Leaders in Liverpool

Thought leaders from OEMs, suppliers and logistics providers gathered at the 2017 UK Automotive Leaders Summit in Liverpool to discuss supply chain challenges and solutions.

Held in the chic and exclusive setting of the Titanic Hotel in Liverpool’s rapidly regenerating dock quarter, speakers, panellists and delegates spent two days meeting up with old friends and forging new alliances and hearing exciting new solutions to some of the tremendous challenges facing the industry in these turbulent times.

After a well-attended evening cocktail and barbecue reception on June 13, the summit convened the following morning to hear Sam Ogle, Senior Editor of Automotive Purchasing and Supply Chain magazine introducing the first panel entitled ‘Improving Finished Vehicle Distribution’. Ogle asked the panelists about the current and future prospects for increasing capacity on road, rail and sea.

Answers to this question came from a logistics provider who said that his company had a small amount of extra capacity but much more was needed, an OEM panel member who said that all of the industry had been conservative with its investment and that a catch-up situation was occurring, and that his biggest concern was rail, and how it needs much more multi-modal activity.

Driver shortages and ex-forces personnel

On driver shortages, a constant problem in the industry, a panel member spoke of the possibilities of platooning and how this might enable drivers to extend their working hours. He also spoke of how the industry needs to improve the working conditions and image of drivers and how the infrastructure that helps the driver, such as yard drivers and technicians, needs to be better developed.

The OEM panel member was asked about ex-military personnel and he said that his company has had great success in recruiting from this sector and he lauded these ex-services operators for their discipline and conscientiousness. He also spoke of how his company was trying to be more and more transparent in its forecasting of demand and that he expects the logistics industry to make the necessary investments in people and equipment, to meet demand.

Traffic and transporters

Ogle raised the point of how increasingly heavy traffic is causing car transporters more and more difficulties in reaching their dealer destinations. Panellists spoke of using out-of-town parks to transfer loads to electric vehicles that can be used in built-up areas at night but making this system work requires a lot of organisation, and the OEM panel member said that he would be happy to work with other OEMs to combine loads to smooth this type of delivery chain and lessen the impact on the environment.

Addressing the skills gap

Trudy Burrows, a consultant working on apprenticeship schemes, gave a presentation on the programmes that she and her colleagues have instituted at Caterpillar, BMW and other OEMs and suppliers in the UK. She spoke of the 0.5% charge that the UK government has levied on larger companies, to pay for apprenticeship schemes. This levy is then repaid to the company to help them run their apprenticeship schemes. She spoke on the return on investment for companies and how it matures much faster than these companies tend to expect and how it is a long-term investment.

Embracing the digital revolution

After a break for networking and coffee, sponsored by DHL, delegates reconvened to hear Rob Palin, Head of Operations and Projects - Unipart Digital, Unipart Group speak of the challenges of ‘Adapting to Digital’. Palin spoke of Moore’s Law - the exponential growth of technology in data and IT, and went on to talk about his work with a major luxury carmaker in the UK and how digital technologies, obtained through open source, enabled a better link between Unipart and the customer, and increased the efficiency of the OEMs supply chain. He spoke of Industry 4.0 and spreading this idea out from manufacturing to logistics and beyond.

Industry 4.0 - Panel discussion

his discussion started off with the panel expressing their concerns about cybersecurity and the regional centres in the UK and Europe that are trying to help companies keep their data secure. A logistics provider panel member talked of how vehicle sales through the Internet allowed customers to view many brands one one site, instead of visiting various dealerships, as they had to do in the past.

Driving the Supply Chain

Lawrence Davies MBE, CEO of the Automotive Investment Organisation, UK Trade & Investment started his presentation by explaining his department of government and talked of the £2 billion investment made by the UK government into automotive projects in the last 10 years. He spoke of the rising UK content in UK-built vehicles, and pointed out that 2011, the figure 36% and rose to 41% in 2014, and the figures that will be released very soon will likely show near to 50% for 2016.

