Stuart O'Brien, Author at Total Supply Chain Summit | Forum Events Ltd
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Stuart O'Brien

Total Supply Chain Summit: registration open for May 2021

The Total Supply Chain Summit is a hybrid event specifically designed for senior end-to-end supply chain professionals like you!

17th & 18th May 2021 – Radisson Heathrow

This unique event will take place across two mornings and is the smartest way to gain the latest industry insight and meet with beneficial and essential solution providers.

What does hybrid mean?

This means that you can choose to attend the live event in person or virtually via our inhouse system integrated with zoom.

We can create you a bespoke itinerary of meetings and LIVE insightful industry presentations, focusing on the current issues and future
challenges within Supply Chain.

Your attendance is entirely FREE and it promises to offer the most proactive and valuable digital event that you have attended this year.


Retailers to on-shore £4bn of products to the UK as COVID-19 ‘resets’ supply chain strategies

More than £4.2 billion of products will be on-shored to the UK by retailers in the next 12 months in a move that would represent a significant fillip to manufacturing, being equivalent to the country’s entire current clothing manufacturing output.

That’s according to a new report by global professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal, in partnership with Retail Economics, that estimates that COVID-19 has created new pressures on retailers, exposing weaknesses in global supply chains and leading many to rethink strategies for the future to remain resilient.

Nearly three quarters (70%) of Europe’s largest 30 retailers say they have conducted a review of their supply chains as a direct result of the pandemic.

Of the same group of retailers, more than half (55%) have already begun to diversify their suppliers, with 29% planning to do so within the next 12 months. 14% are already sourcing more from domestic economies, with almost half (42%) planning to do so in the next 12 months.

Erin Brookes, Managing Director and Head of Retail and Consumer, Europe, A&M said: “COVID-19 has brought about a fresh set of financial and logistical challenges which retailers must overcome while accommodating permanent shifts in consumer behaviour. Our research shows that despite these new pressure points, most retailers are responding at speed, creating new growth opportunities within their domestic economies and protecting against future risk.

“This Christmas will be a major test for this new operating environment. The structural shift towards online will place extraordinary pressure on distribution and in some cases, we are likely to see supply not meeting demand. Meanwhile, new lockdown measures which prevent most physical retail from opening over key sales moments like Black Friday will only exacerbate these challenges. In the next few weeks, retailers will need to deliver a steady flow of online sales to contain the usual last-minute rush.”

The report says retail businesses are being forced to reassess the future of their supply networks and how they can not only meet COVID-19 related challenges, but simultaneously address underlying structural changes to ensure they are future-proofed.

Now the initial shock of the pandemic has resided, businesses and governments are considering how to build back better, with sustainability playing a major role. As European retailers come under increasing pressure to create visible ESG commitments, 70% of the retailers surveyed have already begun changing the way they source products to help meet their goals – with the remaining 30% planning to do so in the future.

Part of these plans also incorporate on-shoring, with 46% stating they already source more from their domestic economies to help meet ESG targets, while 39% suggest they intend to in the future.

Retailers are also increasing their focus on sustainability in response to growing consumer demand for ethically sourced goods. A third (32%)³ of U.K. consumers say they would be prepared to pay more for products sourced from Britain to help meet carbon emissions targets, while a further 35% would if there was no impact on price.

The COVID-19 crisis has put even greater emphasis on using technology to build more resilient supply chains and accelerated trends towards digital trade and e-commerce. Technological innovation and adoption will shape the future of supply chains, helping to streamline operations and drive efficiencies.

Of the retailers surveyed, the majority recognise the need for continued investment into technology, with 77% who are considering investing in digitalisation, 63% in automation and 23% in artificial intelligence.

Tim Waters, Managing Director and European Supply Chain Practice Lead, A&M said: “The impact of the pandemic has been felt throughout retail supply chains across the world. Despite significant distress and disruption, COVID-19 has also acted as a catalyst for change for retail businesses, with evolving consumer behaviour, ESG commitments and technological potential leading new strategic thinking. 

“Across all sectors, businesses are looking for ways to rebuild for the better, with sustainability swiftly climbing agendas. Our research highlights that on-shoring operations is already underway for many retailers. Not only will this help to create more ethical supply chains, it will help to manage future risk.”

Away from the pandemic, the uncertain outcome of the ongoing Brexit negotiations will have significant repercussions for UK retailers and their supply chains, with no-deal creating costly delays and interruption. According to A&M’s analysis, a no-deal scenario would create new tariffs of £7 billion for UK businesses, with most of the burden placed on food (17.1%) and clothing (10.6%).

As such, A&M’s research suggests that European retailers are reluctant to commit to any permanent changes to their supply chains until a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is negotiated between the U.K. and the EU.

