In the latest instalment of our supply chain industry executive interview series, we spoke to Diane Carroll, Commercial Director at LPR UK & Ireland, about the company, the ongoing issues presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, market opportunities and the impact of new technology…
Tell us about your company, products and services.
LPR UK is a subsidiary of LPR – La Palette Rouge, a leading pan European, pallet pooling business working in the FMCG sector. The business is present in 15 countries and moves more than 107 million pallets per year.
What have been the biggest challenges the Supply Chain industry has faced over the past 12 months?
Everybody has experienced the challenges of working from home during the pandemic, but those involved in hands on industries such as supply chain and logistics have probably felt the most pain. Demand did not ease during this time – in fact demand almost doubled in some sectors.
Moving to working from home whilst ensuring that our customers were able to keep delivering is something that I think was handled exceptionally well at LPR!
And what have been the biggest opportunities?
The change in consumer behaviour has forced us to consider logistical challenges around growth sectors such as eCommerce and addressing this now puts us in a good position as we move forwards.
There have been some great opportunities to learn how to build relationships in a virtual world – tricky for a business where we are used to looking people in the eye.
What is the biggest priority for the Supply Chain industry in 2021?
Maintaining the same level of responsiveness displayed in 2020 -it would be a shame if those skills were lost. There was some tremendous agility seen in acting on the changes in the market to meet consumer demand on the supply chain.
What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2021?
An even greater focus on instant gratification – same day delivery. We were already heading down this road, but the expansion of home delivery into other areas like the convenience store, through apps such as the new Snappy Shopper means that supply chain agility will be even more critical.
What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this year?
Big data, and the use in FMCG of shopper behavioural data to drive logistics activity around final mile solutions and AI driven replenishment. We’ve been talking about this for years, but I’d expect its development to accelerate as a result of learnings from 2020.
In 2024 we’ll all be talking about…?
I think we’ll be talking about the stand out companies that made the decision to keep the personal touch. I think when Big Data is the norm, the differentiator will be companies who also keep the focus on the customer. We’ll all be talking about the handful of companies who have made this their USP – despite the ever increasing reliance on automation.
Customer service will become the prevailing differentiator.
Which person in, or associated with, the Supply Chain industry would you most like to meet?
I was fascinated recently to read about Adrian Flanagan and Dominick Scott-Flanagan. They founded a company called Supermarket Direct in the 90s and actually launched the UK’s first online grocery shopping & home delivery service. I’d love to hear their experiences of pioneering such an alien concept!
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Supply Chain sector?
How completely and utterly resilient it is. How an industry that isn’t regarded as particularly cutting edge, when compared to say SaaS, has proven its cruciality in the last 12 months – more than almost any other sector.
For me, seeing so many large pan-European businesses continue with their pallet pooling projects despite outside influences, makes me think that it is higher up on people’s agenda than perhaps I thought it was.
You go to the bar at the Total Supply Chain Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?
A cranberry juice with a twist of lime.
What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
Getting to work with so many different businesses and seeing that every supply chain is unique. And of course having the opportunity to be part of a team driving such a vibrant and fast growing business which is full of people who are passionate about what they do!
And what’s the most challenging?
Juggling my many priorities and keeping abreast of market developments – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It means I get to work in a fast paced and changing environment where no two days are the same.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Always be true to yourself. I like to be a human being both inside the workplace and out of it, and I hope that makes me a better leader to my team. It is really important to me that I act with integrity.
Peaky Blinders or Stranger Things?
Peaky Blinders – but I wouldn’t take Tommy Shelby’s advice on running a business!