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Delivering to London: A looming crisis?

A growing population, consumer demands combined with legislative and environmental constraints are making it increasingly more difficult for companies to fulfil deliveries in London and our congested cities. For the rapidly growing foodservice sector in particular, the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA) has warned of a looming crisis, which could leave Londoners faced with empty shelves if action isn’t taken soon to address the city’s logistics challenges.

A new UKWA study, Feeding London: 2030, has examined the combined impact on the supply chain of an increasingly congested urban environment, delivery trends, new consumer demand profiles for food and drink, and changes in the grocery retail sector. Commenting in Logistics Manager, the lead author, Andrew Morgan, said: “Things are becoming stretched across London’s food and drink supply chains and current logistics thinking is no longer fit for purpose.”

As Malory Davies, editor of Logistics Manager, illustrated in a recent article, the stories are becoming legendary – “the courier company that expects to pay £600,000 a year in parking fines,” for example, “and the supermarket site where there are so many parking restrictions that there is no legal time at which a delivery can be made.”

Of course, evolving retail demands have already caused many transport operators to streamline their independent fleet operations and make use of real-time information, but the vast majority have done so in isolation of their urban surroundings. To reach the next level of efficiency, stronger links must now be built between different supply chain components and a more collaborative, community-based approach undertaken that leverages data across the board.

As Davies concludes: “Too often politicians and planners make decisions without adequate understanding of the impact on urban logistics systems.” However, “there is always scope for improving the efficiency of logistics activities.”

Advanced routing and scheduling technology can help as we saw with the severe restrictions placed on companies during the 2012 London Olympics. During the two week period John Lewis Partnership  maintained a full delivery proposition with all the constraints that were in place. JLP use Descartes Route Planning and Reservations software.