Vehicle innovation: on the road to efficiency

Posted on 1 Nov 2016 by The Manufacturer

Dave Rowlands, technical services director at third-party logistics and supply chain solutions provider, Wincanton, shines a spotlight on vehicle innovation and disruption within manufacturing.

We’re used to seeing automation and innovation in our factories and warehouses, which until now have been used as the testing ground for new technologies to help make supply chain operations more efficient.

ABB Robotics’ YuMi is designed to be used in close proximity to regular personnel (image courtesy of ABB).
We’re used to seeing automation and robotics in our factories and warehouses – image courtesy of ABB.

Drones, big data, machine learning, 3D printing and robotics are some of the key enabling technologies leading the disruption. However, times are changing and these technologies are now set to expand into the transport side of manufacturing operations.

According to the latest figures, Britain’s manufacturing sector has risen to a near-two and a half year high. This comes as a result of manufacturers using their agility and experience to build momentum during a period of uncertainty, growing their order books in a time when others have put expansion plans on hold.

This positive outlook puts the sector in the best possible position to access the ever-expanding innovation at its fingertips, to help drive efficiencies throughout the supply chain by working with their logistics providers.

Connected and autonomous vehicles

Manufacturers and logistics providers have always been closely linked. Whether providing materials for retailers or contractors, the two service providers are vital components of the supply chain. This provides a unique opportunity for manufacturers and 3PLs to collaborate and take advantage of the opportunities available to them.

Future Truck 2025 is a self-driving truck that Mercedes-Benz claims could hit motorways within the next decade.
Future Truck 2025 is a self-driving truck that Mercedes-Benz claims could hit motorways within the next decade – image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz.

An example of this is the use of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the overall economic and social benefit of CAVs could be in the region of £51bn a year by 2030.

CAVs carry the potential to create an additional 320,000 jobs in the UK, save more than 2,500 lives and prevent over 25,000 serious accidents.

At Wincanton, it’s important to us that we are using latest technology, and we will soon be using Mercedes Benz’ proximity control assist technology, which is the precursor to full automation as it automatically adapts the speed and proximity of a vehicle to the changing driving situation using the integral cruise and braking speed control.

As a business, we are lobbying stakeholders and authorities on behalf of our customers for efficiency, cost, and environmental gains from increased gross weights, alternative fuels, and improved vehicle design.

Volvo autonomous cars include the XC90 Drive Me test vehicle. Several test vehicles have been on the road in and around Gothenburg since 2014 - image courtesy of Volvo.
Volvo is set to begin the UK’s most ambitious autonomous driving trial in early 2017 – image courtesy of Volvo.

Recent efforts by the UK government to enable connected vehicle trials on British roads places us ahead of other countries, with the nation set to be leading the world in the development and use of connected vehicles. We’ve already seen the positive impact of this government support.

As a business we are currently taking part in a number of initiatives, such as a long-term trial for longer trucks, which allow more goods to be transported at once and therefore reduce overall energy consumption. Over the life of the trial, the government expects to save more than 3,000 tonnes of CO₂ emissions and deliver an estimated £33m in economic benefits.

Investing in technology

With all of this new technology available to us, it’s important to ensure that we’re aware of the potential impact on and opportunity for our industries. With recent reports from EEF indicating that manufacturing accounts for 14% of business investment, which highlights its impact on the UK economy, the sector is no exception.

Wincanton heavy vehicle
Wincanton views customers’ ever changing needs as natural opportunities to streamline supply chains – image courtesy of Wincanton.

Increasingly, manufacturers are working with their third-party logistics providers and suppliers to cherry-pick the best elements of technology and provide the best possible service for their customers. Partnership and collaboration is therefore key to effectively and efficiently build new innovations into a business.

At Wincanton, we are always looking at new ways to work with our customers and partners to support their ever changing needs. We see these developments as natural opportunities to further streamline the supply chain for our customers, boost productivity and support the safer and more efficient production and movement of goods around the world.

So long as manufacturers and service providers continue to work together, new innovation such as connected and automated vehicles will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the supply chain as a whole, resulting in safer driving and higher productivity.