Kar-go hits the road as UK’s first autonomous delivery vehicle

The UK’s first autonomous delivery vehicle has hit the roads – giving a glimpse into how technology is set to transform the parcel delivery industry.

Kar-go, a self-driving delivery bot built by Academy of Robotics, uses artificial intelligence and a specially developed package management system to provide contact-free delivery.

Its vision system means the electric vehicle is capable of delivering in both city-centres and suburban and rural locations.

Capable of covering 60 miles fully loaded on a single charge, the Kar-go’s makers claim this type of electric delivery bot could dramatically reduce the environmental impact of parcel deliveries.

In a landmark first journey, the machine successfully transported medical supplies from a pharmacy to a care home in Hounslow, Greater London.

In accordance with current legislation, there was a safety driver on-board Kar-go who could take over at any time, while an additional layer of safety is provided by its nearby Command Hub.

Academy of Robotics says the successful delivery shows how driverless vehicles could eventually become a common site on the streets delivering parcels across the UK.

William Sachiti, the founder of Academy of Robotics, said: “Kar-go’s first deliveries represent a key milestone for the wider automotive industry.

“We have been working closely with DfT’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), BSI, TFL and our partners at Eurovia UK to ensure that safety is at the heart of everything we do and we are grateful for the support we have received.

“What makes Kar-go magical for me is that we applied artificial intelligence and robotics in a useful and good way.

“The technology is there when it is needed and out of the way when it isn’t.

“As complex as Kar-go is, its function is very simple. To me that is good and that is an AI assisted future I would want to live in.”

Kar-go has been designed as a green alternative to diesel delivery vans, which will enable logistics companies and retailers to keep delivery costs down, while providing a more convenient customer experience by delivering on demand.

It focuses on the small, shoe-boxed sized parcels, where delivery costs, which can account for a third of the cart value, put increasing pressure on margins for both retailers and logistics companies.

The vehicle will be able to drive itself to and from the sender and recipient’s address and will hand-over the parcel autonomously using its on-board robotics.

Beginning with semi-autonomous deliveries, the level of autonomy will be gradually increased.

From the Command Hub, Academy of Robotics have instant, secure access to remote monitoring and supervision of the vehicle while it is in autonomous mode.

All elements of the vehicle’s operation from the cameras to the software logs and the vehicle’s position can be monitored and controlled remotely.

Kar-go uses artificial intelligence (AI) to navigate itself and perform many of its functions, with the specialist form of AI developed and patented in the UK by Academy of Robotics.

It uses algorithms based on evolution which can learn and ‘self-optimise’ in real-time to make the best decisions and ensure that multiple fail-safe layers are in place.

Academy of Robotics received funding from UK Research and Innovation as part of the Government’s modern industrial strategy to help scale up their technology and will begin setting up further deliveries in London and the surrounding area before the end of the year.

They are working closely with Eurovia UK, which maintains and improves much of the UK’s road network to look at how the technology can also be used to improve monitoring and management of our roads.

According to the DfT’s Road to Zero report, 33 per cent of the Nitrogen Oxide emissions from road transport were from vans, and emissions from cars and vans are reportedly causing around almost 10,000 early deaths annually.

The debut on UK roads has been welcomed by the Department for Transport. Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “Autonomous delivery vehicles, such as Kar-go, can offer safer and speedier delivery of medical supplies to those who need it the most.

“The UK is well-placed as a science superpower to lead the world in this area and I’m delighted to support projects that drive green innovation, promote a clean transport future and help the economy.”

Do you specialise in Transport Planning & Load Optimisation? We want to hear from you!

Each month on Supply Chain Briefing we’ll be shining the spotlight on a different part of the logistics market – and in December we’ll be focussing on Transport Planning & Load Optimisation.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help supply chain industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re an Transport Planning & Load Optimisation specialist and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Nick Stannard on

Here’s our features list in full:

Dec – Transport Planning & Load Optimisation
Jan – Delivery Management
Feb – Distribution
Mar – Forecasting
Apr – Warehouse Management Software
May – Total End-to-End Solutions
Jun – Cost Reductions
Jul – Supply Chain Software
Aug – Logistics & Operations Management
Sep – Labelling & Packaging
Oct – 3PL & 4PL
Nov – Order Fulfilment
Dec – Transport Planning & Load Optimisation

Total Supply Chain Summits 2021 – Save these dates!

The next Total Supply Chain Summits will take place in May and November 2021 – you’ll be able attend either in person or virtually and you can secure your delegate place today!

17th & 18th May – Radisson Heathrow

1st & 2nd November – Hilton Deasnsgate Manchester

Virtual attendance options are available.

Your guest pass is entirely free and includes access to live seminar sessions, networking with fellow industry professionals, overnight accommodation, all meals and refreshments throughout.

