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The steps to deliver warehouse automation

By BoxLogic

BoxLogic offer expert logistics consultancy support for businesses looking to transform their operations and reduce costs, increase capacity, or improve service.

Warehouse automation is one area of specialisation for our consultants where we use our extensive experience to support our clients develop a costed concept design through to tendering and implementation.

While the benefits of automation and robotics can be very attractive, these projects do present very real risks and it is important to enlist the support of experienced professionals to maximise the chances of a smooth and successful delivery.

Read our article on the steps to deliver warehouse automation to find out more or speak to us at the Total Supply Chain Summit on 1-2 October 2020 at Heythrop Park.

Automate to tackle peak season challenges

By Quadient

How can e-commerce companies successfully navigate recent extreme purchasing peaks when labour resources are reduced or unavailable, social distancing guidelines are in place, shipping prices are increasing, and demand just keeps growing?

Labour and shipping costs coupled with pressure to meet fast delivery demands has left companies striving for lower costs. Often, packaging can be the most manual and labour-intensive part of the fulfillment design. 

With expected long-term shifts in consumer behaviour, online retailers will turn to packaging automation for stability, efficiency and cost savings. By choosing an automated solution to right-size ecommerce deliveries, retailers can meet their fulfilment promises, even in the peaks, while respecting the environment, reducing transit damage, and saving money. Even operating ‘off-peak’ at well below capacity, there is a rapid return on investment in the form of material savings, shipping costs and labour resources. 

Using a right-sized box means your products will be packaged more securely and cost effectively. Custom, fit-to-size packaging machines will pack a broad range of items using one or two operators, from head phones to a vacuum cleaner, and allow for even greater shipping efficiencies. 

The CVP Automated Packaging Solutions have the fastest, most agile throughput on the market today, backed by proven customer data and a dedicated service and support team. Auto-packing will create less waste, reduce product damage, save on labour and shipping costs, and generate repeat business to save your company money while ensuring all steps of the packing process are optimized. 

For more information, click here.

The value of global trade insights in navigating COVID-19 supply chain disruptions

By Mark Segner, VP Global Sales, Descartes

The Coronavirus pandemic has exposed the fragility of the modern supply chain, as companies struggle to acquire the products and raw materials needed to keep revenue flowing. With many businesses relying heavily on a limited number of trading partners, many located in hard-hit areas like China, the scale of the supply chain disruption has been a wake-up call. 

Pummeling the Bottom Line

COVID-19 shockwaves are being felt around the globe, with one in six companies adjusting revenue targets downward. Figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed that 72% of businesses in the UK reported that they are exporting less than normal, and 59% of reported that they are importing less than normal due to the impact of Coronavirus. 

According to a survey by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), nearly 75% of companies reported supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, with lead times doubling and delays compounded by a shortage of air and ocean freight options. A recent survey of Descartes customers also found that 31% are looking for alternative suppliers, and their usage of tools to find alternative supply sources has increased by 21%. Given the sheer scale of the disruption, many different types of businesses are unlikely to have a plan in place to address supply disruption from China and other countries.

Re-thinking Sourcing

With the global supply chain often more complex than many comprehend, very few organisations can trace their supply chain beyond their Tier 1 suppliers, and many are uncertain of the location of their second and third-tier suppliers. To fully understand supply-side risk, Deloitte notes that advanced digital solutions are “generally required to trace supply networks reliably across the multiple tiers of suppliers.” Indeed, manufacturers, retailers, and distributors are in uncharted waters as they race to identify new supply sources.

Global Trade Insights Guide the Way

With the daunting task of navigating the rapidly changing global trade landscape, where should your organisation begin? Actionable global trade data is your lifeline for supply chain resilience. In the face of COVID-19 disruptions, global trade intelligence solutions can help businesses swiftly find alternative suppliers in a concise three-step process:

  1. Identify potential sources; Know the market to make better sourcing decisions

A sophisticated global trade intelligence solution can assess market dynamics, revealing the impact of both the Coronavirus and recent tariff changes on specific commodity imports and exports by mapping the global flow of shipments and identifying recent volume shifts. Previous shipment volumes reveal which suppliers have capacity for your sourcing demands, while bill of lading (BOL) data helps you easily identify names, addresses, and contact details for each supplier.

