Jan 15, 2021

Nike’s Really Done It- Inspiring Sustainability

supply chain agility
Laura V. Garcia
4 min
Nike running shoe
We speak to Eric Sprunk, Nike Chief Operating Officer about their inspiringly sustainable 1.5-Million-Sq-Ft Logistics Campus in Ham, Belgium...

Net-Zero is the goal, and Nike’s really chasing it. Once chastised for it’s dirty behaviour in Greenpeace’s “Dirty Laundry” report, Nike has since been working hard to clean up it’s act.

We would expect no different from the company who’s slogan has inspired us all for decades to “Just Do It.” Although the slogan has a more sinister story than one would expect, I don’t think many would argue that it’s perhaps one of the most endeared slogans of our time.

Supply Chain Digital sat down with Erik Sprunk, Nike’s Chief Operating Officer to talk about their new inspiringly sustainable 1.5-million-square-foot distribution center designed to decrease carbon footprint while increasing supply chain agility. The new distribution center underscores Nike’s continued commitment to increasing responsiveness through a fast and flexible supply chain so they can provide optimum service to the millions of customers across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, sustainably.

It’s an impressive feat. Let’s find out more...

The Nike Logistics Campus is at the pinnacle of sustainability, at this point. Why did the company feel the need to push forward that initiative, and are there any further developments in the pipeline?

“Our European Operations Leadership team felt very strongly we should have sustainability at the forefront of these investments. They were very compelling and we had established a great foundation with the windmills from the very beginning of our investments in Belgium we could build from. I believe that solving for sustainability is an incredible catalyst for innovation and it drives you to solutions you would not get without solving for sustainability.”

“This is the case with the ELC; it is one of the most innovative facilities in the world - not just one of the most innovative. And we proved to ourselves and the world you can make significant capital investments while solving for sustainability without increasing your overall costs. Until we started doing this everybody ‘assumed’ sustainable solutions were always more expensive. They are not. They just need to be planned for at the very beginning.”

What are your personal favourite facts and figures about the Campus?

“We built a facility that can fulfil an order for one unit with the same effectiveness and efficiency as we can an order of 10,000. Really incredible. And the facility is completely run on 5 renewable power sources. That is equally incredible.”

Are ‘green warehouses’ something that we’ll see popping up across the globe, going forward, or do you expect them to evolve into something completely different through innovation?

“I think you will continue to see different access to renewable energy around the world in different forms so what makes logistics centres ‘green’ will vary but every company will need to do this and will be able to do it from a cost perspective. They just need to prioritize it. Consumers also demand it and those who don’t prioritize sustainability will feel the effects from their consumers.”

Can you tell me a little bit about the digital transformation that Nike has undergone at the Logistics Campus, and elaborate on your favourite technological influence on daily operations at the site?

“The highest growth of the Nike business - and most consumer products companies - is the digital commerce business. That might come from .com sites, apps and other digital platforms. It changes the order profile completely and it requires a much more agile supply chain. Supply chains have been built the past 50 years based on batching orders, batching manufacturing, batching storage and batching fulfilment.”

“That all changes and technology and data are required to drive this change. All of this is built into the ELC - hence the ability to ship an order of 1 as easily as an order 10,000. And, their use of robotic process automation makes decision making on things from what transport to use to fulfil an order; what inventory to pull it from; whether to consolidate on the ELC campus or offsite; increasing the speed of order processing to get the order into the fulfilment centre quicker and a host of other examples all drive the facility.”

Now that’s agility.  

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Jun 13, 2021

Engineering skills gap challenges UK electric vehicle market

Yvonne Paige-Stimson, Global P...
5 min
Yvonne Paige-Stimson, Global Projects Director at Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence on how the engineering skills gap is challenging the UK’s EV market

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are hurrying to design and develop electric vehicles to meet the evolving regulatory deadlines. The race to do so while meeting the high consumer expectations for new products is an immense challenge – exacerbated by a shortage of key engineering skills in many national workforces.

The emergence of new engineering skillsets and capabilities needed for new automotive product introduction risks hindering the move to electrification. If unresolved this could result in failure to meet their fleet CO2 targets set for the coming decade – including the ban of all petrol and diesel car sales in the UK by 2030.

