CILT’s Annual Conference 2017
CILT’s Annual Conference 2017 considered the challenges and opportunities of optimising skills and technology throughout the profession.
With a new interactive Activity Zone setting the scene for the day, leading speakers from across logistics, operations management and transport gave delegates an insight into how best to cope with the demands of the future, embrace technology and encourage excellence throughout their organisation.
Challenges facing defence logistics
Opening speaker Major General Angus Fay, Assistant Chief of Defence Staff, MOD, began by stating that the total defence logistics personnel is 28,000, making it a huge operation to manage. He said: ‘Our vision for the future is underpinned by technology, so we need to adapt and use this technology as soon as possible. The cyber threat has been a game-changer for defence. We are now more connected, living in an information age.’
When speaking about the recent statement of intent signed between CILT and MOD, he explained this agreement helps champion the profession: ‘We need to professionalise people within defence logistics, promoting training and improving skills.’
From invisible force to active experience
Neil Ashworth, Chief Executive Officer, Collect +, opened the Transforming Technologies sessions as he analysed how organisations should utilise social media to drive their business forward. He said: ‘Logistics is behind most industries with its use of social media and this is a problem we need to address . . . it offers the industry shipment updates, industry trends, sharing of risk information and weather insight.’
When discussing the need to attract more young professionals to the industry, he said social media gives companies that capability: ‘You need to be in the social media race, as your customers are already on the journey.’
From men in black to ladies in red Beverley Bell, Vice-President, CILT, hosted a lively debate to kick-off the conference’s Encouraging Excellence stream. Tackling the issue of diversity and the stigma that surrounds the logistics and transport profession, she challenged the audience to look at how they could alter the image of the sector and make it appealing to the next generation of logistics professionals.
She closed by asking: ‘The young people we want to attract will plug the skills shortage, but how would you sell your job to a 25-year-old or even a 15-year-old?’
How to put a zebra on the moon
CILT President Robin Proctor encouraged delegates to invest in and trust their people to take advantage of new technology and make logistics an exciting vocation. He said: ‘It is critical that you are clever and build in flexibility. These might be uncertain times, but they are full of opportunity and you must act now and get on board with the innovation revolution before it’s too late.’
Despite being a firm believer in the positive impacts of technology, he urged delegates not to forget to invest in people: ‘The only route to action is through people. Without people we have no decision-makers.
They’re the only ones who can take action and be flexible, and that’s all too often forgotten in our technological world.’
Beyond digital: charting our journey
Richard Potter, Innovation and Digital Transformation Leader, Sopra Steria, shared his observations on what he sees in the digital world around him and the forces shaping the future of business. He said: ‘The digital world is immensely difficult to anticipate. Nobody truly knows what the future holds. Technology is moving rapidly and we are now able to step into live situations, thanks to augmented reality, with a complete 3D perspective.’
He made it clear that those businesses that do not accommodate changes in technology and prioritise innovation will get left behind: ‘We need to acknowledge the key force behind driving our future and that’s the commoditisation of IT.’
Logistics skill shortages: a global perspective
Professor Alan McKinnon, Professor of Logistics, Kuehne Logistics University, presented a report looking into the results of a study undertaken for the World Bank on the shortage of logistics skills around the world. He said: ‘Logistics employment tends to get a bad press, which is deeply worrying. The reason for skill deficiencies is the difficulty in recruiting enough staff with the right qualifications.
In emerging markets, recruitment at managerial level is seen as the greatest human resource challenge in logistics over the next five years, whilst in developed countries it is often at the operative level.’
He closed his presentation by reaffirming that the study indicated there is a serious, widespread and worsening shortage of logistics skills that urgently needs to be addressed.
So you think you know young professionals
Bethany Fovargue, Operations Manager, NOVUS, and Lucy Holland, Logistics Project Support Manager, Sainsbury’s, addressed the growing concern about attracting suitably skilled young professionals to cater for the future of the profession. Bethany Fovargue said: ‘We need to start taking the young people in our workforce seriously,building a culture of continuous development and progression.’By 2020, 50% of the global workforce will be Millennials, and both speakers shared their thoughts on the ways in which an organisation’s culture, management style and approach to retention affects young professional’s recruitment choices.Bethany Fovargue added: ‘Boredom is a deal-breaker; we like to be active.Millennials are looking for mentorship and support.’
Using 3D modelling to deliver facility enhancements
This session gave delegates the opportunity to learn how safety equipment supplier Arc, used the latest in 3D modelling from Logistex and AutoLogic Systems to design, test and install a major new order fulfilment and storage facility enhancement. Andy Parsons, Director, AutoLogic System Ltd,Martin Elliott, Solutions Manager, Logistexand Neil Griffiths, Divisional Director, Arco,discussed their aim to facilitate significantgrowth and improve packing andautomation efficiency.
Evolving marketplace of customers and new technology
Mark Hemming, Regional Director UK Customer Fulfilment, Amazon UK, offered a fascinating insight into the company’s adoption of new technology and how it caters to their customers growing demands. He said: ‘We drive growth by innovating, not just with great products but also by improving our processes. Amazon Robotics is one of many innovations pioneered by us and we are always looking for the next one. Demand and expectation continue to grow, so we need to make sure we get our products to customers quicker.
Our customers come first; if they don’t want a particular change to happen, then we won’t do it.’
We should use technology to help us, not turn us into robots. Tony O’Brien
Should technology replace logistics and transport professionals?
The final instalment of this year’s conference involved a lively debate about the future role technology should play in the profession. The panel of six debated arguments for and against technology replacing our logistics and transport professionals, answering questions from the audience at the end of the session.
Phil Roe, Managing Director for Transport, DHL Supply Chain, said: ‘This industry is progressive and change creates new opportunity. If we don’t embrace technology we will get left behind.
Following on from him, Jim Spittle, Chair, GSI UK Ltd, said: ‘You need to embrace and envisage technology in order to remain competitive.’ Catherine Milner, Managing Consultant, C2CMC Ltd, was the final speaker supporting the use of technology,saying: ‘We aren’t saying get rid of people,but the skills we have today will need to grow to keep up.’In favour of logistics and transport professionals, Tony O’Brien, Managing Director, Panasonic Systems and Solutions Europe, said: ‘We should use technology to help us, not turn us into robots.’ Professor David Cebon, Cambridge Vehicle Dynamics Consortium, added: ‘Computers don’t have soft skills and are unable to manage people.We still need creative professionals.’ Martijn Gilbert, Chief Executive Officer, Reading Buses, closed by asking: ‘Who will provide the leadership if professionals are replaced?’
Conference Chairman Martijn Gilbert and CILT Chairman Richard Wilding closed the conference by demanding delegates take heed of what they had heard today, and inspire their people to grasp the opportunities provided by the politically uncertain and our rapidly evolving technological world.