With the Brexit landscape constantly changing, it is very easy to be unsure of what questions to ask and who to ask them too. This is not a situation you want to find yourself in as you could be missing out on information that would be vital to your Brexit preparations.
The most important group of people to speak to is those in your supply chain. These are the individuals who will be aiming to ensure that your goods enter Northern Ireland and the wider United Kingdom whilst trying to avoid being struck down by the potential additional costs and delays a no-deal Brexit could bring. By speaking to your suppliers and asking them appropriate questions, you will be able to gauge the level of their Brexit preparations and improve your own as a result.
So, what questions do you need to ask, and more importantly, why do you need to ask them?
1. How are they planning to offset potential increases in lead times caused by customs delays?
a. In a no-deal Brexit scenario, the introduction of a hard-border and absence of a customs union would mean extra checks at the border and additional regulations to be complied with
b. With the added non-tariff barriers, supply chains across the UK and the EU will be disturbed and companies will face significant logistical problems
2. Are you planning to improve your IT system to respond to the potentially major changes to UK import processes in a no-deal scenario?
a. In a no-deal Brexit, there will be an overhaul of customs procedures and what information will be required to successfully complete them
b. As import and export processing is done digitally, companies will need to invest in their IT infrastructure to ensure their systems are ready to deal with the large increase in information to be processed, that it can be used to complete the new customs declarations and that staff are fully trained to complete the work
3. Are you planning to implement new arrangements for transporting goods, and if so, will there be any additional costs?
a. With the movement of goods expected to be delayed in a no-deal scenario, companies may investigate new means to move goods to minimise any delays
b. Any plans could involve an increase in costs, which would likely be passed onto the supplier’s customer (I.E You)
c. Consulting with your suppliers will keep you aware of another area which could see its costs arise in a no-deal scenario
4. Will supply chain forecasting still be as accurate, or will the intricacies of Brexit hinder this?
a. Virtually all businesses are heavily reliant on the precise forecasting of their supply chain to ensure goods are stored and moved as efficiently as possible
b. With Brexit complicating the movement of goods, there is a greater chance of mistakes being made and erroneous forecasting happening
c. This could result in unstable stock levels in the immediate aftermath of a no-deal Brexit, with businesses having too little or too much stock is on hand
d. This could lead to customers not receiving their products on time and businesses having more goods than they can safely store
5. Will we need to stock extra inventory for a short period of time? Will all our products be at risk of shortages or only certain products?
a. With supply chain issues increasingly likely in the short-term after a no-deal departure, companies need to know which of their products will be affected
b. They can then prepare for any potential shortages more accurately by identifying products that are at a high-risk of running out
6. Are you planning to relocate your operations out of the UK/NI to the wider EU/ROI?
a. With the potential increases in costs, administrative work and delays to supply chains, many companies have or are considering relocating their base out of the UK/NI into EU/ROI so that they can avoid the negative fallout out of a no-deal Brexit
b. The sooner a company is aware of one its suppliers’ intentions to relocate to another country, the quicker and better they can adapt to the situation and get alternative arrangements or a new supplier in place
The information gained from asking these questions, and others pertinent to your unique situation, will help highlight any potential shortcomings in your supply chain that a no-deal Brexit could leave you vulnerable to. Instead, you will have the answers you want and be prepared for whatever Brexit has to bring.
Robert McConnell, NI Chamber