2. Analyse costs; How much will it cost to do business?

Given the slowdown many companies are facing during the pandemic, curtailing costs is top of mind. Global trade data technology can analyse potential suppliers to calculate the total landed cost of doing business with them, including duty spend, variable and fixed taxes, shipping costs, and insurance costs. With international trade insight, businesses can also identify favourable Free Trade Agreements (FTA) or other preferential mechanisms to help maximise margins.

3. Vet potential trading partners; Limit liability and brand damage

The vetting process is vital for avoiding exposure to sanctioned parties but, given the fluidity and sheer size of restricted party lists and the rabbit hole of shell companies, obtaining an accurate view can be extremely challenging.

With a global trade intelligence solution, businesses can quickly screen potential suppliers to determine if the country or vendor are subject to any restrictions or sanctions from the government. Compliance vetting is crucial for avoiding fines and penalties but also ensures your company brand remains untarnished. 

Beyond COVID-19

Access to actionable trade insight is critical to developing a proactive supply chain response to the coronavirus and emerging from this pandemic as intact and profitable as possible. Sophisticated global trade intelligence solutions use shipment data from across the world to model trade flows globally, helping companies rapidly identify, analyse, and vet new sourcing locations. With the right approach, businesses can mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on supply chains and also strengthen and add resiliency to their logistics operations going forward.

Survival, resilience and growth: A report on the UK’s economic recovery

As lockdown restrictions around the UK are easing, businesses are taking steps on the road to recovery. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted companies of all sectors and sizes, so the chance to revive operations and look to the future is a welcome shift for millions of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

While many businesses haven’t been able to function as normal due to the pandemic, and tough decisions have been made, that hasn’t stopped them from adapting.

From finding new markets to pivoting and offering new products and services, businesses have sought to find fresh opportunities to reach customers and keep moving.

But what does the future look like for SMEs in the UK? What challenges will they face and what steps will they take to overcome them?

These questions and more are answered in a new research report by Sage – Survival, resilience and growth: Placing small businesses at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery.

Key take always include-

  • Resilience is going to be as important as growth to the recovery. Not all SMEs, only 54%, are prepared for further potential shocks or challenges, including cash flow/liquidity problems, disruptions in the supply chain, and legal and regulatory changes.
  • 80% of businesses think that technology will be very or somewhat important in restarting their business.
  • 33% of businesses are actively planning investment in technology.

Click here to download the full report.

Five advantages of handing over your IT procurement needs to specialists

By Alex Wilkinson (pictured), Chief Operating Officer, Solutionize Global

Every day, modern-day leaders are being challenged to operate within tighter parameters when it comes to productivity, cost and efficiency. These three elements are vital when considering the current strain on the economy following the global crisis – and helping organisations to survive.

What this has led to is a greater requirement for technology to become more sophisticated. In turn, practitioners are being tasked to adapt swiftly – so that they can provide attractive, streamlined services and an unrivalled competitive edge.

This is especially the case within the procurement and finance arenas. These industries are continuously shifting their focus in how they can strategically enhance efficiency via advanced digital methods. And for those that get it right, they’re typically in a much stronger position to ensure business continuity – even during the most turbulent of climates.

Today, there’s even more reason to stay ahead of the curve, especially as a 2016 Chief Nation and SAP Ariba report revealed how 77% of industry managers anticipated that new procurement technologies would be one of their sector’s biggest trends of recent times.

For modern-day leaders, adapting to economic flux comes with the territory, but that doesn’t mean they have to do everything themselves. So, how can successful C-suite chiefs handle the current pressures they face, and still meet greater supplier demands for IT products and services when time and resources are constantly against them? 

