IFWLA Conference Exposes Global Trends, U.S./U.K. Differences and Similarities

IFWLA photo1It is true that we are one global supply chain; but only after you experience a conference in another country do you start to see the real picture.

In early June, IWLA President & CEO Steve DeHaan attended the International Federation of Warehousing Logistics Associations (IFWLA) 2015 Annual International Conference & Gala Dinner in Liverpool, U.K. Members of the United Kingdom Warehouse Association (UKWA) hosted the event.

The two-day event focused on broader global topics: the changing marketplace, supply chain ecosystems, retail technology, and infrastructure. Overall, 21 IFWLA delegates attended the conference, many of the same attendees came to the the 2014 IFWLA Conference in Chicago.

DeHaan witnessed how an IWLA sister association operates, specifically how it interacts and influences the U.K. warehouse logistics industry. He reports that it is apparent that this group is much less focused on government policy, lobbying, and education. However, the UKWA is very engaged in the business side of networking, business growth, and business resources. Nearly 40 UKWA professionals attended the conference.

The group went on several Liverpool-area tours including IFWLA president Derrick Potter’s facility and a highly automated QVC warehouse. Potter’s warehouse boasted 50-foot ceilings and specialized forklifts designed to accommodate those heights. This trend was a sign of the incredibly competitive and expensive U.K. real estate market. With limited space, warehouses are building up, not out. The fight over strategic port-served real estate increases the value drastically. DeHaan says QVC has an impressive, completely automated pallet tower that requires no personnel to manage. Because of the volume of purchases through the QVC television network, the system pulls only full pallets at a time.

Infrastructure Challenges
One UKWA-member concern is infrastructure issues. As with most of Europe, the country’s grid system is built on historical outdated models. These create inefficient traffic patterns. According to DeHaan, one way U.K. warehousing professionals manage to overcome the road traffic is through a port/canal system. Many warehouses use smaller boats to transport “less-than-truckload-sized” cargo through a system of canals. They also take advantage of an extensive rail system that runs throughout the country and the European Union. Warehouses across the pond also struggle with labor shortages, just like IWLA members.

IWLA is committed to host the 2017 IFWLA Annual Conference here in the states. Stay tuned for more information!

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