New study provides insights into how retailers have responded to COVID-19
· The study by WMG, University of Warwick and Blue Yonder examines how retailers have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure their survival
· The report highlights many points, particularly the need for human intervention as existing processes couldn’t keep up with changes in the markets
· Going forward future systems will need to be more robust and responsive, to increase speed and agility in the supply chain
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the retail sector, a new study by WMG, University of Warwick, and Blue Yonder has examined how retailers have responded to the situation. The study identified the human vulnerabilities across the supply chain and the need for future investment in flexibility, visibility and automation to improve future resilience.
Retailers have faced multiple challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retailers have experienced a combination of unprecedented demand for some particular products whilst no demand for others. Many stores have been forced to close, or adapt their operations to accommodate social distancing. Where possible, there has been a shift to online shopping, but this is not always possible and presents its own operational challenges.
The study found that:
· The majority (61%) of retailers used inventory to buffer against the disruption of COVID-19. Supply chain processes and systems were effective, but more than half (58%) of retailers said a high degree of manual intervention was required to respond to the fluctuation in demand and supply.
· Workforce issues were dominant issues for retailers with 59% of warehouse and 48% store operatives being affected by quarantine or illness. This often resulted in the closure of online operations and the need to recruit temporary staff.
· Retailers were polarised in their treatment of supplier payments, with 37% delaying payments and 30% making early payments.
“Using inventory to buffer against the disruption of COVID-19 was the most common strategy deployed by retailers. This provides the greatest certainty of supply but comes at a cost. In contrast, only just over a quarter (29%) of retailers relied on suppliers with more agile manufacturing and distribution networks, which is a potentially more resource efficient and resilient response.
“With 75 to 80% of products seeing a demand fluctuation, retailers were slightly better at responding to decreases rather than increases in demand. Whilst retailers found that their supply chain processes and systems to be effective in responding to the demand fluctuations, many were still dependent on the human touch.
“From warehouse and store operatives being affected by quarantine or illness to an over-dependence on human intervention within supply chain planning, COVID-19 has highlighted the human vulnerabilities across retail supply chains.”
Wayne Snyder, Vice President Retail Strategy, EMEA at Blue Yonder, comments:
“Early indications in Asia show that customers have been most supportive of those retailers they deemed to have responded best to the crisis and we’d expect that pattern to follow across Europe and the US. A critical learning for retailers is the need to invest in creating supply chains with greater flexibility, visibility and automation. Here technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a key role in helping retailers navigate future disruption, whilst still meeting customers’ expectations.”
The survey was administered on-line by Qualtrics in late April 2020. It was targeted at senior executives in retail supply chains, in Europe, Asia and the Americas. 105 responses were received with relatively equal distribution across the regions.
High-res images are available at:
Professor Jan Godsell, WMG, University of Warwick
Caption: Bar chart displaying what new actions have been taken by retailers in response to the covid-19 crisis. Credit: WMG, University of Warwick
Caption: Bar chart displaying what has proven to be retailer’s most effective strategy for supply chains when dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Credit: WMG, University of Warwick
https://warwick.ac.uk/services/communications/medialibrary/images/june2020/covid_graph_3.png Caption: Graph showing what change in demand retailer’s supply has experienced. Credit: WMG, University of Warwick
Caption: Bar Chart displaying the bottlenecks retailers have experienced in the supply chain. Credit: WMG, University of Warwick
Supporting the supermarkets to ‘smooth the spike’
"The current issues facing UK grocery supply chains, is not one of supply, but one of demand. The UK grocery retailers have sophisticated planning systems that seek to balance demand and supply. Over time, they learn seasonal patterns, the impact of promotions and other events and automatically adjust. The systems are so sophisticated that in the shorter term, they can adjust to changes in weather, for instance making sure we have the right food for our BBQs on hot days.
Need to smooth out the spike…
"The one type of demand that these systems really don’t like is unpredicted spikes in demand. Most grocery products have a relatively stable, and predictable rate of demand that the retailers can plan for. If this suddenly increases, it can take time for the supply chain to react, and move the stock that is further upstream to the shelf.
The problem at the moment is that whilst there is stock upstream in the supply chain, it is hard for the retailers to replenish it to shelf at the rate consumers are taking it. It also means that rather having stock in a warehouse, that could be used by all, the stock gets isolated in our homes, where it can only benefit an individual or their family.