Now might be the time to hand over the reins to tech procurement specialists. Selecting an expert who understands the industry and ever-evolving marketplace can encourage a more flexible and agile approach, amongst other advantages. Here are five reasons why organisations should consider the options…

  1. Ensuring optimum speed when sourcing goods and services

There will be few firms that have not been negatively impacted by the current climate – resulting in their supply chain being hit the hardest. Leaders are often left to ‘pick up the slack’ as they attempt to continue ‘business as normal’. But the clock isn’t slowing down, and time is of the essence.

Bringing in a savvy tech procurement specialist should provide managers with both the opportunity to focus on their company continuity priorities, and also feel secure that services will still be efficiently sourced and quality goods delivered on time – regardless of the climate. 

Speed is of paramount importance in today’s saturated marketplace and having someone knowledgeable on hand to quickly select the best vendors to meet the brief, negotiate the right price, and organise swift distribution can help to keep projects on track and meet end user demands.

2. Establishing a centralised approach for orders

Very much in the same vein as speed, efficiency relies on operations being streamlined and secure throughout. Having one point of contact is often better than a number of individuals or departments getting involved – which could over-complicate an order and slow things down.

Not only that, for managers this means there will only be one Service Level Agreement – and terms and conditions guidelines – to  adhere to, resulting in no lengthy sign-off processes and fewer security concerns, because everything runs through a single source.

3. Exploring a wider portfolio of vital contacts

Leaders who know that they have a professional IT procurement service on hand to always turn to is vital for both peace of mind and maintaining a professional, transparent, and consistent service.

Specialists will typically have a wider network themselves too, so if further products or services are required – that aren’t in their current portfolio – there will likely be a trusted contact they know that can help.

Companies that have strong, meaningful relationships with their suppliers may often treat them like an extension of the existing team – providing motivation, a reliable service and greater competitive edge. Additionally, clients know they’re getting a dependable, streamlined offering.

4. Reducing costs and controlling outgoings

Managing budgets in today’s business climate is all about having agile supply chains that enable enterprises to adapt to ever-changing market conditions. Therefore, variable cost structures – such as flexible purchasing models – should typically be in place to encourage an elastic approach that helps organisations to both control outgoings and scale effectively.

In addition, leaders will want to be safe in the knowledge that their tech procurement needs are being met in the most cost-effective way – perhaps through real-time tracking solutions – so they can release capital for investment across other areas of the business, when needed.

And, if there’s ever a need to re-evaluate budgets, specialists should be able to introduce new suppliers – and renegotiate with existing ones – to alleviate any stresses and save money on transactions and overall operations.

5. Ensuring the best solution to build credibility

Managers must feel that they can speak to their procurement consultant whenever their organisation’s needs evolve. And, in turn, the professional must be one step ahead – understanding how global developments are causing business flux and impacting on efficiency.

By offering in-depth knowledge of the marketplace in real-time – and across a broad range of sectors – this expertise should not only deliver direct benefits but also help leaders to ‘learn from the best’ and improve on their own capabilities. Additionally, specialists often know when the time is right to bring in numerous vendors to provide a commercially savvy solution.

When selecting procurement experts to manage the IT supply chain, it’s important for businesses to firstly align their buying strategy with the overall objectives. This way they can clearly identify where the need is for a specialist, and when they’re required to step in.

Creating a streamlined service that delivers in a timely and efficient fashion will not only create greater loyalty with the end user but develop credibility and a trusted service that positively impacts reputation and bottom line – and delivers true competitive advantage.

Establishing Diversification and Resiliency within the Supply Chain

By Mark Morley, Director, Strategic Product Marketing, OpenText

The global pandemic has been wreaking havoc across global business operations, with production stoppages, staff shortages, major event cancelations and concerns about supply chain stability increasing. Approximately, 94% of Fortune 1000 companies are experiencing supply chain disruptions.

A recent report by Deloitte described this as a “black swan” event, whereby its impact on companies will force them to completely restructure their supply chains and embrace new technologies, such as cloud-based solutions to improve business operations. Companies that do not take tangible steps to restructure their business operations to create a more resilient business will ultimately lag behind competitors and risk failure.

