Tuesday 6th Dec 2016 - Logistics Manager

‘Specialist or generalist?’ choice facing industry

The logistics sector has entered its fifth age, according to Yusen’s managing director Kevin Appleton, who said firms have to face up to the choices in front of them and choose whether to be great generalists or specialist providers.

Speaking at the inaugural 3PL Conference, Appleton outlined what he sees as the four ages of logistics.

Kevin Appleton, MD Yusen

Kevin Appleton, MD Yusen

“In the 1970s and 1980s, we were living through the age of indolence, during which there was a wild approach to logistics as the sector gained momentum,” he said. “Following this was the age of management as the industry grew, then came the age of process with much more linkage, and most recently we have gone through the age of squeeze following the 2008 financial collapse.”

In the wake of the economic collapse, Appleton said that while there has been economic growth, this has accompanied mass profit warnings across FTSE 250 companies.

“This means the growth seen, has been of little value,” he said. “It has been incredibly hard to find investment since 2008. And looking further back, the availability of capital and margins has changed dramatically over the past 30 years.

“Where once it was not uncommon to experience high single digit to low double digit growth, we have witnessed a drop.”

Since the crisis, said Appleton, there has been an overall decline in the 3PL share of the market. The number of new contracts coming along has dropped, “has growth stalled, or even reversed?” he asked.

Looking ahead, Appleton highlighted that the industry is growing old, claiming that 60 per cent of LGV drivers are over 45 years of age.

“Logistics is an old industry,” he said. “But it is full of intellect and adaptable to change. The question facing providers though is this; do you want to be a great generalist of a specialist?

“Being a great generalist doesn’t position you to beat a specialist. And sometimes it can make you look quite ordinary.”