01 April 2004 | Andrew Golder
Logistics firms are preparing to offer faster delivery to clients operating in the latest wave of entrants to the European Union when they join next month.
Next-day delivery is a priority for many logistics suppliers, according to speakers at the UPS EU Enlargement Conference in Brussels last week.
Relaxation of border controls on 1 May when 10 new countries - Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia - join the EU will help suppliers to get goods to their customers in eastern Europe more quickly.
Several suppliers have also already moved into the new states to follow their major customers and establish a new market for their products.
Rafal Koper, logistics manager, eastern Europe, for global electronics distributor Future Electronics, said: "At present, next-day delivery to prospective EU member states is a problem because of customs delays, but when they join it will not be as much of a problem."
The company is moving its warehouse to Poland from London, he said, which would enable it to offer the same service to customers across Europe.
There may be less outsourcing to India when the EU is enlarged, said Claudio Murri, executive director of government affairs for Europe, Middle East and Asia at IT services giant EDS.
Murri said companies would look closer to home if they could find less expensive skilled labour and reasonable infrastructure within timezones closer to their major offices.
"Infrastructure is also vital," he said. "We don't need roads and bridges to support our customers, we need broadband, and if that is not available we will go to a different location."
Murri's comments were backed by Mark van der Horst, UPS's director of EU affairs, who said improvements to eastern Europe's infrastructure were key to its economic development.
He said many of the states joining in May were looking at the best ways to establish warehouses, telecommunications systems and new transport links.
He told SM: "The key message is that there is a challenge to develop the infrastructure.
"Certainly, countries like Spain and Ireland have benefited from joining the EU and taken the opportunity to build a better transport infrastructure."