To overcome these pressures, the supply chain must not only be resilient, but also become increasingly diverse. Companies need to evaluate their overall sourcing strategy while diversifying sources.

Adapting in the face of supply chain uncertainty 

As the pandemic grabbed a stronger hold on global economies, especially the global healthcare sector, many organisations were asked to answer government requests to help produce medical equipment, gowns, masks and hand sanitizer. Many automotive manufacturers, including GM, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and even the Formula One race teams in Europe, reconfigured parts of their production operations to manufacture critical medical equipment. Distilleries across the UK switched production to make alcohol-based hand sanitizer to slow the rate of coronavirus transmission. More than 20 companies – including Ford, Rolls-Royce, McLaren and Siemens UK – formed the Ventilator Challenge UK Consortium, designed to help offset the shortage of medical equipment. 

Diversification of Supply Chains 

According to a recent survey by PwC, a growing number of CFOs expect to change the breadth of their supply chains as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic with many focusing on diversification. Over the past two decades, the concept of supply diversification has focused on continually driving down costs. Many companies are now learning the hard way that relying on a single supplier is at best risky and at worst catastrophic. Establishing supply chain diversification requires organisations to adopt more robust digital tools and make a fundamental change in their approach to business practices. 

One of the first initial steps organisations can take to mitigate future risk, is to reduce how much of their supply portfolio originates from a single supplier and eliminate their dependence on single regions or countries. What businesses can do instead is incorporate a combination of multiple trusted near-shore and offshore suppliers dispersed globally which can be easily switched out should a specific region become disrupted. 

Given today’s global levels of disruption, organisations should not only infuse diversification within their sources, but also incorporate four elements within their supply chains models. 


Adopting technology which enables supply chain flexibility and agility allows for vital channels of information to remain open and accessible anywhere. In today’s market, cloud-based technology deployments that facilitate the effective integration, management and secure exchange of data across people, systems and things is essential, providing businesses an opportunity to be more cost-efficient and manage risk without sacrificing competitive advantage, customer satisfaction or product innovation. 


Another important aspect of business continuity for supply chains is maintaining collaborative connections and alliances with external partners. Deploying a cloud-based platform allows trading partners to easily access, share and collaborate on the use of information. Organisations can work with their supplier partners to actively monitor and supervise the execution of dual sourcing strategies. It also means they can use the centralised management of all trading partner contact information to quickly establish the post-disruption condition of a supply chain – providing a significant competitive advantage while also leading to more accurate risk assessment and prevention steps for future disruption.

Operational transparency

Suppliers seeking to adapt their operations and continuously provide products and services to their customers should shift towards technologies that provide transparency, giving them a better opportunity to improve decision-making processes. Suppliers can integrate secure, expanded visibility into their multi-enterprise operations using integrated third-party data sources. This allows suppliers to self-monitor the functionality of critical components that could be impacted by unforeseen supply chain and operational disruptions.

Incorporating the information advantage 

By capturing and analysing an entire data set, a supplier can derive insights which improve operations, drive innovation, and open up more new business opportunities, producing a competitive information advantage. Stronger information management layered with analytics and machine learning technology can provide the insights required to remain on top of potential issues and maintain workflows – both vital for the viability of operational excellence within the larger supply chain ecosystem.

The future of the global supply chain network  

The pandemic has revealed many gaps in the global supply chain model. Many businesses are already having to rethink entire manufacturing and distribution models. Despite the fact that COVID-19 dislocated many areas of the global supply chain, it also presented an opportunity to drive real change in the supply chain ecosystem. It is critical now more than ever for organisations to not only respond with agility in the short-term, but also improve supply chain resilience for the long-term. A cloud based integration environment provides the digital foundation required for all employees to have secure access to essential business information and systems, collaborate effectively with dispersed internal and external stakeholders, synthesise data into timely insights and maintain supply chain visibility. Companies that capitalise on this moment and take the appropriate steps to incorporate cloud-based architectures will be able to respond quickly to changes and remain competitive within their industries. 

