23 March 2017

How technology is changing the retail supply chain

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Consumers have more power than ever before and rising expectations mean that later order cut-off times and faster delivery options are constantly changing. With technology such as automation playing an increasing role in the supply chain, many believe this is only going to become more apparent.

At the heart of this shift has been the rise of multichannel, which means whichever channel a customer uses they can reasonably expect a consistent quality of experience; whether shopping in-store or via mobile, tablet or laptop. This also means more consumer savviness, with online price comparison is now routine.

Five years ago, how to navigate multichannel was at the forefront of many business’s plans for the future, particularly those in the retail trade. Questions were asked about how to place the customer at the heart of the retail experience. Retailers and their suppliers needed to put in place a strategy to oversee this.

The rise of multichannel has had a huge impact on the logistics supply chain.

In response, the use of technology such as automation in logistics has inevitably increased in a bid to increase productivity and efficiency. The right type of automation is key, however. For targeted efficiencies, it is best to concentrate on automating specific points within the supply chain – something that as a leading provider of automated warehouses in the UK we know the logistics industry is seeing more and more of.

So what does this automation look like? The internet of things is one example of a point early on in the supply chain. It is already in use and has the potential to simplify the ordering process for households up and down the country. At the touch of a button, replacement washing powder, toothpaste and toiletries can be guaranteed delivery within a matter of hours. For manufacturers, too, it is being put to use ordering parts and supplies.

Later in the supply process warehouses, too, are making use of technology to deliver efficiencies in terms of time and energy. By working in partnership with humans, automated machinery can take on increasing aspects of warehouse operations, even the pick and pack tasks traditionally too complicated. 

In the future, driverless vehicles could bring automation to the end of the logistics supply chain, the point of delivery. The technology is evolving quickly and we wait to see how it will be embraced and its benefits. Clearer roads? More productive work hours?


To explore how new technology can be used to support business growth, it’s vital that all involved in the supply chain take a collaborative approach. In today’s consumer-centric landscape, only one thing is certain: change is ever constant. As technology develops, the supply chain must embrace it. 

Likewise, the smart supply chain professional will exploit the potential technology holds – not only by innovating within their own business, but by looking at opportunities to collaborate across industries. Wincanton is doing just that and we invite others to join us.

Written by: Nicolas Verbeeck

Nicolas was born in Belgium and became an expert in consuming excellent beers, chocolate and waffles. During the winter period you can find him on a hockey pitch and in summer he loves to go for a swim or a surf. In 2013 Nicolas was wondering what the beers, chocolate and waffles would taste like in Australia and never came back. One reason… the weather. Nicolas obtained a masters in International Politics and tries to use this background to produce excellent conferences at Akolade.

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