Logistics industry looks towards the future – but the present needs attention, too

Logistics industry looks towards the future – but the present needs attention, too

Comment by John Meale, Managing Director of Thorworld Industries

The IMHX Show has long been the leading showcase for the UK logistics industry’s latest trends and innovations. The 2022 event was no different; better still, as the first IMHX Show since COVID-19, it was a vital opportunity to catch up with colleagues and competitors.

There was plenty to see, and also to listen to across three days of conference seminars. Despite this, while walking around the show, it became clear that there was a limited number of subjects under discussion. Certain themes kept reoccurring. Automation solutions were everywhere. Sustainability and decarbonisation were high on the agenda. Attracting the next generation of talent to the industry was another hot topic.

These are big, important issues – the burning questions that will determine the future of the industry. Yet what was often missing in all of this talk about the future, was how best to deal with the here and now, especially in the light of the current crisis surrounding the cost of energy, fuel and materials, which threatens the survival of many businesses.

The businesses we speak to are most concerned with more immediate challenges.  How to scale effectively without excessive capital investment. How to be agile to meet changing customer requirements. How to capitalise on the opportunities and obstacles created by the explosion in e-commerce.

For all the focus on innovation, which is commendable, there were other areas which were not adequately represented. The growing need for solutions that provide a cost-effective means of managing a business’ loading and unloading operation is driving continued interest in rugged, versatile and (where necessary) mobile solutions. Such items include dock levellers, shelters, vehicle restraint, loading ramps, docks and platforms.

In the past year, we’ve installed or rented products to solve problems that are very much on the agenda for businesses in the post-COVID era. We’ve dealt with big brands who suddenly needed the capability to load safely onto delivery vans to meet their growing e-commerce order book. We’ve rented ramps to help businesses cope with sudden spikes in demand. Our biggest ever bespoke platform recently went to a firm who needed an efficient way of handling returns.

What’s clear is that companies need practical, immediate assistance with the everyday issues that keep them up at night. While of course we should look ahead to a future where we can harness the benefits brought by emerging technology, it’s worth remembering that – sometimes – the solution you need has proven its worth over many decades.