The role of Supply Chain in the 21st century

By Oliver Wight EAME

For more than 50 years we have been helping some of the world’s best-known companies enhance their supply chain capabilities. In today’s fast-paced and unpredictable world, businesses can find it difficult to win the short-lived affections of the 21st century customer.

Download our free white paper for guidance on restructuring your end-to-end supply chain for success in modern markets:

Why digitising supply chains can help pay for itself

By Derek Bryan, VP EMEA, Verizon Connect

For some businesses, digital transformation represents an opportunity to improve how it operates and connects with partners and customers; for others, it can seem like a headache with a considerable price tag attached. 

While it’s true that any change requires careful planning, those in the ‘loathe camp’ may be overlooking the benefits and considerable return-on-investment (ROI) digital transformation can generate, especially across supply chains. 

Opening the door for automation

Most supply chain managers are time poor and have many plates spinning at the same time. Digitising the supply chain can open the door for automating administrative tasks, freeing up time to improve operational performance. For example, it can help to check for human error or flawed data input throughout the supply chain, assist with job allocation, automatically update clients or supply chain partners on the status of jobs, and simplify compliance processes. 

Automation is often labelled as a threat to job security, particularly those which involve physical labour as is commonly found in supply chain-based occupations. This is far from reality for two reasons: first, the technology required to carry out all the tasks required of a human worker is either too expensive or too sophisticated to be economically viable for businesses; second, automation tends to impact time-consuming, repetitive tasks such as reporting, job allocation and scheduling. This means that workers and supply chain managers are empowered to focus more of their time on value-add tasks while the admin gets taken care of. 

Channelling value back to the customer

At its core, digital transformation has the imperative to make everything centred around meeting the needs of customers. While digital tools have enabled new service offerings to customers, the supply chains they rely on have become increasingly intricate. Not only do supply chain managers contend with more complex networks of stakeholders, they must also operate within narrower time frames due to rising customer expectations.

Most organisations already have the tools required to fulfil customer orders on time, such as route-planning, GPS tracking and live traffic updates. At the very least, customers expect to be kept regularly updated on the status of deliveries or engineers, especially when it comes to delays.

With the right digital tools at hand, such as an integrated software platform that automatically tracks the status of jobs and processes, organisations can enhance both the quantity and quality of customer touchpoints either online or via mobile applications – literally putting delivery information in the palm of the customer’s hand.  

This also helps notify managers when mobile workers have completed a job, validate the condition of their cargo, and create or reassign jobs in near real-time, based on which worker is most suitable for each delivery or job. Not only does this mean workers are able to complete every aspect of their job without disruption, but supply chain managers obtain a clearer view of whether their mobile workforce is operating effectively, and on time.

Unexpected benefits

A digital supply chain can bring unexpected benefits too. The issue of vehicles being empty on their return journey is a challenge for lots of companies. Aside from the sunk fuel and worker costs, the shortage of drivers currently being faced in the UK makes it even more difficult for supply chain managers to reliably get goods to where they need to be, when they need to be there. 

Enabling the integration of vehicle tracking systems with intelligent software platforms to provide updates on available freight capacity in near real-time, means businesses are able to fill empty vehicles on their return journeys by identifying their live locations and offering the capacity to companies looking to move goods to destinations on route. This means that assets can be utilised, helping to reduce empty miles and emissions, increase productivity, and making transport operations more cost efficient. 

The future is software-defined

Digital tools don’t just sit on top of existing structures, they create a platform upon which supply chains are orchestrated. In an age where just about anything can be digitised, organisations can use this to identify operational inefficiencies in the supply chain and open up new revenue streams. Not only that, the inherent flexibility of software-defined supply chains gives businesses the chance to do this continuously and easily scale their products and services to meet changing demands.

