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In evolutionary theory, the term ‘gradualism’ describes evolution as an incremental process that occurs over an extended period. It is safe, steady, and perfectly describes the evolution of the distribution industry over the past century.

COVID-19, on the other hand, is what’s known as an extreme climatic event (think asteroids, or ice-ages) and is not merely a temporary blip to be endured. The habitat we operate within is now irreversibly altered, and there are just two options available: evolution or extinction. So just as the dinosaur’s asteroid prompted the Age of Mammals, COVID represents the dawn of a new age for our industry: The Intelligent Warehouse Era.

Now, you may believe that your well-run warehouse is already intelligent. However, do not confuse “intelligently operated” with being “intelligent”. To be the latter, the warehouse itself – not its operators – must become artificially intelligent (AI) and be able to acquire knowledge and apply it in ways that improve its effectiveness over time.

By now, you may have some questions. Firstly, how does one go about creating an AI warehouse? And secondly, is it even remotely feasible?

So, before we continue, let’s dispel a common misconception. Artificial Intelligence is not a space-age technology that solely describes robots with human-level intelligence, accessible only to silicone-valley tech giants. Rather, AI is simply a computer capable of using data to improve how it performs a particular task. It has existed since the 1950s at which time it ran on computers approximately 100,000 times less powerful than an Apple watch. AI is very accessible to you.

To illustrate this, I can offer my own organisation, SEC Storage, as an example. Like many businesses reading this, we are an established, independent SME, funded through revenue. Yet, in the last three years, we’ve been able to adapt our supply capability to complement traditional storage-equipment with modern, affordable, intelligent warehouse technologies such as collaborative robotics and self-driving vehicles. Additionally, we’ve affordably invested in a suite of AI tools that we use to run our operations and analyse our clients’ data to produce innovative, award-winning warehouse designs.

So, if not affordability, what has held the logistics industry back from embracing AI? The answer is a general level of contentment with the way things were, particularly from external stakeholders. The damaging myth that has pervaded boardrooms for so long – that warehouses are simply cost-centres to be managed – has stymied our evolution for decades.

But this is no longer the case. Businesses started to understand the value logistics can add a few years before COVID. The coronavirus has, however, acted as a magnifier of its importance. To prevent a second economic catastrophe, government and industry will be forced to engage with the need for a rapid-evolution event in the distribution sector, and we need to be ready.

So, for logistics professionals reading this, considering how to adapt to a post-COVID world, I encourage you to view this extreme climatic event as an impetus for evolution and an opportunity to embed intelligence into your warehouse operations. It could just be the most important thing you ever do.

 

We are delighted to announce that the SEC Group has been shortlisted for the Data Excellence Award at the prestigious 2020 Lloyds Bank National Business Awards.

Harry Watts, Commercial Director commented, “This is a huge achievement for our business and we are enormously proud to have been shortlisted in such a competitive, prestigious awards programme. Data is an essential, integrated part of our global strategy; which we harness every day to create optimised solutions for our customers. We are very proud that we’ve been recognised for our innovation through data, by utilising bespoke analytics and artificially intelligent tools to provide unique and enhanced solutions to our customers.”

Open to organisations of all sizes from all sectors across the UK, the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards programme is the UK’s most prestigious independent business recognition platform with particular emphasis on excellence, innovation and ethical business.

Sarah Austin, Awards Director said “When it comes to business recognition, the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards are the ones to win. They allow any successful organisation to tell their story, from large private and public companies, to thriving entrepreneurial businesses, promising start-ups and established SMEs.”

The award winners will be announced on 10th November 2020.

UKWA SEC Storage

SEC Storage has been announced as finalists in the ‘Innovation’ and ‘Young Employee of the Year’ categories at this year’s UKWA Awards.

The UKWA (United Kingdom Warehouse Association) is Britain’s leading trade organisation for the warehouse and logistics industry, with over 650 members. Members include third-party logistics providers, manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and suppliers to the logistics industry, such as SEC Storage. The awards recognise the extraordinary achievement of individuals and companies in the logistics industry and are judged by a distinguished panel of industry leaders.

Innovation Award

SEC Storage is delighted to have been nominated for the ‘Innovation Award’ for our work on a completely bespoke, modified shuttle system for Christie Lites Coventry Ltd, a leading US-based stage lighting company.

Various options were initially researched, including an adjustable pallet racking and drive-in solution, however, these options were found to have significant limitations. And so, through further discussion with Christie Lites, SEC identified that in order to overcome the selectivity and storage density issues, that a highly innovative shuttle system would prove to be the best option.

Our shuttle solution has provided the client with the following benefits:

  • A 229% increase in volumetric capacity when compared with alternatives, such as APR 
  • A 500% increase in the number of pickable locations, since in a shuttle system every lane and level can take a different SKU
  • 100% selectivity as each of the SKUs have their own dedicated lane


Our award entry demonstrates the creative vision, expertise, and passion for customer service that drives the business to achieve true innovation, even when others said it would not be possible.

Young Employee of the Year

SEC Storage was also delighted to learn that Project Manager, Alex-Mae Underwood has been nominated as a ‘Young Employee of the Year’. 

Alex-Mae joined SEC back in 2016, aged 20, and initially worked in Customer Sales Support. From her very first day, she showed a strong sense of aptitude and initiative, with her exceptional skills in organisation, project management and customer service leading her to successive promotions throughout the last few years to Project Administrator, Project Co-Ordinator, and to her current role as a Project Manager.

She is now responsible for managing nearly all small to medium-sized projects within the storage side of the business, and we are delighted that she has been recognised for her hard work by the UKWA.

The UKWA Awards will be held on Thursday 27th June at the Dorchester Hotel, London and will mark the 75th anniversary of the awards.

 

 

Harry Watts, Commercial Director of SEC Storage‘s Systems Division was delighted to be part of a logistics leaders panel discussion at the SHD Logistics Conference on the 14th May 2019.

The spring SHD Logistics Conference was held at the British Museum in London on 14th May with the focus being “Transforming Logistics Through Technology”. The days packed agenda provided delegates with key insights from companies who are leading the way in the digital transformation within the logistics space, and Harry was delighted to join other leading logistics leaders as part of the Live Panel discussion in the afternoon.

The Live Panel, moderated by BearingPoint’s Natasha Tyrrell would focus on the subject, “Establishing a digital culture within your logistics operations”, with contributions from James & James Fulfilment, TPX Manifesto and Hermes. Alongside questions posed by Natasha, the floor was also opened to questions from the audience.

Questions discussed included whether the logistics industry is ready for digitisation (not just from an eCommerce perspective but also inventory, WMS and stock-holding), as well as the need to embed a digital team within your organisation.

A full round-up of the SHD Logistics Conference is due to be published as part of The Logistics Podcast and in the next issue of SHD Logistics Magazine.

Harry Watts (far right in the photographs), Commercial Director of our Systems Division has an undergraduate degree in Mathematics from the University of Warwick and a masters degree in Logistics from Cranfield University. He is at the forefront of SEC Storage’s data analysis and simulation, enabling us to provide intelligent, flexible and data-driven solutions for our clients.