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Clare Bottle CEO, UKWA

Clare's off to a flyer!

UKWA’s national campaign, The Year of Warehousing, is underway. The year-long initiative, to highlight the critical role of warehousing in supply chains, is also about securing the recognition the sector truly deserves. UKWA’s CEO Clare Bottle explains.

In October last year, government minister Richard Holden MP announced a national campaign, 2024: The Year of Warehousing, at a UKWA event held at the House of Lords. This high profile, year-long campaign is aimed at highlighting the critical role of warehousing in supply chains, the sector’s major contribution to the UK economy, its essential role as an employer of over a million people, and the key part it is set to play in achieving the UK’s net zero goals through the adoption of rooftop solar power.

‘2024: The Year of Warehousing’ coincides with the 80th anniversary of UKWA’s inception in 1944, so to mark this milestone I will be undertaking an ambitious programme of 80 visits to warehouses of all types and sizes across the UK. The objective of this epic challenge is to showcase the high tech, fast-moving working environments inside the UK’s warehouses and raise public awareness of our sector.

Warehousing is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK, yet it remains one of the least understood, by government, and by the public who depend on us to keep them clothed and fed. In some ways this is not surprising. While transport is visible on the roads and at railways, ports and airports, warehousing operates behind the scenes. Unlike shops, you can’t see inside these vast buildings, where millions of products are processed every day. Whereas High Street retail is both highly visible and accessible, the essential work warehouses do has always been hidden and is therefore, to a large extent, underappreciated.

But with The Year of Warehousing, we intend to change that, by opening our doors, letting the world know the vital work we do and how well we do it, and trumpeting the amazing opportunities our sector offers. Warehousing is changing rapidly, and our role is becoming increasingly central to everyday lives. Traditional High Street tasks are being forced back up the supply chain by ecommerce and online order fulfilment, while quasi-manufacturing activities, such as assembling gift-packs or printing T-shirts, are pushed downstream.

Warehouses have also become hubs for returns management, recycling, upcycling and repairs, helping reduce waste as part of the circular economy. As a result, warehouse buildings are becoming larger and higher to accommodate this additional activity. One per cent of the 4,000 large warehouses in the UK (over 100,000 sq ft) are so-called ‘mega-sheds’ of over a million sq ft and this trend is set to continue.

Marking the 80th anniversary of the UK Warehousing Association, our Year of Warehousing campaign aims highlight the considerable social and economic benefits of warehousing too. The sector presents a wide range of opportunities for young people across the UK, including entry level roles for those from disadvantaged backgrounds or without academic qualifications, with competitive wages and options for overtime, providing financial stability and, with training, room for career progression.

Training is of course key to attracting and retaining a good workforce, and the sector has long faced labour and skills shortages. So, we are proud to have kicked off this special year with the launch of the first ever qualification for warehouse managers. Our Warehouse Manager Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) has been designed at an equivalent status to the well-established Transport Manager CPC within the logistics industry. Being independently accredited by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, it is globally recognised and we confidently predict it will become a new national standard. Over the course of the year, we are introducing various exciting new initiatives, and stepping-up support for UKWA members as part of our 80th anniversary celebrations.

We will be celebrating in style, visiting warehouses all over the UK, talking more than ever about warehousing, driving up industry standards, engaging with our growing community and, most importantly, securing for our sector the recognition that it truly deserves!

For more information, visit: www.ukwa.org.uk/yearofwarehousing

  • Supply Chain