Practical action in advanced manufacturing sector

3rd January 2019

From setting up ring-fenced Brexit teams to re-focusing export efforts outside the EU, advanced manufacturing businesses are taking practical action to prepare for Brexit.

There are concerns about both the availability of supplies and possible delays to them entering the UK, employment and fears about higher costs and skills shortages.

Those who set up specific teams to consider the issues Brexit raises for them had found that the increased scrutiny was helpful to the business generally, but feared that the impact which had already been felt would simply increase.

Focusing on the US instead of the EU is one possible strategy, or looking to trade more with the island of Ireland, along with seeking Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status; this is time-consuming but potentially useful in relation to customs checks and delays.

How to keep the supply chain running smoothly is a major issue for the sector – stockpiling has been proposed by some businesses but rejected by others, partly because of storage problems but also because it would drive up prices.

Laura Surridge, group purchasing director for WHS Plastics, said: “Currently 90 per cent of our business is in the UK but our supply chain is global. We’re looking to expand within Europe and America so we will need to understand the impact of Brexit and determine how we can work with these other countries and expand within them.”

There is also concern about skills shortages and how the UK could address the need for more engineering and technological skills within the country, perhaps through universities.

Overall, delegates advocated a common-sense approach, taking the opportunity to adapt and change, but with concerns over the changes which would needed in the longer-term to help the economy grow.

Robert Capper, head of sectors for HCR, said: “It’s clear that Brexit will impact all sectors, but decisive action with a positive approach to future commercial relationships is the way ahead; businesses need to make sure that they are well-prepared for a different commercial landscape.”

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