Preparing for Brexit: How Manufacturers Can Get Ready Today

If there’s one thing that defines successful businesses, it’s their ability to cope with change. In recent years, we’ve seen the rapid rise of cloud-based technologies, the reshaping of many industries by automation and artificial intelligence, and waves of regulatory change. Now, the UK faces its biggest change in decades, as it starts to separate from the EU.

Manufacturers can prepare for Brexit now by ensuring they have systems that give them a clear, real-time insight into their businesses. The aim is to ensure they can take effective and well-informed decisions, whatever changes in their supply chains or markets.

Companies that use just-in-time deliveries, for example, may need to adjust their lead times and inventory levels. The Road Haulage Association warns that additional checks at the border between England and France could result in significant delays and queues. Some companies will need to increase their inventory levels to avoid the far greater cost of downtime on the assembly line because parts or subassemblies are unavailable. For many companies, there will be a delicate balance to strike, ensuring they can continue manufacturing in the face of uncertain delays, without harming cash flow by overbuying goods. The only way to get it right will be to have real-time insight into the supply chain and stock levels, joined up with the company financials, so that business leaders can understand the impact of any delivery delays, and better understand how to mitigate them.

There may also be increasing currency fluctuation in the future. The Brexit process has already seen the pound devalue against the dollar and the Euro, and there may be further volatility to come. Sharp currency changes can affect the cost of imported goods, and the returns from exports. For companies that operate on tight profit margins, currency fluctuations can have a significant impact on their profitability. To manage this complexity, it will be important for manufacturers to have an ERP system that handles multiple currencies smoothly, so that the business can plan, price and negotiate based on a good understanding of the company’s currency exposure.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the UK government has said that a temporary tariff regime would be introduced. Although most imports would be tariff-free, tariffs would be applied to the automotive industry and industries that are considered to be “vulnerable and exposed to unfair global competition”. That could see the cost of imported supplies rise. Cloud-based ERP solutions will provide the greatest flexibility to cope with changing regulatory requirements, because they can more easily be updated as new requirements are introduced.

Brexit is likely to result in new documentation requirements to cope with any new tariff, customs or taxation requirements. This may apply not only when trading with the EU, but also when dealing with other countries whose trade arrangements previously depended on an EU agreement. One way that manufacturers can minimise delays is to ensure that all shipments have the right documentation attached, so that pallets aren’t left sitting by the dockside waiting for missing paperwork to arrive. A robust document management solution will be necessary to tackle the increased complexity of international trade, and to avoid the assembly line downtime and customer dissatisfaction that might result from avoidable delays.

Much about Brexit remains uncertain, but businesses can prepare now by asking “what if?”, and working out the information they would need to operate effectively under different scenarios. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is a comprehensive ERP suite that spans financials, purchasing, inventory, operations, warehousing and projects. By introducing it to your business now, you can ensure you have the processes and visibility you need to make smarter decisions in the face of unprecedented change.

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