How do you solve a problem like the skills shortage?
Alongside the improvements and additions to infrastructure, the skills shortage remains one of the biggest challenges the logistics industry faces today.
The economy is growing - albeit at a slower pace than anticipated - and with it consumer demand is on the up. Consumer demand is on the up and as is the speed in which consumers expect these services. Over recent years we’ve seen expected delivery time go from 7-10 days to 3-5, to next day, and now many top retailers are offering same day delivery. Yet over the same period, we’ve seen concern rise over an aging professional HGV driver workforce and a shortage of new candidates creating the skills shortage.
These two contrasting strands are painting a mixed picture of the economic climate. On the one hand, we’re seeing an increase in consumer confidence pushing the demand for goods yet, on the other, if the skills shortage fails to keep up the same pace we will inevitably hit a breaking point.
The demand for online shopping is expected to continue rising, but firms are at risk of being left behind if they fail to tackle skills shortage. Now the onus is on all of us to address it before we hit breaking point.
The UK offers one of the most advanced logistics industry in the world. Technology and innovation are driving the sector forwards but we are neglecting the very foundations that it is built on: a competent workforce. Certainly, Government could be doing more to help the industry by way of investing in infrastructure and introducing targeted actions to address the skills shortage, but companies cannot bypass their duty. And responsibility to change this lies with every business across the supply chain. There’s lots of effort being made and we should maintain momentum.
As workforce suppliers to the sector we are very much intertwined in this issue that is stretching the industry. Particularly, we have monitored an increasing disparity in the levels of qualified HGV drivers; in recent months, we have seen an increase in demand from our client base but at the same time we are getting fewer qualified HGV drivers on our books. The demand from our clients will not decrease so we need to start looking at ways to bring in more qualified drivers to match the demand.
At Transline, we have launched open days to retrain drivers and introduce candidates to a new career path. Employment opportunities off the back of these training days are often offered and bit by bit we are seeing workers return to and join the industry. But more must be done to bring new recruits to logistics.
Apprenticeships, education and training all need to lie at the heart of any push for progression. We need to be prepared to invest in training. If we look to invest in new recruits, not only will we be setting them up a stable career path in an industry on the up, but as a sector we will make progression towards tackling the skills shortage.
Now is the time for us to sow generously in attracting, training and retaining candidates and we will reap the benefits for years to come.
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FedEx is Reshaping Last Mile with Autonomous Vehicles
FedEx is embarking on an expanded test of autonomous, driver-less delivery vehicles to develop its last-mile logistics.
The US logistics firm piloted autonomous vehicles from Nuro in April this year, and the pair will now explore that further in a multi-year partnership. Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partnerships, said the collaboration "will enable innovative, industry-first product offerings that will better everyday life and help make communities safer and greener".
FedEx will explore a variety of on-road use cases for the autonomous fleet, including multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries, going beyond more traditional applications of the technology in single-route movement of goods from A-B. Exponential growth in ecommerce is spurring its broader experimentation in new autonomy solutions, Fed-Ex says, both in-warehouse and on-road.
“FedEx was built on innovation, and it continues to be an integral part of our culture and business strategy,” said Rebecca Yeung, Vice President, Advanced Technology and Innovation, FedEx Corporation. “We are excited to collaborate with an industry leader like Nuro as we continue to explore the use of autonomous technologies within our operations.”
The changing role of couriers
Unlike structured delivery networks, operating under long-term partnerships and contracts, agility is where couriers deliver true value - and their ability to deftly solve last-mile fulfilment has most acutely been felt during the pandemic. For the billions of people around the world forced to stay at home to protect themselves and their communities from the spreading COVID-19 virus, couriers have been a constant. They may have been the only knock at the door some people experienced for weeks or months at a time.
But the last-mile has been uprooted by a boom in ecommerce, a shift that has been most apparent in the UK, US, China and Japan, according to the Global Parcel Delivery Market Insight Report 2021 by Apex Insight. These are markets with dominant economies and populations used to running their lives with a tap of a screen or double-click of a mouse.
“Getting last mile delivery right has long been a challenge for retailers,” says Kees Jacobs, Vice President, Consumer Goods and Retail at Capgemini. “In 2019, 97% of retail organisations felt their last-mile delivery models were not sustainable for full-scale implementation across all locations. Despite increasing demand from customers, companies were struggling to make the last mile profitable and efficient.”
Jacobs says that the pandemic alleviated some of these stresses in the short term. With no other option, consumers were understanding and tolerant, if not entirely happy, with longer delivery times and less transparent tracking. “But, as extremely high delivery demand continues to be normal, customers will expect brands to contract their delivery times,” he adds.
Last mile's role in ESG
Demand and volume weren’t the only things that have changed during the pandemic - businesses looked closer to home and as a result became more sustainable. Bricks and mortar stores were transformed from mini-showrooms to quasi-fulfilment centres. Online retailers and other businesses sought local solutions to ship more faster. In densely populated London, UK alone, Accenture found that delivery van emissions dropped by 17%, while Chicago, USA and Sydney, Australia saw similar emissions savings.