After nearly seven years as Chief Executive of the UK Warehousing Association, I shall be stepping down on July 1st, which means this will be my last column for Warehouse Logistics News.
Accordingly, I’ve been reflecting on the astonishing changes we’ve witnessed over the last seven years, and also looking forward to what the future might hold for our industry.
The biggest change has been digitisation, along with the growth of online order fulfilment and delivery, requiring us all to work smarter, driving closer collaboration with our customers and bringing us closer to the consumer. This new relationship has caused us to reconsider network design and has exposed us to new responsibilities and liabilities.
I’m proud that UKWA has consistently urged members to ‘get with the programme’ or fall by the wayside in terms of the technology revolution, and has also striven to provide support to help members embrace innovation and more recently has rolled out a new business risk analysis and management system to help protect their businesses.
We have also broadened our membership, introducing a new category of membership at UKWA – Logistics Users – as the lines between retail and logistics become increasingly blurred, fostering closer links between 3PLs and customers.
Both sides of the membership have benefited from this collaborative approach and this has been particularly obvious during the pandemic and the UK’s departure from the European Union. Retailers and manufacturers look likely to rely increasingly on their 3PL partners to provide a broader, value-added service in the future.
Those two huge events have defined our industry over the last year or so, accelerating the rise of ecommerce and putting the industry in the spotlight. During lockdown, warehouse workers and delivery drivers were at last recognised by Government and the public for the essential workers that they are.
At UKWA we’ve worked hard to capitalise on this, engaging with Government across many different departments and often working alongside our peer organisations to ensure that the voice of the industry continues to be heard.
Much has been achieved – our membership is more than double the levels of 2014 – but much remains to be done.
UKWA is part of the new freight taskforce sponsored by Minister for Transport, Rachel Mclean MP, and is due to contribute to the next G7 ‘Future Tech Forum’ in September on the digitisation of global trade and supply chains. However other issues, such as the long-running challenges of labour and skills shortages and the pressing need for changes in land use planning as demand for more warehousing grows, remain high on the Association’s agenda.
I’m confident that the UKWA of 2021, with its growing membership and well-established links with Government is well set to tackle these questions, and am delighted to hand over the baton to my successor Clare Bottle, in whose hands I have no doubt UKWA will continue its successful journey on behalf of its members and the warehousing and logistics industry.