Davies spoke of the needs for suppliers in UK - alloy wheels and glass production is lacking and OEMs are asking for these products to be made in the UK.

Digitalising the Supply Chain

After an excellent lunch in the Titanic hotel, delegates reassembled for the next session, where Sam Ogle posed a question to the panel about the progress of digitalisation in the supply chain. A major tier supplier panel member answered with observations about relative competition; how one supplier should not compete with another in its digitalisation strategies, unity and cooperation were key. An OEM supply chain director commented that his company sometimes felt that this disruption had been rather forced upon it and it was playing catch-up. He said that this applies to the whole industry: “The new connectivity has become second nature to us now but while we are not dragging our feet, the complexity of our operations means that even with the best intentions, it (digitalisation) is not an easy fix.”

Maintaining customer satisfaction in the aftermarket and Brexit

This session saw an OEM service parts director and experts from logistics providers debate how aftermarket supply can keep up with changing customers’ expectations and deal with new technologies such as lithium-ion batteries. On the battery question, the OEM director panellist said that, “Storing and handling these new generation batteries is going to need special training for operators, from the production line right through to the recycler or second life user.”

The moderator asked the OEM panellist about Brexit and its ramifications for the aftermarket supply chain. He answered that there is a great deal of uncertainty and that tariffs and a weak pound Sterling is ultimately not good for any of the players in Europe.

The Future 2030 - Future Transportation and the impact on the Supply Chain

John Leech of KPMG made a presentation examining the ‘pervasive mega-trend with many implications’ of new forms of automotive and other personal mobility. He talked of the various levels of autonomy in vehicles - from Level 4 in the 2020s, extending to Level 5 in the 2030s. He posited that the UK is particularly well-suited to autonomous vehicle trials as it has high population density, a lot of congestion pricing, a lot of short journeys (with a high cost per mile), and how the UK government plans to remove insurance hurdles, one of the sticking points of autonomous vehicles.

Leech showed sides showing the comparative forecasts of vehicles sales and how they will be affected by varying levels of vehicle ownership in the future, contrasting shared mobility solutions with single vehicle ownership.

Leaders Roundup

The final session was chaired by Sam Ogle and saw an OEM supply chain director, a consultant and a senior logistics company expert debate such subjects as the changing attitude to lean manufacturing and the increasing size of inventory held by suppliers and OEMs. The consultant talked of building up data analytics to help reduce buffer stocks where appropriate but that the long supply chains brought about by global manufacturing meant that sometimes several weeks’ inventory needed to be kept by an OEM or tier supplier to protect the supply chain’s integrity. The OEM executive talked of how sometimes one region might have to ‘take a penalty’ - and do without a component or system in favour of another region where the profit on that vehicle or model range is much higher.

Panellists were finally asked by Ogle what they felt could change the supply chain for the better, the OEM executive said that the industry should focus on getting the best people into the business, from young graduates and apprentices to experienced personnel from other industries, and pushing them to help improve collaboration and communication. The other panel members concurred and the overall sentiment was that people are what will make the automotive supply chain more efficient and better equipped to meet the challenges of the rapidly-changing pace of vehicle and distribution technology, globalisation and customers’ rapidly developing demands and tastes.

Attending OEMs included:

Exploring the Future

What does the future hold for the automotive industry? Explore the future of autonomous vehicles and connected technology, what impact will they have on the consumer and what are the positive effects they can have on the total supply chain?


Keynote Speakers and Panel Debates

The Automotive Leaders Summit brought together  exceptional panels of industry experts, who all shared their knowledge, insights and views.

Speakers Included:

Gareth Williams

Jaguar Land Rover

John Leech


Sebastiano Fedrigo


Ash Evans

Vauxhall Motors

Fantastic Networking

The Automotive Leaders Summit had excellent networking opportunities, from the networking drinks reception to the gala dinner. Enabling attendees to not just meet other delegates but to build on-going relationships.


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