On 10th October 2019, Invest ESSEX hosted a seminar on technology disruption in logistics – in association with CILT and Lombard Finance – at Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford.

25 years after Jeff Bezos registered Amazon, a number of expert presenters shared their views on future developments in logistics and how their offerings were facilitating disruption. Keynote speakers at the event came from Swisslog, Anglia Ruskin University, Oracle and Lombard Finance.

Facilitating disruption through automation

One company that featured in a number of presentations despite not presenting was Ocado. Ocado are currently setting up their fifth robotised customer fulfilment centre (CFC5) in Purfleet and are renowned for their innovative three-dimensional grid system to assemble customers’ orders. Indeed, such has been their focus on innovation that The Economist magazine characterised Ocado as being as having metamorphosised into a tech startup, rather than merely just an online grocery business. Click here to read more about Ocado’s relocation to Purfleet.

Naturally, the seminar saw a heavy focus placed on automation and the role that it contributes towards disruptive technologies in logistics.

Swisslog, the UK’s market leader in warehouse automation, has supplied all the automation and robotic systems for the 700,000 sq ft Nestle warehouse at the East Midlands Gateway, scheduled to open in March 2020. Shane Faulkner of Swisslog spoke about the ways in which machine learning is transforming the company’s technology. For example, within Swisslog’s 3D Vision system, robotic item pickers work out the best way to lift an item.

The role of data and finance in logistics

Ying Xie and Tom Stacey from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) quoted a survey from PWC (Pricewaterhouse Coopers) which found that 90% of logistics experts recognise the importance of data in decision making, but fewer than a third rated their business’s own competence in the field as “advanced”. ARU spoke of research collaboration projects they have with companies like Port of Felixstowe, Ocado and Simarco.

Vikram Singla of Oracle spoke on how the need for future-ready logistics is accelerating, with it currently being constrained by factors such as IT infrastructure, data availability and people. To develop an agile culture, an organisation needs to be always current, look for ways of further automation and ensure that decisions are data-driven. Echoing the message given by ARU, there is also increasingly a need to incorporate data collected by third parties in the analysis.

Another attendee at the seminar was Lombard Finance, who are part of NatWest. Lombard are widely known in the logistics market as a provider of asset finance for trucks, forklifts and warehouse equipment. Not so widely known is that Lombard can also finance the acquisition of, or lend against, Intellectual Property (IP).

Advances in technology mean that more logistics companies are able to develop their own in-house software to meet their specific needs. Lombard can facilitate this by lending against it, having already done so with Europa – one of Kent’s largest privately-owned logistics companies.

Our sincere thanks go to such an insightful panel of experts who took the time to share their knowledge about where they think the industry is going next.

Robert Edge
Inward Investment Manager
Invest ESSEX