UK supply chains rise to the challenge


Organisers of the largest exhibition for the UK’s logistics and supply chain sectors (IMHX 2021 – NEC, 14th – 16th September 2021) are confident that UK supply chains will rise to the challenge during these difficult times.

IMHX Group Director, Rob Fisher, says: “The extreme pressures on grocery, medical and pharmaceutical supply chains are unprecedented in modern times. But despite the challenges faced by supermarkets and pharmacies, with on-going peaks and surges in demand, the supply chains of our leading grocers are performing remarkably well, keeping high street and edge of town stores supplied.”

However, he acknowledges that the sharp spike in online grocery shopping has challenged current home-delivery models. The UK’s largest online grocer, Ocado, is one supermarket which has shed light on the huge volume of orders being placed: “Practically every Ocado customer, no matter how infrequently they may have shopped previously, is now looking to place an order every week. At the same time, with families at home, the average size of orders has almost doubled. This means there is an unceasing level of demand several times our current delivery capacity.”

Rob Fisher continues: “What’s interesting is, some online grocery retailers are performing better than others – although long lead times of up to several weeks on delivery slots are not uncommon. Here, the focus is on order picking and assembling huge volumes of complex orders quickly. If as a result of the crisis, homeworking becomes more widely adopted, it’s likely that more people will be placing orders online in the future and this may well mean that grocers and other e-Commerce businesses will be looking for more sophisticated levels of goods-to-person automation,” he says.

The implications for the intralogistics sector from COVID-19 are, according to Rob Fisher, quite profound. “Over the next few months, supply chains will be tested to the limit, lessons will be learnt, and new requirements will emerge in response to changing customer demand.

“The UK’s grocery supply chains are for the most part highly efficient, run on a just-in-time basis, which would normally provide an efficient supply of low-cost food. However, it would seem, according to pundits, that it only takes a modest unexpected surge in demand to create empty shelves. Grocery supply chains may well need to look at building greater resilience into their models and that means holding higher levels of inventory on certain goods,” he says.

During the COVID-19 emergency, many live events are being cancelled or postponed. As an event organiser, Rob Fisher adds: “Live events have always and will always play a vital role in connecting business communities. Once this crisis passes, they will be a catalyst to reinvigorate economies. There will be a profound need for the logistics sector to meet and take stock. IMHX is extremely well placed to facilitate this, and we are ready to welcome the UK logistics community when it’s back to business-as-usual across the industry.”

IMHX 2021, the UK’s largest logistics exhibition, will be taking place at the NEC Birmingham from 14th – 16th September 2021.