Midlands on the move – the changing face of transport and logistics
Stuart Sewell, director and transport & logistics lead at KPMG in the Midlands
The Midlands is rightly still seen as the national hub of the transport and logistics industry. Indeed, the last two decades have seen companies in our region refine their approach to their customers in the retail and manufacturing sectors to provide highly efficient and high quality service. Innovations in manufacturing such as ‘just-in-time’ had seen the logistics and transport sector experience long-term, subtle changes in the way it operates, and now retail supply chains are experiencing major disruption from the a level of complexity brought about by e-fulfilment and the need to be completely transparent throughout the delivery process.
This is intertwined with the challenges and opportunities that revolve around the service proposition in the sector. Customers – at both commercial and domestic levels – now expect the service they receive from their provider to be of the highest quality and for the ‘last-mile’ providers to keep them informed of when their shipment will arrive. These ‘last-mile’ providers are now so vital that they have become an extension of the brand proposition of the product provider. What’s more, if there is a hitch in the delivery, it’s more likely seen as the fault of the brand, not the last-mile delivery firm.
Mind the gap
Despite efforts from within the industry, there’s still a severe and long-term skills gap within the sector, and an obvious example of this is that the average age of drivers continues to creep up.
Progress, however, is being made. A bid by North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College, in partnership with Aston University, to create a new Institute of Technology for the logistics sector has been cleared for further development as part of a Government search for specialist technical education.
Plans for the development of the first dedicated Institute of Technology for logistics, with its hub based at the Magna Park facility near Rugby, have been met with the approval of the Department for Education and will now proceed to the second stage.
Magna Park is the largest distribution park in Europe, hosting multiple logistics businesses with more than 9,000 employees in the heart of the Golden Triangle, an area with the highest concentration of logistics operations in the UK.
Institutes of Technology are designed to address critical skills gaps in the economy by bringing together providers of further and higher education with industry experts and employers.
Despite this good news, driving is, when it comes down to it, is a hard job, with long hours and much of the time spent away from the home. It will be interesting to see how the industry adapts with autonomous vehicles potentially around the corner, and whether it will see the driver shortage as such a long-term problem as it did a decade ago.
The ‘B’ word
Further challenges are coming the way in the form of Brexit, with most transport and logistics firms in the sector already affected to some degree. Every supply chain is different, of course, and the world post-March 2019 will provide some unique challenges. Logistics is all about getting something from A to B and Brexit will mean that companies operating in the sector will need to be more agile than ever. I believe that the challenges facing the industry can and will be overcome any complexity caused, and this in turn creates an opportunity. So, in the long-term, most companies will be in a better place to meet the challenges of a post-Brexit world.
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