The technological transformation of cars into computers – powered by electric batteries – has created demand for a parallel transformation of the automotive engineering workforce, and a pressing requirement for new skills in software and battery engineering.

The skills of the moment

There is a huge and growing need for tech talent. In the UK alone, programming and software development jobs are growing 7.3% on average every year, and these tech roles are amongst the most in-demand jobs. Design and development engineers from either the mechanical or electronic domain, who can also programme, are the new trend. The car of the future relies heavily on programming languages such as SQL, Java, C++, and Python for development of their embedded systems and tools used in their validation. The most highly sought-after talents are those individuals who have blended to become a multi-disciplined hybrid of several specialities. 

Manufacturing also demands IT skills due to the digital transformation of the production and supply chain environments. It is now heavily reliant on Edge machine-level data processing, with cloud integration of shop-floor assets (such as robots, measurement, optical recognition, machining centres etc) all connected together with visualisation and big-data analytics. Availability of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning expertise becomes a limiting factor to organisations seeking to make real-time cloud-managed decisions governing quality control, predictive performance and optimise asset utilisation.

The trend to Model-Based System Engineering methods is a significant benefit to product development cost and time to market. Recruiting sufficient Computational Analysis Engineers (CAE) for system dynamics, fluids, structures and acoustics, fatigue and forming technologies, is a challenge. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) engineers, in particular, have an essential role in EV development: to evaluate the thermal strategy for the battery architecture and integrated cooling systems, with the mission of keeping the car functionally safe and reliable in all conditions.

Closing the gap

The top drivers of the skills gap reported by employers include strong competition for skilled candidates, a shortage of applicants with appropriate qualifications, and a lack of awareness among young people of the educational routes into engineering occupations. The development goal and long-term solution is obvious: to get more people into studying engineering and widen the diversity of this talent pool. Recent UK Government initiatives are already showing some positive impact on this challenge:

  • Significant changes in GCSEs with promotion of single-science options has led to a 17.3% increase in take-up rate of Physics
  • A-level entries are on the rise for most STEM subjects – take-up of A-level Mathematics continues to be particularly high, making up 12.0% of all entries
  • High proportions of international students, especially from India and China, are studying engineering and technology in the UK, particularly at taught and research postgraduate levels (67.7% and 59.3% of entrants respectively). 

Universities are adapting to supply the future talent for the electrified automotive industry, many now offering combined degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering with dual accreditation. Degrees in Controls and Systems engineering are also gaining in popularity, teaching future engineers to work on holistic problems where there are conflicting needs and complex interactions. Given the time it takes to train a new engineer and for them to become effective in the workplace, the sector is therefore challenged to wait for this influx and mobilisation of in-demand skills to be realised.

Instead, focus turns to being ‘employer of choice’, and companies aim to attract the highest calibre new hires to staff their teams. Despite the distraction to business continuity due to COVID-19, there is no time for complacency regarding the employee culture. The most highly skilled (especially in ADAS, functional safety, system controls, CFD, electromagnetic and power electronics) can literally cherry-pick their next employer with ease, aided by the transparency of website platforms like GlassDoor and LinkedIn. 

Partnering on development

Onboarding of software and tools can significantly help alleviate the engineering skills gap – by embedding know-how, others have developed into their digital multi-physics offerings. Engineers can be assisted in getting the workflows and design rules right, creating an immediate and tactical solution to ease the product development challenges.

We can also seek collaborations and technology partnerships by working with specialist service partners locally and globally in a new ecosystem. The ability to achieve the leap to develop IP, leverage experienced resources for global teams, and offload the risks associated with finding and training the skilled engineers in-house – often gives the best of both worlds.

The unprecedented pressure on the world of engineering to develop new EV models will require collaboration on a new scale. While many countries are pushing to grow and diversify the engineering workforce, the skills gap needs to be closed now to avoid disruptive delays for the global market. As a central part of the evolution to e-mobility for our customers, the urgency of this task is starkly clear, and encouraging novel partnerships to close the skills gap will be vital to ensure our industry meets this historic goal.


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