Grocery retailers are taking the really sensible step of ‘rationing’ to try and smooth out these spikes. This is a really responsible reaction, and one to be commended as it will help to ensure that everyone gets the essential items they need.
Need to protect the vulnerable…
"Many in the UK have to budget carefully and only have the financial resources to buy what they need, when they need it. They can’t afford to stock pile.
Rationing should improve availability of products to all, and encourage everyone to buy at the rate that they consume. In that way we should all have access to the essential items we need.
Further measures by grocery retailers to prioritise delivery slots, and have dedicated in-store shopping slots for the elderly and vulnerable are be commended too.
What else could be done?
"Whilst UK retailers have started rationing, some are still offering promotions. Buy-one-get one-free, 3 for 2, or buy 2 for a fixed amount, all encourage consumers to buy more than they actually need.
Perhaps now is the time to stop such promotions, move to fixed pricing, to discourage purchasing more than required.
The Italian retailers are a number of weeks ahead of the UK retailers in understanding the impact of the virus on demand. It would be expected that once initial panic buying is over, when cupboards are full, replenishment will return to a more normal rate. There may be some uplift as we stay at home, and consume more in our domestic environment. Insight from the Italians, shared with UK retailers and their suppliers could help us to prepare.
With more consumers shopping online, and rationing in place, donations to food banks have fallen at a time when they are needed more than ever. Perhaps it is time to consider, how we can move food banks on-line too. Donate food, as part of our on-line shop or as a direct donation. With digital food bank vouchers, enabling the most vulnerable to get direct supply from a retailer.
These are unprecedented times. The basic principle of good supply chain management is to balance demand and supply. The UK retailers are working really hard to ensure that we have all the essential items that we need. We can help too, by buying responsibly and supporting the more vulnerable."
Ways to reduce social inequality in the West Midlands and boost productivity will be researched thanks to an £800,000 research project, led by Warwick Business School with WMG at the University of Warwick, and City-REDI at the University of Birmingham.
WMG and Warwick Business School from the University of Warwick and City-REDI at the University of Birmingham will examine the factors that constrain firm-level innovation and productivity across the region, with a particular focus on the role of skills shortages, the importance of supply chains and impacts of foreign direct investment.
They will also work in collaboration with regional stakeholders, including the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Midlands Engine, five Local Enterprise Partnerships and private sector firms including Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin. More widely, the project will connect with the CBI - building on their recent productivity work- the Chambers of Commerce, TUC and Unite.
As well as contributing to the local industrial strategy the research team will examine trade-offs between policies and practices which target improvements in productivity against other development goals.
In particular, understanding how productivity improvements and related policies can contribute to inclusive growth which reduces inequalities within and across regions, or heighten such inequalities is a central aim of the research.
Professor Nigel Driffield, the leader of the project from WBS, University of Warwick said:
“This is an exciting project that will look to feed into the region’s industrial strategy. The West Midlands is known as the manufacturing hub of the UK, but it needs to build on this reputation, attracting more investment and more jobs to the area, particularly with the threat of Brexit looming.
"This project has three stands: researching regional Differences, skills and inclusive growth, plus investigating investment decisions, foreign investment and trade; and finally evaluating analytics enabled supply chains and operational productivity.”
Professor Janet Godsell of WMG, University of Warwick comments:
“For over 25 years it has been recognised that supply chains compete and not individual companies, but the focus has remained on company productivity.
"This project provides an opportunity to create a step change in productivity, by working with end-to-end supply chains supporting the regions automotive and infrastructure sectors, to improve end-to-end supply chain productivity.”
Director of City-REDI and project lead for Birmingham, Professor Simon Collinson, said:
“I am very pleased to be working with our partners at Warwick University on a project that is so critical to the future economic well-being of the region. The UK lags behind other countries in terms of average productivity and the West Midlands lags behind the UK average.
"But we cannot focus on productivity in isolation of other challenges. By contributing to a reduction in social inequality, alongside promoting economic growth, we are continuing the legacy of the University of Birmingham as a long-standing anchor institution in the Birmingham city-region.”
Professor Anne Green from City-REDI said:
“The foci of the research at City-REDI on skills and inclusive growth issues is in line with key concerns with regional policy makers.”
A new innovation hub is being launched at WMG in partnership with GEFCO today. The Hub will focus on cutting edge research into the future of automotive supply chains, the dual challenges of electrification and using and reusing resources for as long as possible.
