If the present is the best guide to the future, then Mick Wilson sees the logistics industry in the packaging and paper sector developing in three main ways over the next five to 10 years.
First, the current 10-year Department of Transport trial of longer trailer lengths – meaning that road hauliers can carry 30 pallet “footprints” instead of the usual 26 – offers capacity and load benefits.
Second, the director of Norbert Dentressangle’s fast-moving consumer goods business unit expects customers to continue wanting to shrink inventories, reducing their own costs by carrying less stock. The resulting conundrum of higher load capacity and rising demand for smaller and more frequent deliveries, meanwhile, will mean that firms in the sector will need to be increasingly inventive and collaborative.
“Manufacturers and retailers are clearly seeking to hold lower inventories so I suspect they will want to pursue more frequent deliveries in smaller quantities,” he said. “Collaboration will be more and more prevalent to continue to squeeze costs.
"Companies in the sector don’t compete on the logistics; they only compete on the shelves. So the principle of collaborating with competitors is something that we will probably see more of. Driving costs down will have to mean better use of equipment and facilities – and collaboration can help deliver that.”
Examples could include loads across business sectors, he says, so a lorry not quite full of toilet rolls could take a part-load of a light but bulky food transport such as potato crisps.
In addition, he predicts more collaboration between logistics service providers. “It’s all about trying to find the next level of efficiencies,” he says. “There’s constant pressure from customers to reduce cost. “It’s only by working smarter that the industry can maintain its cost competitiveness.”