Supply Chain is Only as Strong as its Weakest Link

By Yasmine Lingemann

Supply chains, the network between a company and its suppliers to produce and distribute a specific product to the final buyer, are being threatened by Brexit, Covid-19, and Government actions. When one step of the supply chain fails, we all fail. Modern manufacturing depends heavily on fast supply chains offering ‘just in time’ delivery of components, often across multiple borders. The Brexit deal agreed on December 24, just one week before it came into force, left little time for companies to adapt. Many manufacturers are still dealing with rebuilding their supply chains following the impact of Covid-19, and should now also consider how to adapt and change to reflect the new trading relationship between the EU and the UK, whilst also collaborating closely with supply chains to ensure there are minimal setbacks. It is vital that Governments do all it takes to keep supply chains open and running smoothly, before everyone ends up losing out.

The global landscape for supply chains has seen better days. Setbacks faced by many supply chains have impacted our world economy. Fishmongers in France state that their supply chain has been set back by 30 years. A global push for carbon neutrality twinned with the effects of Brexit and the pandemic has caused the worst year for UK car manufacturing since 1943, according to the UK’s Auto Industry trade group. Long queues at the borders are not only adding considerably to business expenses, but perishable goods are being thrown away and supermarkets such as M&S in France are seeing empty shelves. M&S spokesman confirmed the lack of groceries was a result of ‘Brexit teething problems’ disrupting supply chains, with lorries trying to cross the Channel being held up for days and thousands of pounds of produce being thrown away. Having no cumulative rules of origin, as well as EU bans on a variety of UK products such as shellfish, have made matters even tougher. The need under Brexit to revamp supply chains to comply with local content rules, the requirement for fresh export certificates and the uncertainties of delayed parts imports are just some of the other barriers now facing manufacturers with UK sites.

The government should consider how emerging/digital technologies, can deliver improved supply chain management and efficiency. Ensuring a smoother transaction of goods at the borders should be prioritised: more workers should be hired to deal with the greater volume of issues, and documentation should be digitalised where possible. We encourage the government to continue to survey the situation at the borders, and to not rule out the possibility of negotiating better terms so that traders on both sides of the channel, as well as the rest of the world, are able to trade more freely. Government support where supply chains are at risk of breaking is needed, especially considering the global pandemic we are in. Supplies of PPE, vaccines, and other essentials, in particular, need to continue to stay open.

The global economy is already under a lot of pressure, now is the time to support one another and ask for help where needed.

If you and your company are affected by anything addressed in this article, our Business, Trade and Investment (BTI) Committee provides a platform for trade facilitation, business networking and knowledge sharing, and to harness and foster expertise. For more information, please click here to see how we can help you.


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Here at the British Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to update you with the necessary information to help all our members to succeed. We are all in this together, and with the right plans in place, consumer confidence can be restored. BritCham offers support, guidance and specialised coverage for both Brexit and COVID-19, including webinars, workshops and events that will give your firm the tools it needs to navigate through this challenging period.

See our website here for more details on how we can help you: https://www.britishchamber.be/

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