrictions. This, in essence, is AI – but we’re not talking about human-shaped robots here! Artificial Intelligence is a mechanical system created by humans built with certain rules which allow them to perform tasks which normally require human intellect – such as visual perception and decision making through data-driven learning experience. The popular ‘Siri’ feature on iPhones is an excellent example – an intelligent application which interprets and processes spoken language requests.

The next question is how AI can be applied to the logistics industry. Put simply, AI can work in the supply chain sector by becoming a predictor. By analysing data and looking at past patterns and a variety of intelligence-lead processes, the technology can forecast load and demand to highlight the most efficient route in the supply chain for the future. Whether this is looking at stock levels, health and safety investments or warehouse security, the more data that is fed into the self-learning system, the more accurate the predictions will be – meaning that an investment into AI will only become more and more worthwhile as time goes on.

We have already seen the beginnings of the application of AI in our industry with the date set for the trialling of self-driving HGVs. With smart technology that allows trucks to ‘platoon’ one behind the other but brake suddenly in the event of an incident, trained technology allows these vehicles to run their route without the aid of human drivers. Of course, as we have discussed in our previous blogs, such technology is not perfect – the rules of the road are complex, and human intuition is unmatched in preventing (as opposed to responding to) accidents.

Therefore, here at Barnes we cannot help but wonder if there may be some pitfalls to the promises of using AI in the warehouse. The most glaring issues manifest themselves quite simply into two categories: finances and the workforce. Firstly, although AI does promise to bring rewards in the form of increased profits, there is no denying that the technology is a hefty investment. AI specialists must analyse your business to integrate and implement the highly specialist systems – this is not something which comes cheaply. Secondly, we believe when discussing and taking advantage of advancing technology, business leaders must always think of the human impact. Yes, success comes with a flourishing business and growing top lines – but with success comes responsibility. We pride ourselves on providing excellent employment opportunities in the local area, and if any form of AI threatened to make human workers redundant, it should not be a decision made lightly – no matter the potential savings.

In sum, there is no denying that technology must be embraced by logistics businesses in order to move forward and provide the best levels of efficiency and, in turn, customer service. But we must always remember that our roles are more than looking at profit margins – when integrating new technologies, we must ensure that we see the lowest impact on our human workforce as possible. What do you think? If you’d like to share your thoughts on the subject of AI in the warehouse, head over to our Twitter or LinkedIn page and join the debate.

Barnes Logistics Scoops Another Award

We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded the prestigious title of Industry Insight Monthly’s ‘Best Logistics & Warehouse Company – UK’ in the Transport and Logistics Awards 2017. After thorough research from their team of expert judges, Barnes Logistics came out on top as the best business which goes out of its way to deliver first class service.

 

The wealth and depth of Barnes Logistics’ knowledge, expertise and experience were key in securing the win, as well as our investment in new state of the art warehousing facilities. Our commitment to keeping updated with the latest technologies to ensure the safety of all road users, and our friendly, open and supportive working environment were also highlighted as key factors.

 

Chris Barnes, MD of Barnes Logistics, comments: “We’re incredibly proud of the quality of services which we can offer our customers, so to be recognised by industry leaders is marvellous! It’s great to also be able to share our successes with the whole team, we wouldn’t have been able to win without the top efforts of each and every Barnes team member.”

 

You can read all about why Industry Insights Monthly felt we deserved our accolade in their article on the company below:

Transport & Logistics 2017 - Winners

 

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