Plus, you will receive a personalised itinerary of relaxed 1-2-1 meetings with budget-saving suppliers who match your needs for upcoming projects. There is no hard sell at the event, just a great opportunity to build business relationships.

Confirm your free pass here, or contact us today, if you would like any more information about this event or our other November Summit.

Associated British Ports Humber ramps recruitment at IRFT

Associated British Ports Humber is recruiting for 24 roles within the Immingham Renewable Fuel Terminal (IRFT).

The roles are broken down between 20 operative roles and four Assistant Operations Managers. The terminal is located within the Port of Immingham, which is the UK’s largest port by volume as well as being the largest handler of dry bulk cargo.

The terminal has the capacity to handle over 20 million tonnes of bulk cargo each year. There are already over 100 people employed at IRFT and the terminal is the world’s largest biomass facility, handling over 6.4 million tonnes of cargo annually.

IRFT is at the forefront of the supply chain in renewable power generation from biomass. The facility supports Drax Power’s biomass-fuelled units. Drax Power is the world’s leading producer of wood pellets and supplier of renewable energy solutions.

There has already been significant investment in the infrastructure and plant at the Port of Immingham to develop blending and storage facilities to secure Drax’s emerging additional supply chain of non-wood pellet biomass.

The investment in IRFT includes upgrade of the sheds’ safety systems, expansion of the lorry load in facility and the purchase of machinery.

Simon Bird, Regional Director, said: ‘This is an exciting opportunity to join the team, with investment flowing into the terminal and more upgrades to be finished in 2021, it really shows how great an industry the renewable sector is.’

The operative roles’ responsibilities include training to operate equipment, to be safe when working, meeting targets set by managers, and cleaning of equipment and site. The roles require an active approach to identifying improvements and opportunities and an ability to develop good working relationships with other port users, tenants and customers.

The Assistant Operations Managers’ responsibilities include being accountable for the health and safety of all operatives, leading through example and acting as a role model for safe ways of working and productivity, coaching team members and identifying team goals to evaluate team progress.

Drax Power Station is critical national infrastructure at the heart of the UK’s energy system, supplying 5% of the country’s electricity from the country’s largest renewable power generator and the biggest decarbonisation project in Europe.

Humber International Terminal is part of the Humber ports that have been working hard, 24 hours a day, in keeping Britain trading. The Port of Immingham is a vital resource and powers one in ten homes in the U.K.

To find out more about the roles, please visit

IRI COVID-19 data reveals impact of pandemic on FMCG and retail

The latest IRI Markets Dashboard report has reviewed the FMCG trends to watch and implications for food and drink brands, retailers and supply chains as the world continues to battle the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

For the first time, the monthly report incorporates US market analysis, in addition to seven Western European countries (France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Netherlands, Germany and the UK). 

Key trends to watch in the US and Europe include:

  • After unprecedented value sales growth (up to +9% at the peak) due to panic stockpiling, FMCG demand growth remains high, but has recently slowed down in Europe (+3%), with the exception of the Netherlands (+13%) and France (+7%). In the US, demand remains 10% higher than year-ago levels. 
  • Food value sales outperform non-food, but declining trends have stabilised in most European countries and the US.
  • Private label sales are slowing down in food and drink in Europe, except in the Netherlands. Brands of mid-size and small companies are the winners in most countries. This aligns with consumer expectations for more local and healthy products. In the US private label sales have not increased as anticipated.
  • In terms of range optimisation that retailers have undertaken, private label in food and drink is significantly more impacted than brands, shrinking respectively by -6% and -3%. E-commerce is the only channel where range is not impacted. 
  • Channels: Online growth remains high. Recently hypermarkets in most countries have seen their performance increase as they are seen to be the best place for social distancing with all products available ‘under one roof’.  Despite a favourable economical context, discounters are struggling against other channels; lack of investment in e-commerce is a weakness.
  • Price growth has started to decrease (+2.7%) as promotions are back (+6.4%) in Europe with the exception of the UK where inflation remains high in food and drink (+7%) until the Every Day Low Price (EDLP) strategy that retailers have recently adopted has an impact. In the US, promotions remain down compared to a year ago, but with some easing evident. 