The hub is closely linked to the EPSRC(Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) Sustainable Materials and Manufacturing Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Warwick.
The first two projects will research new circular business models for the supply, refurbishment and re-use of batteries for the electric automotive supply chain, and the use of new technologies to design fully-traceable and re-usable packaging.
A third project will examine the opportunities for logistics service providers to expand their business models to offer supply chain finance complimentary to out-sourcing of material and information flows.
Professor Janet Godsell, from the Supply Chain Research Group, WMG, University of Warwick will head up the new hub, she comments: “Digital technology provides an opportunity to re-think the way in which we do business, and blurs the traditional distinction between manufacturing and logistics. A distinction further blurred as we seek to develop new business models that more holistically consider reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycling.”
Helen Grover, Human Resources Director at GEFCO UK comments:
“We are delighted to work with GEFCO to launch their Supply Chain Innovation Hub at WMG, University of Warwick. This £180k investment will support GEFCO to provide leading edge digital supply chain solutions that meet their customer needs in a cost effective and sustainable way.
“We are looking forward to working with WMG, University of Warwick because it allows us to be involved with cutting edge research and puts us at the forefront of the future of sustainable manufacture and logistics. The partnership sits perfectly with our company ethos of always seeking new innovative solutions to maintain our growth and to improve the way our industry works”.
At GEFCO, we believe long-lasting cooperation with partners is the key to shared growth. Building on 69 years of expertise and a strong heritage in the automotive industry, we design smart, flexible solutions for complex supply chains. Today, the GEFCO Group is the European leader in automotive logistics, and a top 10 global partner in multimodal supply chain solutions.
The Group is present in 47 countries, includes over 300 destinations in its current network and employs 13,000 people globally. GEFCO reported a turnover of €4.4 billion in 2017.
GEFCO has been present in the UK since 1981. With headquarters located in Coventry, GEFCO UK employs 600 people in 18 sites. https://uk.gefco.net/
Website: www.gefco.net; Twitter: @GEFCO_Group
WMG is part of a new £2.5m project to bring together businesses and researchers to help overhaul construction practices in the UK.
The way buildings are constructed has changed relatively little in the last 40 years and has not seen the same increase in productivity or innovation as other industries. This project - called the Transforming Construction Network Plus (N+) - is one of the investments within the Transforming Construction Challenge (TCC), a programme supported by the UK government's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
The overall Transforming Construction Challenge looks to enable the sector to produce safe, healthy, efficient buildings using the latest digital manufacturing techniques. These will be more energy efficient structures, using modern materials and digital design methods to build better buildings for people in the UK. N+ will support the industry to adopt these technologies and help buildings to be constructed 50% faster, 33% cheaper and with half the lifetime carbon emissions.
The purpose of the Transforming Construction Network Plus is to create a new community of researchers and a body of knowledge to inform future construction policy and practice to achieve the TCC’s overarching goals. With £1m to invest in a raft of new research projects over the next two years, the Transforming Construction Network Plus (N+) will mobilise a new movement in the construction community.
N+ will issue two open calls for small research projects, funding up to 20 academic-led and user-inspired projects to generate new research findings. Academics from a range of disciplines will take part and work together with users, as project partners, to develop new ideas for transforming construction.
N+ focuses on supporting research that looks at construction as a production 'system' for built assets that adds value to cities and their infrastructures. Transforming design, construction and operation of buildings is a problem that demands input from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines, which is why major, coordinated investments are being made through the TCC.
The research supported through the N+ will focus on the gaps, inter-relationships and under-explored regions of this domain, spanning digital, energy, construction and manufacturing expertise, in line with the expectations of the Industrial Strategy Construction Sector Deal.
The N+ will address a future in which the UK designs, constructs and operates buildings by realising the potential for integrating advanced offsite manufacturing with state-of-the-art digital design and energy generation and storage technologies. By exploring and synthesising knowledge of how people and communities experience and interact with the built environment, N+ will foster new approaches to the provision of inspiring buildings that give rise to greater user satisfaction and productivity.
Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Strategy Janet Godsell comments: “Digital technology provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect the fragmented pockets of good practice that exist across construction supply chains, to transform construction.”
