Ready or Not? Deal-or-no-Deal

Managing supply chains across the UK and EU has been relatively straight forward with many UK/EU-based companies creating strong supplier relationships and benefiting from no tariffs, low costs, seamless border-crossings, and limited border delays.

Until December 31st that is.

The UKs vote to leave the EU is expected to heavily impact supply chains across the country. For years, the UK and EU have enjoyed free movement of labour, goods, and services secured by preferential trade agreements. Come 31st December 2020, the UK will leave the EU with either a trade deal, or ‘no deal’. For businesses reliant on EU import/exports, there will be some disruption to the efficiency and cost effectiveness of supply chains. The length and scale of disruption is wholly dependant on current negotiations …

This is not ‘new news’ however, and many businesses have spent time over the last four years assessing the likely impact of Brexit. But this year’s COVID19 pandemic has dealt an unprecedented blow to the economy causing major disruption to both supply chains, and Brexit preparations across businesses in the UK. COVID19 has pushed back Brexit planning and used valuable cash and inventory earmarked for the necessary adaptations for organisations to simply survive. On the upside, the pandemic has validated the importance of the supply chain to the executive management.

More than ever, our Clients’ are aware of the need for a resilient and flexible supply chain to cope with the challenges Brexit is going to bring, including:

  • Delays: longer lead times could affect service levels and margins, more so for goods with short shelf lives. The emphasis on planning/inventory levels, and supplier selection is going to be paramount to keep the flow of goods moving.
  • Customs & Tariffs: businesses are likely to incur new costs from duties on goods entering and leaving the UK and moving through Europe. Depending on where the goods are travelling, these costs will determine whether the supply chain is viable.
  • Systems: new trading relationships will more than likely encounter new master data being used in ERP/MRP systems. Brexit would require a review of all enterprise systems to reflect the changes in supply chain processes. It would therefore be imperative for companies to increase the control of pre-Brexit processes to mitigate the supply chain risk.
  • Talent: Brexit would likely present an array of challenges that will require a new set of capabilities and skills, some of which will include analytical and high-level forecasting capabilities and others with transformation and change management experience. Ensuring the right mix of people are in place will allow businesses to be more agile and react quicker to unexpected issues.

The future recovery of the supply chain sector is therefore reliant largely on organisations preparing for further volatility as year-end approaches. Companies must plan for major disruptions to their supply chains, review existing international trade agreements, customs/tariff implications on potential trade deals, and identify and prioritise key business interruption risks.

In all this, having the right talent on board is key. With budgets tight and hiring freezes instigated, many organisations have taken some tough decisions early on resulting in leaner, more streamlined, and reorganised teams. Whilst on one level this may have helped right-sized the business and introduced short-term cost-savings, there will be inevitable skill gaps and bandwidth issues which may hamper an ability to retain key staff, as well as tackle the looming challenges.

One answer may lie in appointing expert, experienced short-term Interim Managers to add bandwidth and expertise. Engaged at short notice and working to pre-agreed objectives and outcomes, Interim Managers are an instant solution to challenges such as those outlined above.

Bespoke Talent Assessment/Development and Mapping/Benchmarking Programmes are a proactive and proven way to quickly evaluate internal talent, benchmark them against the future needs of the business. Our Assessment & Development Practice can assess, produce and deliver individual development plans based on the assessment output. Clients can then draw up a development investment plan and timeline to get their business and people ‘future-fit’. Alternatively, where there are recognisable skills or experience gaps, a well-evidenced business case can be made to make staff upgrades. These can be managed by our Executive Search Practice.

Finally, our Research & Insight function, can benchmark competitors helping clients understand how their top talent compares. Knowing who the competing talent is, how much it costs, and its susceptibility to a move gives our clients competitive edge.  Being aware of top external talent enables us to build talent pools for clients who can then act proactively when it comes to bringing new talent into the business.

In short, our proactive approach helps get our clients ‘match-fit’ for the future and increasing their chances of success in 2021.

If you would like to discuss this article further, learn more about The Norman Broadbent Group, or discuss your specific people or organisational challenges, please do not hesitate to contact Ali Jafri on +44 (0) 7730 090 757 or via for an initial confidential discussion.