Blog: 24 May 2021Enabling the next generation of industrial and distribution property

James Finn

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James Finn

Planning Director

Kings Hill office

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The logistics sector has proven its worth throughout the pandemic, and at a time of national crisis, the job that logistics does and the value the industry provides has finally been seen.

Keeping goods on shelves, getting medicines to where they are needed, genuinely enabling the people and the economy to get on.

I’m passionate about logistics and my job as a planner is to help my clients see ways to develop future facilities. To anticipate what’s changing and how to create the best new distribution parks, last-mile infrastructure, or mixed-use business centres.

I’m excited about this week’s Industrial & Logistics Conference put on by Property Week (26-7 May 2021) and bringing together colleagues from across the sector. It’s an opportunity to share opinions, spark off others, and sharpen one’s sense of how the industry is evolving.

We shouldn’t waste the opportunity created by Covid to take more strides forward as a sector. 

The logistics industry has been coming to life for some time now but I think we are on the cusp of an exciting next generation. 

Here’s what’s on my ‘logistics list’ of opportunities and issues which I think will define the next decade:

  1. Sustainability: the only place to start. Building better, intensification, co-location, delivering infrastructure to support fleet electrification, biodiversity net gain – just some of the matters that will gain ever more prominence in achieving the goals of sustainable economic development. The design of logistics buildings will also increasingly be influenced by a switch from occupier-led requirements for efficiency to occupier-led expressions of ESG. Sustainability will be the first item on the agenda for any discussion about building new or repurposing existing stock.
  2. Wellness: the industry has come a long way on the quality of the working environment since ‘welfare’ used to be a burger van in the car park next to the warehouse. The best modern logistics and distribution parks are designed around people and feature excellent working environments offering everything from creches to landscapes designed to support mindfulness. The premium placed on creating outstanding environments supporting wellness will go up.
  1. Jobs: we’ve all been banging the drum about the actual quality of jobs in logistics and distribution parks versus the perceived quality. We’re making progress on this but there is much more to do. Increasingly and encouraged by changes to working patterns brought on by the pandemic, I expect businesses to consolidate head office functions into distribution centres and create really mixed working environments. If you have the CEO based ‘in the shed’, it sends a message. Expect to see more of that in my opinion. This is really important for planning too – and I think local planning authorities are getting it and will increasingly get it.
  2. Supply chain significance: linked to growing customer concerns about where goods come from, who is involved in the supply chain, and how supply chains look through an ESG lens, I’m expecting more transparency in how companies articulate their supply chains plus more use of ‘buildings as brand’. By which I mean the more progressive companies, as occupiers, demanding buildings and logistics platforms that enable them to communicate a purposeful story to their customers and stakeholders. Everyone is going to need to raise the bar again so that what the development industry offers occupying businesses will match how those businesses need to tell their end-to-end supply chain story.

In some ways, there’s nothing new here.  These are big themes we have all been talking about and, to an extent, addressing over the last decade.

But, as Covid has accelerated change across so much of our lives, I anticipate that the pace of evolution in our sector between now and 2030 will be rapid.

Do you agree? What’s front of your mind? I’d be interested to know.

If you’ll be at the conference, see you there together with my colleague Lyndon Gill.

If not, I’m sure we’ll all drive the debate in our own but complementary ways. That’s another thing I enjoy about working in the sheds sector – the sense of togetherness and collective effort to support the industry.

Long may it continue. We all have some great opportunities to make a difference and to put logistics at the heart of building back and building even better.

Posted with the following keywords:
Logistics, Distribution, Sustainability, Wellness, Jobs, Supply Chain