By Elizabeth De Jong, director of policy, Freight Transport Association (FTA)
Blade Runner, the film once thought of as the window into the world of futuristic travel, was set in 2019, and while flying vehicles may be a little way off, it’s clear that logistics is entering an era of unprecedented change.
Developing technologies are driving the industry forwards and, in the view of FTA, the voice of logistics, with so much change on the horizon, it is important to review the principles that measure the success of future logistics systems in order to achieve coherence across the sector. Businesses and the wider economy need predictability in order to flourish and deliver.
Before the use of drones and other futuristic technologies can be considered, the industry needs to know what the objectives are for logistics in the future.
What will supply chains need to deliver in 2030 or beyond?
It is only when we, as an industry, know what we want, that we can attempt to create a coherent, future-proofed system to move the logistics sector forwards.
FTA has developed four principles that it believes should be at the core of future policy and new technology decisions:
Flexibility and resilience
Meeting customer demand is the lifeblood of the logistics industry. We flex our services and delivery times to meet demand, often constrained by planning and access regulations.
The rise of internet shopping has already impacted logistics with increasingly flexible delivery services, including nominated and next day delivery which is now seen as the norm.
The industry prides itself on its ability to adapt and keep Britain trading whatever the circumstances. However, what is demanded of the industry will soon change even further, with clean air zones, alternative fuels and new demands on delivery times and capabilities.
We must build a system at every level that can afford to invest and adapt to the changing nature of society and commerce.
Increasingly, the future of logistics looks set to be based on technological advances requiring a highly skilled workforce.
As FTA’s Skills Report 2019 notes, the industry is currently experiencing significant labour shortages which must be addressed moving forwards.
Vital to the UK’s economy, logistics should be viewed as a high-quality system that adds value to British society and its employees valued for their knowledge and abilities.
Consideration must be given to delivering great experiences for employees and promoting a positive reputation for the sector, therefore allowing the industry to attract the right and sufficient talent to secure its future.
Logistics operators always strive for maximum efficiency and will continue to do so in the future. However, road space capacity is not endless, nor is there an unlimited energy supply.
Whatever technological developments occur, logistics still needs to run as efficiently as possible. This must be a primary concern for not only the industry, but for government and regulators too.
Reducing emissions and improving safety are vital to the future of logistics. And while there will always be a need for space on roads, airports, railways and ports, many of the negative issues around emissions and overcrowding could, and perhaps must, be eliminated by 2050.
Local and national strategies are already being introduced to help eradicate road deaths and injuries from freight movements, as well as zero atmospheric emissions, making the 2050 ambition an ever-increasing possibility.
In order to shape the future and create a coherent roadmap, the sector must first define the ideal outcomes it is seeking to achieve. These principles would then act as a solid foundation from which a successful future for our industry can be constructed.