Analysis – what impact will Brexit have on supply chain operations?

Brexit is a great uncertainty for businesses operating cross-border. Therefore, it is crucial for companies operating complex supply chains to consider the implications of Brexit on their businesses.

A PESTLE is an analysis tool that provides an understanding of the factors and external changes to the business, which may impact their ability to operate and thrive.

In this article, Nicholas Hallam considers the elements of Brexit that are out of the control and influence of businesses, but which they should still be planning for, as well as the proactive steps they can take to guide strategic decision making.

Political

Brexit has been an intensely political issue – from the original promise of the In/Out referendum (made by David Cameron to prevent a haemorrhaging of Tory support to UKIP) right through to the political and legal disputes about the triggering of Article 50 and the ongoing controversy about the trade-off between free movement and the single market. The debate – which cuts across traditional political alignments – pits sovereignty against efficiency, and the citizens of definite somewhere against free-flowing globalists.

Economic

The UK runs a constant trade deficit with the EU. While the UK’s biggest individual export trade partner is the US, over 62% of all exports went to the 27 EU Member States during Q1 2017, totalling £33.1 billion. And during this time-period the UK’s top import partner was also an EU Member State, Germany (£17.6 billion worth of goods).

Social

While Brexit essentially means untangling the links that the UK has with the EU, there are many ways in which we will stay connected irreversibly. Some of the biggest technological advances in recent years – such as smart phones and social media – have been made to connect people no matter their location, language or economic status. So, while the government may have a protectionist ethos, it may be increasingly impractical to implement to live up to most people’s expectations and habits.

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Commentary: Managing risk in the global supply chain

The World Economic Forum defines global risk as an uncertain event that, if it occurs, can cause significant negative impact for several countries or industries within the next 10 years.
Global supply chains create both opportunity and risk. Some of the macro issues we face both in day-to-day operations and future planning include cybersecurity, terrorism, climate change, economic instability, and political discord.
More specific to executives who manage global supply chains, risk is more apparent, and on a micro-basis potentially more consequential in the short term, in areas such as but not limited to reducing spend, leveraging sourcing options, creating sustainability, political and currency instability, government regulations in the U.S. and abroad, trade compliance management, free trade agreements, energy costs, and what the incoming Trump administration will mean for global trade.
Since the recession in 2008-2009, we have witnessed a serious uptick in companies worldwide reviewing their operational exposure and then creating risk strategies in managing these vulnerabilities. Risk exposure can negatively impact margin, profits, growth strategies, operational stability and personnel maintenance.
For companies operating in global supply chains the risks are vast, convoluted and often unanticipated. As a result, we tend to be unprepared for the impacts.

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What’s Behind the Inventory Crisis of 2016?

The last time the inventory-to-sales ratio was this high was 2009, when we were in the throes of the Great Recession – people lost jobs, businesses closed, nobody was spending, nobody was growing.

What does it mean that inventory levels are this high in 2016? Are consumers not spending? Are we headed for another recession? Or are other forces at work?

Well, in April the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that consumer spending experienced its biggest gain in six years. And while JPMorgan recently reported an increased probability of a recession in the next 12 months, no one’s sounding the alarm bells quite yet. Besides, inventory levels have been high since last fall.

So what else could be at work?

The Marketplace

Traditionally, a drop in consumer demand would cause a short-term build-up of inventory. But businesses would eventually compensate by cutting orders and manufacturers would produce less. But as we’ve seen, demand isn’t going down. And yet, inventory isn’t moving. Why?

One major culprit is the way consumers shop. Their expectations have changed. This is the age of Amazon Prime, Instacart, Uber and Lyft. Free shipping. In-store pick-up. 1-hour delivery. Easy exchanges and returns. Above all – convenience. If it isn’t convenient for a customer to buy something they want, they won’t buy it – or they’ll buy it somewhere else. Fulfillment has usurped the throne of customer satisfaction.

Traditional retailers have struggled because of this. As young, tech-driven start-ups bite into market with the luxury of fresh starts, traditional retailers have tried to stay competitive. One common tactic has been to keep buffer inventory on hand. Out-of-stock inventory kills customer loyalty. Not being able to fulfill quickly kills customer loyalty. But having lots of inventory doesn’t equate to efficient fulfillment. That requires having a modern, flexible supply chain. Without agility, retailers often lack the competence to satisfy customer demand, let alone fulfilling profitably.

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China’s supply chain plan could pose threat to Taiwan

A plan laid out by Chinese authorities to cultivate a domestic supply chain for the country’s high-tech manufacturing sector is expected to pose a serious threat to Taiwanese companies, government sources said Saturday.

In voicing the concerns, Ministry of Economic Affairs sources said China’s efforts to help its own high-tech supply chain flourish to lower dependence on imported parts have already reduced China’s trade dependence on Taiwan.

The plan unveiled by Beijing in May to create a manufacturing revolution underpinned by smart technologies over the next 10 years could deal a further blow to Taiwan’s exports, they said.

The latest plan for the mainland to grow its own high-tech sector, called “Made In China 2015,” takes aim at various sectors, including the information technology, and puts a heavy emphasis on the semiconductor segment.

According to figures compiled by the Bureau of Foreign Trade (BOFT), the ratio of China’s imports from Taiwan to total imports fell to 7.76 percent in 2014, from 11.3 percent in 2005.

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