Q&A with Harry Watts

What is Warehouse Agility?

Ahead of his presentation at this year's Logistics Conference, SHD speaks to newly appointed Managing Director at SEC Storage Group, Harry Watts.

06 Apr 2021

James Burman (JB): Harry, your upcoming presentation is titled: 'Warehouse Agility by Design'. How would you define ''warehouse agility''?

Harry Watts (HW): The classical definition of warehouse agility can be defined as a warehouse's ability to rapidly adapt to an organisation's changing operational and tactical needs. However, to my mind, that definition paints a view of agility as something 'reactive' rather than 'proactive', which I believe is misleading. To me, warehouse agility is instead a measure of a facility's pre-planned capacity for accelerated change to gain an organisational advantage. As such, it is a metric that sits more within the strategic sphere than an operational one.

However you define it, we must assess agility from a holistic perspective and whilst it can be challenging (but not impossible) to quantify, it's essential to remember that it covers every aspect of the warehouse, including physical and process design.

JB: Why is it particularly important during a period such as the pandemic?

HW: In a nutshell, agility is the best antidote for uncertainty. A useful allegory for agility is a (pre-pandemic) rush-hour journey using a modern-day sat-nav. Sure, you begin your journey with a clear route planned but also with an active awareness of the other paths available. Then, as you drive, you continually scan for opportunities to either avoid a traffic-jam or take advantage of a quicker-than-normal route.

A warehouse operation is no different; a warehouse that lacked agility at the start of this pandemic will have lacked both the potential to avoid the obstacles COVID threw, but also to take advantage of the market opportunities that changing market-forces presented.