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Stephen McCartney, ASR – Supply Chain Management

I recently attended a roundtable event in London hosted by one of our partners, KPIT. The topic was on trade compliance and it brought together transport organizations, retailers, consultants, manufacturers and technology providers. The aim was to stimulate a debate and discuss the business challenges and opportunities that are affecting trade compliance globally, including the impact of Brexit.

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The session kicked off with a presentation by Mark Corby, of Kuehne & Nagel.  Mark has 38 years of customs and compliance experience across a range of major organizations, including HM Revenue & Customs.  He provided some great insights from the world of compliance and highlighted some key questions organizations today must consider:

  • Who owns compliance within the organization?  It often lands between functions and exists in the gaps – when in reality it needs clear leadership and accountability
  • Why pay compliance any attention? Is it to avoid costs or damage to the brand as a result of penalties and negative publicity, or is it to stay compliant and legal? 
  • How can compliance be used effectively to improve business?
  • What are the good and bad practices?  Comparing an organization that is joined up and considers compliance throughout all functions, from product innovation and commercialization to fulfillment and post-sales service, to an organization that either ignores compliance or faces inertia and a lack of willingness to invest.

The subject of Brexit, with the Government’s stated position that we are leaving the Customs Union, led to some lively conversation and debate about risks, trade procedures and opportunities. I won’t cover everything that was discussed here but I did take away some key points from the discussion:

  1. Waiting to see what shape Brexit will finally take before investing in compliance is not an option. Companies that have embraced trade compliance across the enterprise are already benefiting financially, as well as keeping their brand reputation safe, and delivering superior customer service by avoiding delays. They will also be better prepared for the changes we will face over the coming years.
  2. Engage now to avoid the fear of the unknown. Brexit is clearly something of a moving target, and there is much that will need to be discussed and agreed before the final deal is settled. Those companies that are already proactively engaging with both the external markets and with Governmental departments are going to be in the best position to protect their interests and capitalise on the opportunities.
  3. Technology and process, combined with pragmatism, will rule the day. Once the Brexit deal is settled then there will be a rush to deploy solutions that combine the necessary technology alongside flexible and accessible processes to let smarter companies fast track their trade transactions.  Technologies such as Cloud, with its open standards and configurability, can both deliver value now and lay the foundation for the post-Brexit era.

The final point that really sticks in my mind, and I believe was evidenced by this session, was Mark’s observation that in the UK, there exists a great track record on both international trade and adapting to change, and that we will undoubtedly deal with Brexit – in whatever form it may finally take – in the same practical, pragmatic and effective way.

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