Zupplychain Disruption

Zupplychain’s Business Development guru, Lauren Bartlett, reports back from her visit to Multimodal. Aside from meetings with current and prospective Zupplychain warehouse providers, she attended a fascinating talk in the CILT pavilion: ‘Disruptive Innovation – New ways of Improving the Supplychain’.

The speakers were Beverley Bell – Senior Traffic Commissioner for Great Britain; Peter Louden – COO of Doddle; Will Whitehorn – Chairman, Transport Systems Catapult and a non-exec of the disruptive estate agent, Purple Bricks; and Dominic Regan – a Senior Director of Oracle UK.

Disruptive innovation describes the process by which a product or device takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up the market, eventually displacing established competitors. As the e-business revolution continues to transform the retail landscape – with massive implications for logistics and transport – the seminar considered how logistics can adapt to new ‘disruptive’ ideas.

The seminar opened with the example of Henry Ford, whose Model T was arguably one of the biggest market disruptors of the 20th Century. Though oft quoted, Henry Ford famous maxim - ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses’’ - has stood the test of time. Consumers and businesses are unaware of their need or desire for a new product, service or website until it appears full functioning on the marketplace. Zupplychain recognises that it needs to not only find those already using the internet to find storage space, but to transform the market by driving those using more traditional methods to the new alternative.

Speaker Will Whitehorn has an impressive pedigree through his work with Virgin and has been described as Sir Richard Branson’s right-hand man. Will is the grandson of yet another market disruptor, albeit ahead of his time. Will’s grandfather invented the first petrol electric car in 1927, a technology that ran all London buses in the 1930s. However, the technology was abandoned in the face of little recognition of the need for fuel efficiency in the future, leaving us now in the situation where its development is several decades late. Only in the last 10 years – 30-40 years after the first petrol price crisis – have we seen significant growth in manufacturing and sales of hybrid and electric cars. Even the Zupplychain team has embraced this - two members of the team driving electric cars (though, as the fundamental problem still exist – not very far each time!).

Will’s latest disruptive innovation is with Purple Bricks, familiar to anyone that watches commercial TV! The website allows users to take complete control of a property transaction from particulars to pricing to arranging viewings. Purple Bricks is now the third largest estate agent in the UK and growing fast.

As Peter Louden explained, Doddle is a parcel store network that allows people to send and receive parcels in dedicated stores at railway stations, commuter hubs and university campuses around the UK, obviously targeting and benefiting from the still growing demand for click and collect retail services – exemplified by a stat quoted in the seminar that 39% of John Lewis’ sales for the previous week were online. John Lewis had been reluctant to launch a Click and Collect service but it has been such a runaway success that the company was forced to introduce a charge for it.

Peter was asked from the floor whether on-line disruptive innovation could mean people losing their jobs. Peter responded by demonstrating how job opportunities change in content, not quantity - one of his first members of staff ran Doddle’s social media, a role which didn’t exist anywhere a decade ago. The panel all agreed that market disruptors will create new jobs, positions and titles in the next five years, many of which that haven’t been thought of in 2016.

Dominic Regan runs Oracle’s Value Chain Execution portfolio across Western Europe. The examples of PurpleBricks, Doddle and John Lewis demonstrate how market disruptors drive new standards of control, efficiency, transparency and compliance. It is imperative that supply chain software follows – or even anticipates and propagates – these new standards with accurate and real-time information. As consumers, we have come to expect that if we are the 33rd delivery, we should know that the driver is on drop 14, and have our expected delivery time updated constantly. Systems are a key driver of relative advantage in the last mile delivery sector.

‘At this stage in Zupplychain’s development, it was fascinating to hear the back-story on a range of market disruptors,’ concluded Lauren in her report. ‘Coming back to the Henry Ford quote, we are not always aware that we need something until it’s right in-front of us in oven-ready form. But - at that stage - it’s a rapid transition to the state of not remembering how one lived without it! Facebook aside, market disruptors follow classic S-shaped growth curves - slowly finding early adopters, then going viral and mainstream. At Zupplychain, we’re very pleased how many early adopters have found us and, now we have launched ‘live search’ , we’re hunting out the mainstream too!