Industry experts are sounding the alarm that the future of supply chains is at risk unless immediate action is taken. At SCALA’s 20th annual supply chain debate, senior figures emphasized the need for significant changes over the next decade to tackle new challenges and meet net-zero targets.


Nearly 100 professionals from the supply chain and logistics industry gathered at Coventry’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Centre on June 21, 2023. The event focused on identifying critical factors for supply chain and logistics operations in the coming years, with an emphasis on technology and collaboration.

Discussions revolved around six expert speakers, including COO Gavin Chappell from Bensons for Beds, Sharon Hammond, head of distribution and transport at B&M Retail, Rebecca Attoe-Butt, supply chain lead Europe at Versuni (Philips), David Cebon, director at the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight, Audrey Limery, founder and CEO of Kweevo, and Prof. Neil Ashworth, portfolio director of various companies.

The importance of technology took center stage, as highlighted by Sharon Hammond and Audrey Limery. Hammond stressed the value of automation, urging companies to invest in enhancing reliability, flexibility, growth capacity, resources, and ergonomics. Meanwhile, Limery called for greater digitalisation and visibility in supply chains to support sustainability in the age of artificial intelligence (AI). Many participants agreed on the significance of data, AI, and automation for future supply chain success.

David Cebon used the platform to discuss the future of trucking, emphasising the need for an electric road system complemented by a network of static chargers for fleets. He underscored the environmental challenges the sector will face and the necessity for logistics to adapt to extreme weather events and decarbonize for the delivery of essential goods. Worryingly, when delegates were asked to vote, none believed that global temperature reductions of 1.5°C or 2°C would be achieved.

Professor Neil Ashworth made a noteworthy observation, reaffirming his stance from SCALA’s annual debate a decade ago. He highlighted the impact of consumer empowerment in the healthcare industry and predicted that all sectors would experience a similar shift as power transfers to consumers.

Gavin Chappell and Rebecca Attoe-Butt stressed the importance of people and relationships as underlying factors. Chappell discussed current challenges such as labor shortages, educational gaps, expectation management, and career development within the industry. While he acknowledged the need for automation, he emphasized that people would remain crucial to supply chain success due to their problem-solving abilities and strategic decision-making during disruptions. Attoe-Butt echoed this sentiment, emphasising the significance of human relationships in future supply chains and the unique abilities humans possess in problem-solving and building trust.