In the North West, and indeed in the North, are we in danger of relying too heavily on the extensive investments that have been and continue to be made in our logistics infrastructure? Believing that 'if it is built, they will come'; believing that this alone will deliver the significant growth in trade and opportunities of a thriving Northern logistics hub.
The global supply chain has changed only gradually over the last 5 decades, working consistently to standard sized containers aggregated onto larger and larger vessels, docking in fewer significant deep water ports for onward transmission by water, rail or road. This required significant monetary investment to keep up with, something we lacked until Peel Ports very recently made its investment.
In the last decade there has been significant focus on the 'last mile' and this phase of the supply chain has been transformed. This article in The Economist poses a view on how that transformation will continue to revolutionise the rest of the supply chain. It looks at the significant enterprises that are readying themselves for that revolution.
The North West is a hive of activity for the tech, manufacturing and retail sectors, as well as both traditional and modern supply chain logistics. The owners and operators of our logistics infrastructure continue to invest heavily so that we are able to operate within the modern supply chain network and indeed so that we can disrupt it. It is now key that our tech, retail and manufacturing sectors ready themselves for this broader, global revolution. The changes envisaged will create greater speed, flexibility and efficiency in the global supply chain and significant price efficiencies. Such results will make our manufacturers and retailers more competitive.
I am presently working with early stage tech businesses, developing technology and models to work in this brave new World: one that might revolutionise air freight and another that is applying blockchain principles to solve the disconnection between operators and across transport modes. It shows that we can be a leader in this revolution. It would be truly worrying if we do not react until it is too late. The reference to the Blue Funnel Line at the end of The Economist article should be a lesson to us all.
It is by playing a part in this revolution that we will see freight traffic arriving in and leaving from our ports, moving through the North West as a manufacturing and consumer market strengthening its importance around the World. This should generate growth in all of the sectors - which is a key drive behind ensuring that the North West is a Leading Logistics Hub.
Though today’s talk is all of delivery drones and driverless vans, the key to this transformation has been not new equipment but new ways of handling data: knowing where hundreds of millions of things are and where they are going, and being able to act on that data. Companies that have been crucial to these changes at one end of the distribution chain—Alibaba and JD [and Amazon] are eyeing the rest of it. The business of moving goods internationally ....requires many more capabilities than shifting items from local warehouses to doorsteps. But it ...accounts for 90% of the logistics’ industry’s global revenue. How far the intruders can displace the incumbents and what new business models come out of the struggle will help determine how much world trade can grow and who the winners and losers from that growth will be.