The Brexit debate is over with the UK and EU finally agreeing on the trade and cooperation terms after Brexit. A lot has been mentioned about the negative impact of Brexit on the UK and EU business supply chains. However, I think it is an opportunity for businesses to review their supply chains and turn this change into a competitive advantage. In my opinion, the following are 3 key areas where procurement and supply chain should look to invest in 2021 and has a good business case to do so.
1. Sourcing capabilities
Most of the organisations I have worked with over the last several years go back to the same set of shortlisted suppliers and look to conduct negotiations and auctions to achieve short term goals. This could be working with the same pool of suppliers either in the UK or EU suppliers or in a particular global location, i.e. China. However, there have been significant changes over the last few years whether it’s in currency, new emerging supply markets, existing supply sources losing advantage, or even the overall cost of managing offshore supply chains vs. local changing dramatically. Brexit and Covid have further accelerated or exacerbated some of these changes. Having some dedicated resources now to understand market options and a full evaluation will really help understand organisations options they have and plan their future supply chains accordingly.
2. Strategic partnerships
With the unprecedented disruption in demand and supply over the last year, organisations have never more realised the need to have a different relationship with their suppliers. As the long-term changes from Brexit and Covid come into effect, organisations having close strategic partnerships with their suppliers will be the ones who will mitigate issues better or benefit from the opportunities. Strategic partnerships don’t have to be just long-term commitments but communication, transparency, and both parties working towards shared goals. Also, the key is to look at the criteria for selecting partners. While on a short-term basis, working with a supplier who can fulfil your immediate needs at the best price makes sense, unless you look at long term fit, you will never have true partnerships in place.
3. Supplier assurance and development
With Brexit, there will be significant regulatory and standard changes over the years and suppliers will need support to transition to new standards and procedures. Also, to allow the sourcing team to find new sources and locations, they need appropriate support to be able to assure and develop new suppliers. Too many businesses, see the role of supplier assurance team as limited to assurance only and have an auditor mindset, however, the key is that they are working more as a development team and helping develop suppliers to contribute to the business.
The deal agreed is described as a narrow deal as it allows the UK to gradually move away from the EU sphere of influence if that’s really what the UK wants to pursue. While the current relationship with the EU is the starting position, full changes from this deal will only be visible over the next couple of years. Businesses who will be making the right investments in their supply chain and procurement capabilities will not only mitigate issues as the changes come into immediate effect but also find themselves in a better place vs their competitors.