08 October 2018

Five trends in the bulk logistics industry

Like any other industry, the bulk logistics sector is subject to a huge variety of ever-changing factors and influences, ranging from the technological to the social, the economic to the geopolitical.

While focusing on your own operational performance is key to success, no commercial organisation can afford to only look inwards. Here are the bulk logistics industry trends that should be on your business radar.

A struggling transport infrastructure

Signs of a lack of investment in UK infrastructure are everywhere, including our road network. Government spending on our transport system has greatly reduced over the last few decades; the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked the UK’s infrastructure as 24th in the world in 2016, a slip of five places from our ranking of 19th in 2006.

As a result, bulk logistics fleets often run into ever-higher levels of congestion in the field, as road users of all types struggle to navigate an increasingly choked transport network. The ability to spot logistical problems on the road and communicate them to drivers before they’re affected can help tackle this mounting issue.   

An aging labour force

According to many within the logistics industry, there are too many workers approaching retirement and not enough younger workers coming up through the ranks to replace them. As Andy Kaye, CE at a specialist supply chain and logistics recruitment agency, says, “We have an ageing population and we don’t have the skills to take this industry into the future. Around 25-33% of employees are nearing retirement age, while at the same time the logistics industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy.”

Bulk logistics firms may face a challenge in attracting fresh talent into the sector and also in finding ways to bank the skills of older workers before they leave.

Impending Brexit

It’s now less than six months until the UK is due to leave the European Union, and a ‘no deal Brexit’ is looking like more and more of a possibility. We’ve already explored what Brexit could mean for the logistics industry as a whole, but if anything’s certain, it’s that the effects could be seismic.

Considering that nearly a tenth of the workforce within the Transport and Communication sector are from the EU, a potential staffing shortfall is definitely something many fear come March 2019, which could be compacted further by a lack of young talent. The UK’s post-EU status as a global trading partner could leave us in a great position to strike up new relationships, but only time will tell.

As Brexit moves ever-closer, bulk logistics companies may need to ensure they are set up to be as agile and responsive as possible, with smooth operational structures and processes that leave them ready for whatever comes next.

A continuing emphasis on sustainability

Like the rest of Europe, the UK has been taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for many years, 25% of which it attributes to transport. Of that, HGVs are estimated to account for approximately 17% of national GHG emissions from road transport. It’s likely that further regulations and legislation will come into effect in order to reduce this, so those in the bulk logistics sector will need to be aware of new developments as they happen.

On an organisational level, keeping track of a fleet’s sustainability credentials becomes far easier when a bulk logistics firm has vehicle systems integration in place. The Department for Transport’s 2017 Freight Carbon Review highlights a need to “improve fuel economy through efficient driving and in-cab driver monitoring technologies”, something businesses can achieve with the right software in their corner.

Digitisation and technology

As in virtually every other industry there is, digitisation has well and truly made its presence felt in the bulk logistics sector. Technological innovation in the form of telematics and route planning software have good uptake across the industry, but there’s far more that digital solutions can help bulk logistics firms achieve.

Logistics optimisation solutions can revolutionise the way businesses operate, streamlining complex workflows and creating efficient, paperless processes. Technology provides the means to track, analyse and draw insight from every aspect of the business in action, from driver navigation and communication, to proof of delivery, fleet scheduling and vehicle systems monitoring.

And, thanks to their ability to boost operational performance in every area, such solutions put bulk logistics firms in the best position to face shifting industry trends head on. The power of digital technology can help businesses finesse their services for customers and their working practices for their workforce; capabilities that can help futureproof bulk logistics, now and in the future.

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