European logistics: headline survey findings on the changing face of the sector

The findings revealed dramatic shifts in technological influence across the supply chain, a surprising level of engagement in environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives, and results that reinforce the structural shift of demand towards the consumer and urban locations.

These trends, Aberdeen Standard Investments observed, create substantial tensions between policy, the environment, competing uses, and the need to satisfy last-mile parcel delivery on a scale never seen before in Europe.

Transport Intelligence surveyed 123 supply chain executives from 29 European countries between November and December 2018. Key findings include:

  • Evolution of the operating environment. 76% reported their logistics businesses had grown in 2018, 42% of them “substantially”, with cyclical and structural factors supporting growth;
  • Supply of warehouse and distribution facilities. 34% state that they do not have enough existing spare capacity to fulfil their growth targets, while 39% of respondents said there was a shortage of efficient space to expand into;
  • Occupiers are adapting to structural changes to risks. Respondents scored “changing technology” and “purchasing habits” as the two biggest risks to the success of their business;
  • “On-demand” warehousing increasingly relevant as technology improves. 62% of respondents believe on-demand warehousing will be increasingly common in the logistics industry;
  • The changing drivers of location. More than 50% of respondents believe the location of their logistics facilities will become a more important factor for consideration over the next five years;
  • The impact of autonomous vehicles on location and design. 60% of respondents see autonomous trucks influencing supply chains in terms of warehouse design or location;
  • Increased focus on labour. Labour is the largest operational cost according to 48% of respondents, supporting a push towards mechanisation, robotics and digitisation, which ultimately affects location;
  • Warehouse requirements and technology focused on efficiency. Automated technology was rated as the most important feature required in a warehouse facility. 25% have invested in warehouse automation, while a further 43% intend to invest in it in the future.;
  • Environmental, social and governance (ESG). 71% stated that their business is undertaking initiatives to reduce or offset environmental effects in their logistics facilities – through choice and not because of immediate necessity; and
  • Brexit. Only 11.3% of respondents believe Brexit will improve business activity, but the message from the survey is not clear-cut.

Tomorrow, we will take a closer look at two of the above major themes: the evolution of the operating environment and supply of warehouse and distribution facilities.

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