Making tomorrow a better world in logistics

By Michel Waterschoot, Sales Manager – Southern Europe, Northern Africa, Middle East, Descartes

The health crisis that we are currently experiencing, as well as its financial and economic consequences, should not mean we lose sight of the opportunities that can be leveraged today to help businesses continue growing and developing. This situation should be used as an opportunity to identify weaknesses and design innovative solutions, sharing feedback that is relevant for everyone involved so we can better prepare for the future. 

Maintaining levels of satisfaction

In food distribution, volumes have exploded. With people confined to their homes, consumers have used ecommerce for their daily shopping more than ever before. For some players in the sector it was suddenly necessary to absorb exceptional levels of increased demand. However, it comes at a cost, as businesses must continue to satisfy long-standing customers – in terms of delivery times, slots, product availability – while meeting the demand of new and existing customers.  With this increased and unprecedented influx of orders, demand simply cannot be met under the same conditions as before. The customer relationship is therefore called into question. The retailers’ objective is, if this type of critical situation was to reoccur, they need to be able to control the level of service delivered, in a way that reduces the risk of losing historical customers while attracting new ones. 

The health crisis can lead to accelerated digitalisation

Another shift that we have been able to observe in connection with the COVID-19 crisis is that some companies who were until now very reserved about the use of new technologies, are now reconsidering their options. To limit the contagion of the disease, governments around the world have encouraged the rollout of health measures that reduce contact between people, but also the exchange of physical documents, such as proof of delivery, CMR, invoices and more. Companies therefore had to put in place alternatives to paper regardless of their concerns, for instance with delivery drivers. Their route planning was turned upside down and many were no longer in their usual geographic area as drivers had to stretch capacity to meet the consumer demand. Without their usual paper routing processes they had to use the GPS of their mobile phone to find their way in some cases. In the future, they will undoubtedly be less reluctant to use dedicated technological tools adapted for this, such as smart route planning software. This health crisis may therefore have helped to move along the digitalisation of processes that are still too often paper-based.

Combining deliveries offers benefits for all

In transport, there were around 40% fewer heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) on the roads in April and May. Logistics managers must respond to delivery requests even if the volumes are insufficient and the trucks have to run with a light load or empty on certain routes. This can increase the average cost of delivery for the transporter, by up to + 73% per tonne / km in long distance transport. These figures clearly argue the case for combining delivery efforts and collaboration between couriers, transporters and shippers alike to pool personnel, stock, storage facilities and more. These initiatives have so far been limited across the UK and France for example, no doubt because of the problems around co-responsibility but also for cultural reasons. However, the current situation will help to change mentalities on this, and the promise of the potential benefits that can be leveraged will override these initial concerns. This would be good news in terms of global optimisation for companies, but also in terms of ecological impact.

The importance of good transportation management

Many European shippers subcontract their transport of goods but given the current climate, one could wonder if the companies which control their transport of goods do better than those which entrust it entirely to service providers. With a fleet of its own, shippers who keep control of their flow of goods, through specific contracts with their carriers, get more responsiveness and flexibility, precious in difficult times such as these, especially with regard to the last mile. Shippers can therefore now question their fleet management and find the right balance with their service providers and internal teams in order to get a balance and a transport management system that provides them with the visibility and capabilities they need.

Faced with this critical situation, many companies will encounter or are already experiencing difficulties, potentially jeopardising their activity. However, it’s clear this crisis can also generate positive results by rethinking processes that were undermined during this period. The impacts on the sector are, and will be, numerous, putting even more tension on each of the logistics links. We must observe and analyse the present to make tomorrow a better world.

WEBINAR: How distribution ​CFOs can drive supply chain success

The changing landscape of Distribution has evolved dramatically over the last few months. 

Navigating these changes relies on innovation and embedding process as well as integrating technology. 

This webinar from Sage covers;

  • How disruption is changing the landscape
  • Today’s distribution challenges
  • Why distributors need a new approach
  • Why the CFO needs to drive supply chain success
  • Questions you’ll need to answer as a CFO
  • Areas for supply chain innovation
  • Driving increased value

Helping you drive success across your organisation.