Professor Jacqueline Glass, UCL’s Principal Investigator for the N+, said: “With the N+, we have an extraordinary opportunity to tackle longstanding problems which have held back UK construction for decades. We are delighted to be collaborating with researchers from Imperial College London and WMG, University of Warwick to create an integrating agenda for a fragmented industry, by building a new movement of researchers and delivering an evidence-based manifesto for change.”
Jennifer Rubin, ESRC Executive Chair said: “This is innovative, inspiring work that has the potential to impact on the places we work and live in while positioning the UK as an industry leader on the international stage for construction technologies and businesses. ESRC is excited to be working on this project on behalf of UKRI.”
Notes to editors:
The full team are:
· Professor Jacqui Glass, N+ Principal Investigator and Chair of Construction Management, UCL Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management
· Co-Investigator - Professor Andrew Davies, The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management, University College London
· Professor Jennifer Whyte, N+ Co-Investigator and Laing O'Rourke/RAEng Chair in Systems Integration, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London
· Co-Investigator - Professor Paul Ruyssevelt, UCL Energy Institute, University College London
The Industrial Strategy sets out a long term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK. It sets out how we are building a Britain fit for the future – how we will help businesses create better, higher-paying jobs in every part of the UK with investment in skills, industries and infrastructure.
A report by WMG Supply Chain researchers, and JDA Software Inc, has revealed that manufacturers are still struggling to effectively integrate and analyse supply chain data, with many still only in the very early stages of digital supply chain adoption.
The report, ‘Delivering the Digital Dividend,’ benchmarked the digital supply chain readiness of 179 European manufacturers, revealing that only 13 per cent currently have a ‘prescriptive’ supply chain (categorised as level 3, out of a scale of 1-4, with 4 being a self-learning autonomous supply chain).
However, crucially, the report does reveal that manufacturers are keen to digitally transform their supply chains, with almost one third (31 per cent) predicting they will have a prescriptive supply chain in place by 2023.
Professor Godsell, who was nominated for the award by our Chairman Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, impressed the judges with the way that she puts practitioners, policy makers and the public at the heart of her scholarship, and her innovative approach to building impact through storytelling, poems, physical artwork and the media.
The Real Impact Awards celebrate the commitment to impact by the research community across the globe, honour the change-makers, and bring together key stakeholders in the impact debate.
The awards aim to raise the profile of individuals, teams and institutions that have placed real impact at the top of their agenda; recognise innovative approaches to impact; celebrate interdisciplinary research; bridge the gap between research and practice; and tell real impact success stories and showcase those driving the debate.
Three senior figures from AstraZeneca, JLR, and Associated British Ports grapple with Brexit’s impact on global supply chains at special WMG event
Three senior figures from Jaguar Land Rover, AstraZeneca, and Associated British Ports will be giving their views on Brexit’s potential impact on Global Supply Chain at a special WMG debate and event at the University of Warwick on Tuesday 8 May 2018.
The confirmed speakers and panel members at the event include:
- Tim Sherwell from AstraZeneca, Regional Supply Director for Europe, and key member of the AstraZeneca Brexit team
- David Leighton from Associated British Ports, Group Head of Corporate Affairs, and a leading player in discussions with government in the UK and Brussels about the UK’s role as a Maritime Nation and the impact of Brexit
WMG gives free access to tool for companies preparing for Industry 4 – enabling the next generation of manufacturing
WMG researchers, at the University of Warwick, have worked in conjunction with Crimson & Co and Pinsent Masons, to produce a free to access “Industry 4” readiness assessment tool. It is designed to provide a simple and intuitive way for companies to start to assess their readiness and future ambition to harness the potential of the new cyber-physical age
The term Industry 4 originates from the high-tech strategy of the German government, which soughtto re-define the role of manufacturing post the global economic crisis. It suggests that we are on thecusp of the 4th Industrial Revolution, a cyber physical age, which will be realised over the next 20years.
Research finds that UK companies that consider both direct and indirect reshoring of manufacturing gain best performance boosts
A new report launched today by researchers at WMG at the University of Warwick, and Reshoring UK, finds that UK companies that consider both direct and indirect reshoring of manufacturing gain best performance boosts and urges companies to consider both approaches when developing their future strategies.
The report will be launched at WMG Supply Chain Research Group event entitled “Realities of Reshoring: A UK Perspective held tonight, Tuesday 26 September 2017, in the International Institute for Product and Service Innovation (IIPSI), WMG, at the University of Warwick.