Unification seems the way forward

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Reports from the UK Warehousing Association’s (UKWA) annual conference this month spoke of the great threats and challenges facing logistics businesses in the digital world. 

One of the retailers claimed: “we’ve created these challenges for ourselves and the problem is not going away for any of us. To make eCommerce work we have to be ruthlessly efficient, improve our costs and our customer communications to better manage their expectations.” He further suggested it was difficult for the UK to be profitable in eCommerce because of customer expectations, which don’t exist elsewhere. 

And this is what we’re up against in this industry. It has inadvertently made a rod for its own back as today’s order fulfilment model is unsustainable in the long term; consumer expectations need a wake-up call. 

CEO of UKWA Peter Ward put it straight when he said: “The world must change. Customers need to stop squeezing us on price and the general public need to understand that next day delivery and free returns simply cannot be achieved at low cost.”

Communicating this message is where industry needs to unify if ecommerce is ever to become truly profitable. Data capture and mobile technology are certainly helping improve productivity and profitability in distribution centres (DCs) but inefficient processes and outdated technology are still costing them dearly. DCs are losing 3,000 hours a year on inefficient processes.

And with 80% of DCs needing to find an average of 19% cost savings from existing operations the need for more connected technology has never been greater. When Honeywell asked* DCs what they saw as most important in increasing profitability, they all agreed that worker accuracy was key. And certainly 40% of them had found that barcode scanners and mobile computers helped generate more accurate inventory data. 

But what we’re seeing in the field is that while there is widespread usage of mobile devices, there’s no unification between them. They’re often built on different technology platforms so companies are forced down the road of siloed provisioning and application support, all of which is costly and difficult to maintain. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way, not when you’ve got unified platforms like Mobility Edge™. Honeywell recognised that businesses needed a unified hardware and software platform for all form factors, one that allowed for: 

  • rapid deployments
  • optimised business performance
  • extended lifecycle
  • strengthened security

And security is definitely something we all need to be concerned about. According to IBM†, the average cost of a data breach was $3.8million. And cyber crime was a topic high on the agenda at the UKWA conference too, with claims that in the UK alone, it was costing companies £27 billion a year. 

This month, the British Retail Consortium published its annual Retail Crime Survey, which makes shocking reading but confirmed that spend on cybercrime prevention was up 17% to £162 million. The Consortium’s CEO said these problems cannot be solved alone and called on the sector’s partners to do more to confront it.

So, unification seems a common theme, in not just how the industry responds to its market challenges but also how we use technology to its optimum capability. For, if we ignore or fail to engage with the new world of logistics, we face, as Peter Ward cautioned, a very real risk of being left behind forever.

* Honeywell Distribution Center Study Market Research Report, 

† McCarthy, Niall. The Average Cost Of A Data Breach is Highest In The U.S. (infographic) Forbes, July 13, 2018

Richard Gilliard

Renovotec is the UK’s largest independent rugged hardware and maintenance, software and services company. Managing Director Richard Gilliard has helped lead the organisation for over 25 years, supporting customers across many sectors including warehousing and distribution, transport and logistics, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, seaports and field mobility. Richard's drive is to enable firms through…


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