In the latest instalment of our supply chain industry executive interview series we spoke to Matthew Hopkins, Director at BoxLogic, about his company, industry opportunities, the challenges posed by COVID-19 and Brexit, plus some Netflix favourites…
Tell us about your company, products and services.
BoxLogic is a consultancy that supports our clients transform their supply chain operations, usually when there is a change in volumes, sales mix or cost base; or if additional capacity is required in the network. The key areas that we add value to our clients are by designing efficient distribution networks, designing or redesigning new warehouse facilities, evaluating the feasibility of warehouse automation and WMS selection.
We are a team of four and setup our own business in late 2018 after working together for several years at a previous specialist logistics consultancy. Now we set our own direction for working with clients. It has been very exciting so far and I’m looking forward to it continuing.
What have been the biggest challenges the Supply Chain industry has faced over the past 12 months?
It has been fascinating time for supply chain with some very important issues in the news agenda. It shows how important the function is and it’s hopefully going to attract many young people to the industry who are excited about answering these questions.
You cannot look past Covid-19 as the biggest challenge, managing the supply issues, starting and stopping the supply chain has shown incredible adaptability. There has been plenty of other challenges though including the need for better visibility of how goods are sourced and the ethical integrity of those products. That applies as much for paying workers in garment factories fairly, as it does for the sustainability of soy production on deforested land.
The small matters of Brexit, the demise of the high-street and the increasing adoption of automation on top of that!
And what have been the biggest opportunities?
Ecommerce. To have an effective, efficient online fulfilment platform has been integral over the last six months for many businesses to keep trading. Town centres are quieter than ever and the ONS data shows that the lockdown and social distancing is encouraging an even greater proportion of spend to shift online. Operations that have invested in warehouse technology to reduce the reliance on labour have been well placed to benefit from the pandemic and I think a lot of companies are playing catch up.
What is the biggest priority for the Supply Chain industry over the next twelve months?
I think there are going to be two priorities. Firstly, keeping the operation going through the pandemic and maintaining social distancing in the workplace to prevent outbreaks in the operation. The financial and even reputational impacts of an operation going down because of an outbreak could be significant.
Secondly, the supply chain industry still doesn’t know what terms the UK will be trading on after we exit the Brexit transition period and there isn’t a lot of time for the industry to prepare for whatever the future looks like.
What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this year?
It seems that the UK is facing into a few different economic headwinds at the moment, so I think any technology that takes cost out of an operation quickly is going to do well. That could be good for anyone offering Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS), which will probably suit Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs).
In 2022 we’ll all be talking about…?
How good or bad drone deliveries work, I imagine. It’s one of those supply chain developments that will really make an impression on the general consumer and probably create a bit of a buzz. It will be interesting to see who is driving the technology; the traditional parcel carriers, who have been growing rapidly over the last decade and developing their infrastructure or the tech companies. Will it be a VHS vs Betamax moment or not?
Which person in, or associated with, the Supply Chain industry would you most like to meet?
I’m always interested in meeting anyone with an interesting perspective or challenge that needs to be solved. As I’ll be attending the Total Supply Chain Summit in October, I’m hoping to achieve just that.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Supply Chain sector?
Last year I attended a conference and the audience were asked to raise their hand if they deliberately set out on a career in supply chain. Only 10% of the room had!! It’s such a fast-paced and exciting area to work, I am always surprised by the lack of pathways from education into our industry, when compared with finance or marketing.
You go to the bar at the Total Supply Chain Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?
I’m a tee-total so it’s usually a Coke!
What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
Working in projects always brings great variety but as a consultant, you tend to see even more as you get to work across different businesses and sectors.
And what’s the most challenging?
Starting new projects are always exciting but it’s also very hard to absorb so much information so quickly. It’s like continually starting a new job! But I wouldn’t swap it for anything else.
Peaky Blinders or Stranger Things?
Neither, my favourite Netflix show is Bojack Horseman or Better Call Saul.