The UK supply base needs a new shop window
Written by Daniel Ball (pictured, right), Director at Wax Digital
Recently released CBI research (Confederation of British Industry) has suggested that as many as half of UK firms do not see any improvement from the government’s new industrial strategy. Perhaps one of the key oversights of the strategy, and a critical reason why it is failing to resonate with so many businesses, is the lack of holistic visibility that exists into the UK’s total supply potential. The strategy is currently based too much on guesswork and what we need are better tools for visualising the UK supplier landscape, helping reconfigure and reboot the country by showcasing its global supply opportunity.
Potential buyers inside the UK and overseas, not to mention the government itself, do not have a granular view of what is on offer from UK companies. What we need, effectively, is a UK supply catalogue which provides insight into the products and services that UK companies have on offer. Pre-vetted, containing customer reviews of suppliers, this approach would give the necessary visibility into what we’re offering the world in terms of price, variety and quality. Part social network and part online marketplace, it would help UK companies to sell to the global market as well as giving the government vital insights to shape our future industrial strategy. The present state of affairs highlighted by the CBI shows that, as a nation, we need to make more effort to pool and quantify supplier data. This would create an open ‘supply base’ where companies’ products, services, track record and price competitiveness can be showcased and compared easily and from anywhere.
In its report, entitled Raising the Bar, the CBI says that 63 percent of companies did not think the government was strategic in how it used policy and funding levers to underpin UK competitive advantage. It also stated that 60 percent of companies were unclear about what the UK’s industrial strategy is trying to achieve. Again, building the right strategy and policy requires data and insight as its foundation stone. A mass of information exists already, tied up within the sourcing and procurement software systems used by thousands of public and private sector organisations. These fragmented segments of the economy have invested time, money and resource in surveying markets and supply categories, short-listing suppliers, vetting their quality against myriad corporate targets and KPIs and eventually agreeing prices. Imagine the power of this information if it could be pooled into one place. It could potentially hold the key to understanding where the UK can play and win, restoring its position within global supply chains. In my opinion the government should be doing more to urge UK buying organisations to share this data and working with technology experts to build a system that aggregates it all into one place.
Not only would this exercise provide a window into the UK’s supply potential for the government and global buyers, it would also foster and encourage cross-fertilisation of business between UK companies. While offshore supply is an essential part of most supply chains, a single UK supplier database would help to maximise what we, as UK organisations, buy from each other. A large proportion of everything UK businesses purchase is from other UK companies – for example the majority of non-core purchasing in the UK is based on contracts with other UK companies. But pooling supplier data into one system could lead to expansion of domestic markets for many suppliers, encouraging them to buy and sell reciprocally between each other rather than looking overseas. It could be part of creating a stronger national ecosystem of trade.
If the UK was successful in pulling all of this information together, with cloud technology providing the natural platform for making it easily accessible and shareable from anywhere, the UK would be ahead of the game with valuable and market-ready insight into what UK industry has to offer the world. This would enable the government to gain a clearer picture of the UK’s competitiveness and its differentiators other than price – such as quality, service, risk and sustainability – to set a more clearly applied industrial strategy. At the same time it would act as a new shop window to tell the world what they can buy, as well as why they should buy, from the UK.
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.