It has always been the case that effective and efficient supply chains are the unsung heroes of manufacturing.
Supply chain is something that anyone involved in UK manufacturing understands the importance of, but that the end consumer does not see. The consumer simply expects the products that they buy to be magically available when they want them. If retail is the graceful swan, then the manufacturing supply chains are the frantic, churning legs, invisible beneath the surface of the water.
A Year of Disruption
In the last 12 months, however, supply chains have become big news, with both Brexit and COVID having profound and far-reaching implications.
These twin disruptors have impacted in a wide range of ways. COVID, in particular, led to production stoppages around the world, which forced prices to increase, triggered action by governments to stop exports of certain goods, reduced transport capacity, and created restrictions at borders.
If the security and reliability of your supply chain was not at the top of your agenda before 2020, the COVID pandemic will have certainly put it there now.
These supply chain challenges have also turned the role that supply chains play in maintaining access to goods into front page news. Hardly a day has gone by without a major media story about the fragility of supply chains and the strain that the twin pressures of COVID and Brexit have put them under. Add in the CSR factor and businesses have a lot of challenges and noise to manage throughout their supply chains. More than ever, there is an increasing consumer awareness that the products they buy have a ‘backstory’. Somebody makes them, imports them, distributes them, and that the interruptions to that supply chain have consequences for the end user
This has sparked a wider public conversation about the way in which manufacturing works, sometimes with real consequences for business. . It’s expected that all companies have a transparent view of their supply chain, which demonstrates how they responsibly work with companies throughout its entirity. The longer the chain, the harder it is for businesses to monitor, audit and, therefore, give confidence and reassurance to the end customer.
Just ask online retailer Boohoo, which saw £2bn wiped off its value in just three days following scandals about the conditions in which clothes were being manufactured by a third-party supplier.
Have You Stress-Tested Your Supply Chain?
What all of this means is that now is the right time for your business to look at its supply chains and see what you can do to make them clear, dependable, high-quality and sustainable. If you don’t, then there is every chance that the systems and processes you currently rely on could change, leaving your business, and its customers, exposed.
Whilst COVID was an immediate, short term reminder of the fragility of long-supply chains from overseas suppliers, it is the post-Brexit settlement which we wrote about here which will have the most profound long-term impact.
In particular, new tariffs, customs processes and other barriers could have major implications for the way that you source materials and components. Remember too, that the longer and more complex your supply chains are, the more moving parts there are to go wrong. Shortening supply chains reduces the number of potential points of friction. We have previously shared out thoughts on onshoring, and this is a trend that we expect to continue. It is certainly something that we are currently doing within our own business, shortening supply chains to ensure that we remain able to deliver for our own customers.
We believe that other UK manufacturing businesses should be going through a similar process – casting a careful eye on their supply chain processes and checking that they are robust enough for your business. This needs to be whole-systems assessments, looking at issues such as quality, planning, contingency, stock levels to mitigate against increased lead times, operational issues such as compliance and customs, and supply chain optimisation.
Who Do You Rely On?
A key part of your assessment should look at how you mitigate risks elsewhere. Ask yourself two key questions, “Who do we, as a business, rely on to deliver?” and “What would happen if they didn’t?”. The very nature of supply chains means that you are reliant on other businesses. However, if they fail, remember – you are the one left with unhappy customers.
At ENL we have been doing a lot of thinking ourselves about how we can support our customers to ensure that we, and they, are equipped to meet these new challenges.
Part of our work over the past few months has involved us looking at our own supply chains, and ensuring that they are as short as possible, and that we are only sourcing materials and components from businesses which are as committed to quality as we are. We are also increasing our storage capacity to increase the materials we hold on behalf of customers to help guarantee continuity of supply. The added advantage of this is it enables us to offer fixed pricing to customers, a massive benefit given the wide fluctuation of prices of some materials due to Brexit and COVID.
At ENL, we never forget that your company’s reputation depends on our ability to deliver. That is why we remain focused on an absolute commitment to quality, of both product and service, for our customers.
About ENL Group
ENL Group is based in Portsmouth, UK. Established in 1958, we have been servicing UK-based and European companies for decades. Working with a secure supply chain, ENL provides quality components for quality-driven customers. Operating 24/7, we design, manufacture and deliver critical components for our customers across the UK and Europe.
Contact Us for more information about ENL and how we can help you ensure your own supply chain is as reliable as it can be.