The COVID pandemic has been the most disruptive health crisis in our lifetimes. Not only has it impacted on public health, but it has also fundamentally reshaped the way in which the population lives and works. In addition, it has ushered in structural changes to the nation’s shopping habits, with a clear shift to much higher levels of online purchasing and fulfilment by UK shoppers.
The numbers speak for themselves. Pre-pandemic, online accounted for 20% of UK retail sales. Current figures for 2021 indicate this has now risen to 34%. It is likely that this channel shift will now become embedded in the nation’s shopping habits.
The previous decade had already witnessed a gradual shift away from the high-street and towards online shopping. However, what COVID has done is to radically increase the pace of that change. This is now forcing the UK warehousing and logistics sector to innovate and adapt to meet the changing needs and expectations of consumers.
The Role of Logistics
One of the consequences of this shift to online has been an increasingly important role for the UK warehousing and logistics industry. For every mouse-click in someone’s home, there is an entire infrastructure dedicated to the storing, moving, and delivery of purchased products.
With ever rising customer expectations around faster delivery, this has led to the industry rapidly expanding. In fact, logistics and warehousing have now grown to become a key sector of the UK’s economy, contributing more than $82bn annually.
Arguably, the pandemic has also led to a greater public awareness of the importance of the logistics industry itself in maintaining access to essential products. In the early days of the pandemic, news images of empty supermarket shelves reminded consumers that there are entire supply chains required to ensure that products remain available. At the heart of achieving this is a logistics and warehousing sector which had previously been below the radar for the British public. However, the COVID crisis effectively made logistics frontpage news, drawing the public’s attention to the structures and processes that sit behind their everyday spending habits.
The pandemic has led to other changes in the operating model of the sector. The way that the logistics industry operated in recent years was through a “just in time” model. Following shortages earlier in the pandemic, suppliers are increasingly moving towards a “just in case” model, where more goods are held in stock than they were previously.
This has led to rising demand, and rising costs, for warehousing. It has also forced suppliers to innovate in how they transport, move, and store goods. At the heart of many of these innovations will be modern plastics, whether that is crates for storage, robotic solutions for warehousing, or specialist components that are used in the transport industry for loading and moving goods.
Plastics and Logistics
As a leading plastic injection moulding company, ENL Group already supports a range of customers working in the transport, logistics, and warehousing sectors. This ranges from producing bespoke mouldings and connectors, to supplying containers that fit with the needs of individual customers, as well as supplying components for the vans and lorries that transport goods up and down the country.
Plastics also play a pivotal role in enabling the easy transport of products from manufacturers to warehouses, and also to end consumers. Anyone who has received an online supermarket order, for instance, will be familiar with the ubiquitous plastic crates that the driver carries to your front door.
Although there is a legitimate ongoing debate about plastics and the environment, this is one very clear example of the way that plastics can be part of delivering better environmental sustainability. Reusable plastic crates are far better for the environment than any available alternatives. They are lightweight leading to lower transport costs and reduced carbon emissions, stackable, again making transportation more efficient, and most critically they are reusable.
As we move forward, one of the key trends we expect to see developing next will be from companies that require support in automating aspects of their work. In order to remain competitive, UK warehousing providers and logistics companies are starting to embrace automated solutions to respond to both the increasing costs of warehousing space, and the rising costs of labour particularly following the UK’s exit from the EU.
Warehouse automation is usually a bespoke solution that needs to be built to fit the needs of individual businesses. It will often require the development of new, cutting-edge machinery, which requires specific, durable and reliable plastic components. Modern engineered polymers are ideally suited to such functions, and can be deployed in a warehouse setting without concerns about issues such as degradation or corrosion.
Although COVID has driven the rapid recent growth in logistics and warehousing, this is a trend that most analysts expect to see continue, not just in the UK but across the globe.
This means that businesses involved in transport and logistics in the UK will have to drive efficiencies and further embrace automation in an effort to keep pace with demand and with rising customer expectations.
In order to do this, processes will need to be redesigned, and new solutions found for moving, storing, and transporting products. As a leading UK plastic injection moulding company, ENL is committed to working with our clients across the transport and logistics sector to co-create new, bespoke solutions that fit their needs and help build a post-COVID logistics and warehousing sector that truly delivers for the UK.
About ENL Group
ENL Group is based in Portsmouth, UK and Veľké Kostoľany, Slovakia. Established in 1958, we have been servicing UK-based and European companies for decades. Working with a secure supply chain, ENL provides quality components for quality-driven customers – with full certification for all of our products and quality checking at every stage.
Operating 24/7, we design, manufacture and deliver critical components for our customers across the UK and Europe.
Contact Us for more information about ENL and how we can help your business.