Supply Chain 2025 analyses how retailers in the UK and internationally are investing to transform their operations. Here, we reveal five innovative ROI-generating solutions explored in the new report

1. Manure-fuelled tractors

Waitrose tractor

Source: Waitrose

In October 2023, Waitrose started a trial on its Hampshire farm in which it captures methane gas from cow manure and uses it to fuel tractors on the site.  

Over time, this should result in the retailer no longer needing to use fossil fuels in the farming process, helping it move towards its net zero goals and save money. 

As part of its work with several agricultural tech companies, Waitrose wants to prove the case for methane capture so that other farms in its supply chain follow suit. These farms would not only get a new biofuel for their sites, but they could also convert it into electricity to power other elements of their premises or generate additional revenue from it – selling it to fleet managers, for example. 

2. Ten-minute drone delivery

zipline drone walmart delivery

Source: Walmart

Drones may appear a concept of the future but, in the US, Walmart is making the tech a reality to meet consumer demand.  

As of January, Walmart now delivers by drone from stores in seven states – Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia – and said it was “reaching new heights” by expanding the service in Dallas-Fort Worth to make it available to 75% of the population there.  

Walmart customers ordering by drone can get items, such as cooking ingredients, last-minute gifts and snacks in 30 minutes or less. Some deliveries can happen in as little as 10 minutes. It has already completed 20,000 safe drone deliveries across the US. 

3. Convenience drive-throughs

Zabka drive through

Source: Żabka

Drive-throughs might be synonymous with fast-food chains but in Poland, convenience retailer Żabka has been adapting the drive-through format for its stores to create more frictionless shopping. 

Its second Drive shop opened in January, allowing shoppers to drive up, place their order and then pick their items up from a staff-served window counter without leaving their car.  

Agata Michalska, director of new formats at Żabka Polska, said the launch represented how “convenience just got a whole lot closer”. 

4. Thermal night blinds

Thermal night blinds

Source: Southern Co-op

A £200,000 investment from Southern Co-op to retrofit thermal night blinds on chillers in 46 of its stores is expected to result in energy savings of up to 9%.

The work, which took place in 2023 and sees night blinds used on chillers during unoccupied hours, is projected to save 73 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) a year. This is the equivalent of the average annual electricity used by two retail stores. 

5. AI imaging stations

Amazon imaging station

Source: Amazon

Last May, tech titan Amazon introduced AI imaging stations in two of its fulfilment centres in the US. 

The purpose of the tech is to screen orders to detect and remove damaged items, and to speed up picking and packing. 

The role of the imaging stations is typically the responsibility of warehouse workers, but Amazon’s research says the tech is three times more effective than people in identifying damaged goods. Anything the tech picks up is analysed by workers themselves; an example of human working alongside machine. 

Supply Chain 2025 report cover

Discover more need-to-know innovations shaking up the first and final mile with your free copy of Supply Chain 2025.  

You will also gain insights into:  

  • How global retailers are getting the dynamics right to ensure future performance  
  • What is required for retailers to balance sustainability and profits in the changing commercial landscape  
  • How to maximise partnerships to support supply chain evolution