Opportunities in FMCG:

  • As consumers work from home and dine out less, they will continue to eat more at home, impacting the demand for convenient, healthy and affordable price options. Demand for categories such as healthy food, treats, ready- to-cook, ready meals and home-cooking ingredients will remain high: chilled pastry sales in the UK are at +31.1% value sales.
  • Shoppers have a national supportive behaviour and prefer to buy national to save jobs but at the best price. 
  • Price is important as unemployment is rising again in most European countries and the US. As promotions return to support weak demandthere is an expectation of weak prices (estimation for Italy: average 2021 -0.3%) in the context of a price war.
  • The growing EDLP strategy is mainly in the UK for the moment. It will require suppliers to adapt products to this low-price expectation.
  • Innovations will shift the focus from price to the consumer experience. Brand equity and innovation is the must-have that drives category growth and/or the footfall that retailers need: for instance, a collaboration to provide meal solutions that combine national brands and private label.
  • Range reduction is also an opportunity to refocus the portfolio and align range with demand in the ‘new normal’, ensuring that the right products with the right attributes are available in the right channels.
  • As e-commerce remains the winning channel, supply chain will need to sustain this growth, avoiding out-of-stock issues that is a blocker for shoppers. The momentum of hypermarkets in Europe highlights interest for bricks and mortar as a marketplace. 
  • The success of local and small brands can be acquisition opportunities for companies that need to expand in new consumption universes. 

Additional reports and analysis can be found on the IRI COVID-19 Impact Portal and IRI CPG Economic Indicators, which include FMCG demand and supply indexes and inflation trackers, and more on how the pandemic is impacting FMCG.

IRI is also hosting a series of in-depth discussions with C-level leaders on how businesses are managing through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Total Supply Chain Summit: Virtual places still available!

Your place at the Total Supply Chain Summit is completely free and your attendance is entirely flexible. It secures you access to LIVE and pre-recorded supply chain webinars. 

Plus, once confirmed, your personalised itinerary can be created, allowing you to select the suppliers that you would like to meet with. As well as matching you with those who meet your requirements.

You can confirm your place by following our quick booking link here.

Do you specialise in Order Fulfilment? We want to hear from you!

Each month on Supply Chain Briefing we’ll be shining the spotlight on a different part of the logistics market – and in November we’ll be focussing on Order Fulfilment.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help supply chain industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re an Order Fulfilment specialist and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Nick Stannard on

Here’s our features list in full:

Nov – Order Fulfilment
Dec – Transport Planning & Load Optimisation

82% of supply chain managers frustrated by AI systems during COVID-19 pandemic

82% of supply chain decision-makers have been left frustrated by AI-powered systems and tools during the COVID-19 crisis.

That’s according to Secondmind-commissioned independent global research, carried out by Censuswide, to survey over 500 supply chain planners and managers across Europe and the USA to learn how AI was helping or hindering their decision-making. 

The results show that despite the frustration, belief in AI’s potential is strong – 90% agree that AI-powered tools and software will help them make better decisions by 2025 and over half (59%) strongly agree that AI will transform supply chains for the better in the next five years.

The managers surveyed cited a number of factors hindering the ability of AI systems to deliver value, all of which fell into two categories:

  • Data: a lack of reliable data to feed into AI systems (37%), historic data becoming ‘meaningless’ in times of unprecedented change (19%) and the need to spend significantly more time on manually analysing and interpreting data (50%) were concerns at a time when accuracy and speed were of the essence.
  • Organisational: a third of respondents (34%) said their leadership teams lack an understanding of what is currently needed on the ground to make faster, data-driven decisions. Furthermore, rigid processes and internal structures prevented over two in five planners and managers from quickly responding to changing market conditions (41%).

The supply chain planners and managers surveyed believe that a third of their time (on average 2.83 hours daily) is spent on manual tasks that could easily be automated. As frustrations with current AI systems emerged during the pandemic, 50% said they spent significantly more time manually analysing and interpreting data to assist strategic and operational decisions.

The decision-makers surveyed stated these data pain points are holding them back from working on higher value initiatives that could contribute towards building more resilient supply chains, such as: 

  • Proactively preparing scenarios and plans for future unexpected ‘black swan’ events (30%)
  • Spending more time on proactive and in-depth planning for major events such as Christmas and Black Friday (41%)
  • Conducting more in-depth analysis, using their experience and expertise (51%)

The majority of managers who use AI systems want their domain expertise to factor into the decision-making process. Desirable capabilities for AI systems included: the ability to modify AI-generated forecasts using the decision-maker’s own judgement ( 53%), AI that can learn from humans when historic data is unreliable (47%) and AI that could show what data or contextual information that impacted a forecast (39%).

Of those who believed AI alone was not enough to inform effective decision-making, the reasons cited were that human intuition cannot be replicated by a machine (62%), there will always be some events that a machine can’t predict (59%) and expertise developed from years on the job is critical in decision-making (51%).

Vishal Chatrath, CEO and Co-Founder, Secondmind, said: “COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for businesses operating in global supply chains as they prepare to rapidly accelerate the implementation and deployment of AI in the coming years. For AI to realise its potential, it will be critical for organisations to deploy systems that can cope with sparse or incomplete data environments and promote the effective collaboration between people and AI. Our report shows how much people benefit from AI, but also how much AI needs people. A collaborative approach to decision-making that combines the right skills and capabilities for each task is essential, particularly when systems are disrupted during uncertain times and unpredictable events.”