CEO blog: A resilient economy with digital technology at its heart

May 5, 2021

UKWA has long been banging the drum in support of our industry embracing digital technology. From our National Conference in  2019, when we warned members that those failing to move with the changing landscape risked being left behind, to sharing more recent comments from our logistics users’ discussion panel, where automation in warehouses was described as a ‘must-have’, rather than a ‘nice-to-have’ for engaging with major customers going forward.

It was, therefore, more than welcome to hear the message clearly set out at the G7 Digital and Technology Ministers Meeting last month, that “recovery from COVID-19 must be rooted in a desire to build back a better, more productive and resilient global economy, with digital technology at its heart.”

Indeed, part of the agenda focused on widespread alignment and adoption of digital tools to facilitate frictionless trade, with the G7 urging better leverage of the potential of valuable data-driven technologies.

The context for these discussions was that COVID-19 has demonstrated the need for data free flow, with trust, and its role in the global recovery. This could hardly be more critical for our industry. With the surge of ecommerce, driven by the pandemic lockdown, comes inevitable requirement for increased data handling and more data integration. This raises too the issue of cyber security and effective business risk management – another recurring theme from UKWA.

Accordingly, key projects for 2021 continue to be centred around adoption of technology. This month UKWA is kicking off two important projects, in partnership respectively with the University of Bath’s Centre for Smart Warehousing and Logistics Systems, and The University of Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing  (IfM).

The first involves a survey-based study to investigate the adoption and assimilation of automation in warehouses (and potentially other emerging warehousing technologies), focusing on the opportunities and barriers for the adoption of advanced automation technologies in the in sector.

The second, ‘Digital Logistics on a Shoestring’, is an initiative to support smaller 3PLs looking to ‘dip a toe into the water’ and aims to help identify low cost and easily adoptable solutions that provide new tools to drive efficiency, enabling smaller businesses to compete effectively in the ‘new world’.

Looking further ahead, we are proud to have been invited to feed into the ongoing digitalisation policy debate on behalf of the warehousing industry, and keenly anticipate outcomes from UK’s hosting of the next G7 ‘Future Tech Forum’ in September 2021.