Welcome to the August 1st edition of Warehouse & Logistics News. We hope you’ve all been grabbing the chance to relax and have a holiday, before the glorious long hot summer comes to an end and the run in to Christmas starts in a few weeks’ time.
The pre-Christmas buildup traditionally meant seasonal employment for thousands of workers in retail businesses. But that’s all changed. With many high street retailers struggling to keep shops open as consumers shift to buying online, the British Retail Consortium reported as we closed that nearly a fifth of British retailers are planning to cut their staff further in the next three months. And not just in stores, but distribution centres and warehouses as well.
When the UK’s big retailers were rushing to open new outlets across the country in the boom years of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the emphasis was on distribution hubs feeding local stores. But the Internet has changed all that. As online shopping has grown in popularity the retailers who have grasped the opportunity have become faster on their feet and more consumerfocused, offering a multi-channel service, including physical stores and on-line and crucially, with automation increasingly replacing human order pickers.
The end result is that warehouse automation is now the order of the day for retailers, just as in many other business sectors. On our front page we have the story of warehouse automation specialist Swisslog delivering a second AutoStore system to Ocado, this time for their Speciality Store general merchandise subsidiary in southeast London. Ocado’s General Merchandising business has grown rapidly since it began in 2000, and now supplies almost 40,000 product lines and serves over 70% of British households.
There’s more on warehouse automation in our Warehouse Automation feature. We have a story from TGW Logistics about their automated distribution centre for home electronics giant Interdiscount. And if you’re pondering whether to automate your warehouse, Swisslog have published a White Paper calling for boldness when investing in this area as part of business enhancement programmes. It’s in stark contrast to the Kaizen philosophy of steady incremental improvement that many large corporates follow.
As warehouse automation increasingly makes manual order picking obsolete, the warehouse workers who are kept on will need to be redeployed and retrained. With over 2.2 million people currently employed in logistics in the UK, this will become a major priority, if it isn’t already. Following the success of the recent Talent in Logistics Conference, the event’s organisers have formed a Steering Group to ensure next year’s conference, on 27 June 2019, is even better.
Reaching out to school leavers and graduates will also be a major focus of next year’s IMHX, which returns to the NEC in September 2019.
Finally, if you’re looking for a distraction outside work, it’s nearly time for the new football season, which starts on Friday August 10th. Don’t miss our exclusive UPN/Warehouse & Logistics News 2018-19 Premier League fixture calendar in the centre pages. Put it on your office or warehouse wall and you needn’t miss a single match. We’re back with our next issue on August 15th.