Navigating post-Brexit supply chains requires speed and agility

posted by Philip Woode
30 March 2021

Since Britain left the EU, port delays, cross-border friction, and plunging import and export figures have dominated headlines. Businesses across the UK have been navigating the new trade deal and adapting their supply chain accordingly.

However, it’s clear that rather than being a single event, Brexit will be a series of smaller obstacles that supply chain managers will have to overcome. Key to this will be speed and agility; implementing quality procurement solutions; and a collaborative approach.

 As we navigate these obstacles, it is also important to have the right type of contract and a handful of key commitments from your suppliers and customers during any disruption, and businesses need to update contractual frameworks for such events. A joint approach with key suppliers will help you establish a more reliable supply chain and improve your strategic partnerships.

The reality is, however, that Brexit is just part of the puzzle that will impact supply risk management. Nobody can predict exactly what will happen in the next 12 months – particularly when it comes to Covid-19 and a US/UK trade deal.

When challenges are being fired from all angles, it is clear that the approach and general attitudes to the supply chain need to adapt to survive a changing landscape. This requires both an external mindset change to managing supply chains and an internal overhaul beyond procurement being a siloed operation.

Traditionally, the CPO has tried to limit the number of suppliers across the network. Now, when faced with the prospect of increased tariffs, customs checks, lengthened supply times, data regulation clashes, and a host of additional unknowns, the physical network – and the terms being agreed – must become more diverse and malleable off the back of this conjoined outlook.

The internal change that needs to happen is the breaking down of department silos to overcome these supply chain challenges. This needs to occur across procurement, marketing, and finance primarily, with stronger communication channels established.

The result will be a better understanding that comes from solid procurement work and means all areas of the business agreeing on how to manage change and impacts.

By creating a more linear and collaborative dynamic between internal disciplines, and then the supplier portfolio, organisations can form a more united and robust defence in the face of unprecedented challenges.

To react to a changing world and navigate the post-Brexit supply chain, the procurement function must be more business-focussed and forward-thinking.

The more transparent and conjoined conversations that take place over the coming months, the more equipped businesses will be to overcome procurement challenges brought about by Brexit.

As the impact of Brexit becomes more clear, organisations that do not adapt risk facing a minefield of difficulties. This could put your organisation even further behind the curve. Reacting to the changes with speed and agility will be key to an effective supply chain post-Brexit.

☛ Philip Woode is principal at procurement firm Efficio Consulting.

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