Wincanton: Construction 'can Learn From Retail Supply Chain'

By Kitty Wheeler
Emerging technologies used by the retail industry could rapidly develop the construction industry.
Wincanton, leading supply chain partner for European business, says the construction industry has much to learn from the world of retail logistics.

Jessica Ellery, director of infrastructure at Wincanton, a leading supply chain solutions and logistics company, proposes how strategies used by the retail industry could rapidly develop the construction industry, looking primarily at sustainability, technology and supply chain efficiency.

Many top retailers have “substantially improved their logistics over decades to provide the highest standard of customer care, to the point where it is now a market differentiator" Ellery says, and that retailers have achieved this by "taking control of their supply chains, commoditising logistics and achieving full visibility of the end-to-end supply chain from supplier to consumer.”

An example of a company that has utilised retail logistics in this way, is Hinkley Point C, the nuclear power station, with Wincanton as its logistics partner.

Ellery believes that for projects like Hinkley Point C, such collaboration proves that “logistics plays a pivotal role in successful project delivery", as major construction projects are "often built in challenging environments, with pressure to deliver to tight timescales and budgets.”

Sustainability in construction

Sustainability is a priority for many retail companies, but it also ties into logistics when it comes to the construction industry.

Ellery adds that "by looking and learning from other sectors such as retail, the construction industry will address risks and secure opportunities. Embracing smarter, coherent construction logistics creates efficiencies, enhances sustainability, and will secure the reputation of the construction sector as a forward-thinking industry." 

Other similarities between the retail and construction industries that could apply to sustainability span from the “broad and complex product mix and high breadth of product lines through to multiple delivery points and order consolidation from hundreds of suppliers”, Ellery says.

Wincanton may be in a different world to the construction industry, but it proposes six useful strategies that could rapidly develop it.

Wincanton six strategies that could drive the construction industry upward
  • Embracing emerging technologies
  • Optimising the supply chain for efficiency
  • Customer-centric processes
  • Transparency and live updates
  • Planning and forecasting
  • Management and sustained improvement

Construction is a large industry, yet by nature it is hands on, so we take a closer look at how the construction industry can adopt emerging technologies and optimise the supply chain.

Emerging technologies that could be embraced

The retail industry reaps the benefits of technology, including artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and hugely developed data analytics that can streamline operations of more laborious tasks that could be achieved more effectively and efficiently by technology, such as optimising managing stock and maximising delivery routes. 

Digitalisation of the construction industry.

Such growing technologies are slower to be implemented by the construction industry, with many processes still being carried out via paper rather than digitally. So, adding this modern tech could assist project management to be more centralised into a single platform, increasing progress visibility and reducing deadline delays.

Optimising the supply chain for efficiency

With consumers’ purchasing experience being one of the forefronts of the retail industry’s mind, customers receive live updates on a delivery journey from purchase to delivery. 

Using data, this structure is something that construction projects could benefit from throughout the supply chain. From procurement, to the list of items available, to minimising delays and shortages of materials, whilst maintaining attention to detail, timing and scheduling. 

Another element the construction industry suffers from, is the cost of delays caused by poor logistics processes. Yet techniques and technologies from other sectors and companies, including the UK’s leading retailers such as Amazon and Walmart, can be applied to support infrastructure to deliver products on time and on budget.

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Other cross-industry collaborations in the works

There are other brands that are partnering with construction technology companies for improved procurement and project management solutions, including Home Depot, the multinational home improvement retail corporation and Lowe’s, the American retail company specialising in home improvement.

Collaborations that are cross-industry seem to be enabling streamlined processes, cost savings and enhanced customer satisfaction.

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