Since the end of the transition period, UK businesses that rely on trade with the EU have had to quickly learn about the new rules and adapt their supply chain accordingly. This led to a huge amount of disruption, which we have covered in other articles in the past.
With shortages in trained staff and gaps in understanding of the customs clearance formalities post-Brexit along the supply chain, as well as, not many hauliers available to transport goods across the border, the first couple of months have been testing for many British businesses.
With many British manufacturers importing parts from the UK from European suppliers, keeping their supply chain uninterrupted has been a massive challenge. Despite many plans, it’s not been a smooth road into New Britain. It’s not only Brexit that those businesses had to manage, Covid-19 and its multiple lockdowns have also taken a toll on importers supply chain and operations.
However, despite making things difficult, Covid-19 has also taught us to prepare for all eventualities. Being able to pivot operations helps small businesses avoid disruption in the supply chain and here are some of the key steps we believe can help.
5 steps to avoid supply chain disruption post-Brexit
1. Educate yourself and your team.
Learning all there is to know about the new Brexit legislation, including the ones coming into force later on this year, should be the first step for any business that imports or exports to the EU. You need to be aware of how those affect your business and operations, but also study other elements of the deal that may affect you in the future, such as staff’s right to work, should you employ an EU citizen.
What you learn cannot stay with you only – it’s essential that your entire workforce understands the impacts and requirements of Brexit, especially those directly dealing with your European suppliers.
2. Train your suppliers.
Simply relying on your suppliers to do the same and educate themselves is likely to lead to frustrations. Once you know what is required of you in terms of the new Brexit regulations, we advise you to coach each of your suppliers to close any knowledge gaps within the supply chain. In the last two months, many small businesses reported that it was their suppliers that caused delays at borders, having not prepared the right documentation.
Working closely with your suppliers to ensure they have the knowledge they need to deliver parts to you on time, will help you to avoid larger disruption of your supply chain, which together with the larger Covid and Brexit chaos, could easily snowball if those gaps in knowledge are not narrowed down now.
Training should be thorough and cover everything from pallet markings to documentation. Whilst this will require an investment in time and resource in the short-term, it will prove invaluable in preventing damaging delays in your supply chain later down the line.
3. Carry out a supplier audit.
If you import from the EU, you can also use the process of coaching your suppliers as an opportunity to carry out a thorough audit of each of the businesses you work with. In this way, you can identify any potential weaknesses that could further lead to delays or disruption in the supply chain. With this knowledge, you can manage your inventory a bit better and stockpile the products that you believe could be affected by hold-ups.
4. Develop contingency plans for transport.
In addition to the disruption caused by suppliers’ lack of knowledge of the Brexit legislation, some businesses faced shortages of containers and hauliers in the first few weeks of the UK being outside of the single market. There are signals that this issue is beginning to ease but the availability of transport options isn’t yet back to pre-Brexit levels, which could catch you off-guard unless you develop contingency plans for transport.
This could mean being prepared to pay premium rates in the short term is necessary. Some small businesses have planned as far as hiring trucks and sending their own team over to Europe to pick up supplies.
5. Stock up on materials.
A practice that we’ve seen across several different industries is stockpiling materials to avoid disruption in your supply chain caused by Brexit. On the front end, this keeps customers happy as you are able to keep on delivering products to them on time and in full.
As the next two phases of Brexit legislation come in, it might be worth checking which materials are wise to stock up on to allow your business to keep customers satisfied.
At UKCS, we help our clients navigate through the labyrinth of post-Brexit customs clearance documentation and deploy IT solutions that make their lives easier. Get in touch with us today to see how our experts can help you!