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GUEST COMMENT Risks over Brexit raise need for skilled Interim Supply Chain Executives


By Andy Kaye, CEO, Bis Henderson Group
Even if the UK finally leaves the European Union on 31 January, the bad news is, that isn’t the end. In fact, it’s just the beginning of a whole set of changes in trade and other processes that may occur with bewildering rapidity.

For the logistics industry and the supply chains it serves, that means a requirement for new strategies, new competencies, revised business processes and fresh approaches to assets and partners. There are many threats, but there are also real opportunities to create lasting competitive advantage. These are the classic conditions where the appointment of interim executives to existing or new roles may make perfect sense.

There is no substitute for people with current experience of the types of issue and the types of transformation involved. Fresh thinking, and a freedom from the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mentality, is invaluable. Trading primarily within a Customs Union and Single Market has been remarkably stable. Now, change seems inevitable.

Businesses may want to look at re-shoring manufacturing operations, at re-examining the outsourcing of operations, of where their facilities should optimally be located, and where the most competitive supply base is to be found. If trade friction is going to disrupt essentially stockless Just-in-Time flows, does this require a rethink of trade lanes and modes, ports of import and export, or warehousing provision?

At a technical level too, businesses will need competent individuals who are capable of setting systems up to deal with Customs, tariffs, country of origin rules and other issues that may hitherto have been marginal. And, it isn’t just about new IT. It’s about adapting to new timescales and expectations.

Addressing these issues could be merely defensive but appointing interim executives can also inject a ‘can-do’, opportunity-seeking attitude. Are there new supply opportunities out there? Are new export markets opening up? Above all, how can the inevitable disruption and change be turned into a competitive advantage?

In the first place, some threats and opportunities will not materialise. Also, it may not be timely to commit to long-term appointments.

Secondly, existing executives (including EU nationals) may have put their own career progression plans ‘on hold’ in the Brexit uncertainty. It may not be clear if they need to be replaced long-term.

Limited term appointments may also be appropriate as, once new strategies and processes have been put into place, they can often be managed going forward at a lower costing executive level. Interim executives will also be committed to the needs and opportunities of the specific company, rather than ‘selling’ standard consultancy solutions. There is little competitive advantage to be found in doing the same as everyone else.

Hiring the right interim executive can bring not only a wealth of experience, often drawn from a range of other business sectors and situations, but urgency, focus, positivity and a willingness to drive needed transformation, without harking back to the old practices of pre-Brexit days.

As the Brexit deadline looms large, now is the time to act decisively on minimising risk to the business by bringing in an interim executive with the specialist skills needed to ensure that supply chains continue to run smoothly – regardless of the as yet unknown challenges that post-Brexit trading may bring. Hiring an experienced interim executive to plan a robust contingency strategy now could make Brexit a little less daunting and considerably less risky.

Andy Kaye is CEO of Bis Henderson Group

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