The second in our series of interviews with our innovation start-ups, we spoke with the Automedi team, one of the finalists selected following their successful pitch at W² Labs Pitch Day in June 2022.

All five finalists receive mentorship from Wincanton’s senior management, with the chance to trial their solution in a live environment.

“Putting the manufacturing and disposal together, where users are, removes steps in supply and disposal, because you don’t have to move any of that stuff anywhere. With fuel prices now so high, is starting to look like a very wise idea.”
Ethar Alali, Managing Director, Automedi

W² Labs is open to early-stage businesses and is designed to discover emerging ideas and to tackle some of the industry’s toughest challenges. One of the focuses of this year’s Labs was ESG (environment, social and governance). Automedi was chosen from this category.
Automedi, based in Manchester, UK, makes functional products and services out of waste plastics via localised 3D printing, cutting out 98% of the CO2 of conventional manufacturing and supply chains by radically reducing the energy needed to manufacture and transport goods long haul.

We spoke with Ethar Alali, Managing Director, who talked to us about the business’s approach to innovation and what attracted them to collaborate with Wincanton.

Through your innovation, what problems do you want to solve? 

We are in a period of global change. Logistics and freight costs are skyrocketing, earth is crying out for action and geopolitical risks and climate forces disrupt supply chains in multiple ways. 

Tell us about your journey to develop your product. 

At the start of the pandemic, supply chain shortages became a big issue for the NHS. So, we took part in the community effort to 3D print face visors but we noticed that people found it difficult to use 3D printing.

We set about building an easy-to-use 3D printing unit to make care equipment of any type, at the touch of a button. 

At the same time, we found out how much plastic waste Britain gets rid of. Plastic is either dumped in landfill, shipped or burnt for energy. This not only releases lots of emissions, it loses the accumulated emissions that come from manufacturing, freight and logistics. 
Therefore, it was a natural evolution to look at using that stuff as a raw material. Could we make products from the plastics people throw away? What about oceans? 

Putting the manufacturing and disposal together, where users are removes steps in supply and disposal, because you don’t have to move any of that stuff anywhere. With fuel prices now so high, is starting to look like a very wise idea. 

Why did you choose to partner with Wincanton? 

Wincanton are clearly looking to the future. They have a very diverse portfolio of clients and services and, together with their partners L Marks, have demonstrated a clear intent to solve problems and create the future. Making them a perfect partner for hyper-disruptive models like Automedi that aren’t just doing the same recycling differently. We’re changing economies for the better!

What does it mean to you to be among Wincanton’s W2 Labs cohort for 2022?

For us, this means a lot! The supply chain sectors are having to rapidly adapt to changes in the environment and geopolitical context. Conventional manufacturing and supply make products somewhere else and transports the goods the rest of the way. This puts it at risk of physical disruption anywhere from manufacturer to user, whether that’s blockages in the Suez Canal, war or trade barriers. 

In contrast, Automedi’s entire thesis is making where it’s used. It transports the longest distances, digitally, over the air and the manufacturing is done where it’s needed. Within the last mile, cutting out the risks of disruption and emissions. This is better for people and the planet and can even bring manufacturing back to Britain once more. 

Why are you the best team to deliver the innovation?

Automedi is a radically different innovation. It is a step change in technology and operating models, that cuts across many specialist fields, like economics, climate change, social value, manufacturing and supply. Needing a broad skill set that thrives in many different roles, with many different hats needing many different subject matter experts. Our team of deep generalists have proven themselves able to work at the level of many specialists. Complementing each other’s skills and ensuring there aren’t any gaps.

Why do you feel innovation is important in today’s supply chain and logistics industry?

Manufacturing and supply have taken a battering over the last few years. Whether through trade barriers, pandemics, skill shortages, fuel crises or war, the last three years have been the biggest challenge to the supply chain industry since World War Two.

Whether it is through conventional logistics that move consignments or through models like Automedi which 'teleport' products to end users, innovation is an essential part of the continual evolution of supply chains that must sustainably service an ever greater appetite for more goods, now.  

What was your experience of W2 Labs Pitch Day?

That’s the first time I have felt comfortable going to pitch! The opportunity we had to present was better than anything I’ve ever experienced.

What previous innovation inspires you? Tell us about a specific product.

Goodness! What a question.

There are a couple, but every time someone asks me that question I always default to Alan Turing’s work on the first stored programme computer. It’s not one single product but lays the foundation of all the computers you will find anywhere. Computers that are not only now linked but are now thinking better than we humans are. That at the cutting edge, can now read our minds and even replay our memories.

What’s your long-term vision for your product?

We see Automedi as the internet of manufacturing. Making products wherever, whenever, by whoever. Automedi’s clusters taking plastics from anywhere, even as an alternative to cash in the poorest communities and returns products. Nurturing scrap plastic commodity markets, which develop the right behaviours to clean up our environments. This is especially necessary for the developing world. Which not only have little access to products but also have no infrastructure to build the factories or deliver the products. Rebalancing economic inequity wherever in the world it is. 

250,000 Automedi clusters would serve an area the size of Europe. It is a ten trillion-dollar market that has the potential to serve people, planet and profit in parallel.