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Welcome to this issue, where automation unusually hogs the limelight. Despite the clear advantages that warehouse automation provides, OEMs remain frustrated at its slow take-up within the logistics sector, according to a recent automotive industry ‘think tank’ on Next Generation Warehousing, overseen by UKWA’s CEO, Peter Ward. The ‘think tank’ offered a fascinating insight into the views of those working in the automotive sector and highlighted some of their preconceptions of 3PLs and the anxieties about outsourcing logistics, particularly in relation to cyber-crime. This will be a big topic at the 2020 UKWA national conference to be held on March 3rd – 4th at the Hallmark Queen Hotel, Chester, where the aim is to break down some of the barriers, share best practice between industries and open up new opportunities for collaboration.

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Potential automation buyers, it seems, believe that automation represents a commitment to long-term investment but this is not necessarily so. Indeed, ROI can be achieved within a short a period as one year. The deliberations’ consensus was that it is particularly important that 3PLs serving the automotive sector, and any other, should take a fresh look at automation’s advantages. Meanwhile, market intelligence firm, Interact Analysis, has issued a new market report, The Collaborative Robot Market 2019, which indicates strong and sustained growth for cobots.

For more insight into warehouse robotics why not check out our automation section, where we reveal that a fresh look is needed for cobots, allied to AI, rather than robots per se, because issues surrounding worker safety, burn-out and morale may need to be reviewed and resolved.

Still on automation, as readers will see on our front page, sometimes simplicity and scalability, combined with outstanding service commitments, can win contracts. Family-owned and run Axiom GB recently supplied an automated sortation system against heavy competition to Lynas Foodservice’s new distribution centre at Lusk, Co Dublin, which can sort 45 diverse food products a minute to 11 destination lanes, allowing the centre to process up to 20,000 items per shift. Lynas Foodservice Finance and IT director, Alastair Magee, explained his MD felt he could relate well to Matthew Nickson, Axiom’s MD, because each company is family-owned and run and so understood each other in that regard. The maintenance contract includes out-of-hours cover even at 2 am.

Industrial doors are far from an open and shut case, especially when making one’s final door choice. Door quality is always important, especially with regard to temperature-sensitive operating conditions, but it is also important to choose a supplier known for its innovation. Read in our doors section how Hormann came up with an innovation that helps cope with various vehicle heights to keep energy losses to a minimum, a particularly pertinent issue now that new regulations taking force this year call for all industrial doors to have a U-value of 1.4W/mt or lower.

And finally a date to remember for all those concerned with food and drink supply chain issues is March 30th – April 1st at the NEC, where five co-located UK food shows offer a 2020 vision of the modern food sector. The show’s remit is to provide the most comprehensive look into the trends, products, challenges and opportunities that will set the food and drink agenda for 2020. One of the shows, Foodex, will be the place to learn about Industry 4.0 and meet the innovators – speakers and exhibitors. As a media sponsor we have a stand there (N288) so why not drop in.

James Surridge

Publishing Editor

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