Brendan Murphy, Chief Executive at Egbert Taylor
Countless lessons are being learnt in the wake of Covid-19.
One thing that the global pandemic has exposed is just how precarious supply chains are, especially those heavily reliant on overseas imports. It’s also highlighted the vulnerability of big brands and the jobs of those responsible for keeping them operational.
In commerce, price generally tends to trump provenance. If you can import materials, components or even entire products from somewhere like Asia cheaper than the cost of purchasing them domestically, then why wouldn’t you? If you’re a local authority, this strategy enables budgets to stretch further. As a business, it enables you to increase your bottom line.
However, when the system falls down and supply chains fall apart, as we’re witnessing now, then any wisdom in sourcing cheap materials overseas is quick to fade.
I know I’m not alone in feeling a sense of sadness at how the nation’s much-loved brands are falling into administration, or how long-standing UK brands are having to shed thousands of jobs. News like this represents a huge blow to individuals, families and the UK economy.
At every level of society, Covid-19 continues to be a bitter pill to swallow. Yet it’s interesting to see and hear those who crave life pre-Coronavirus, many of whom can be heard saying ‘I wish we could just get back to normal’.
Though, knowing what we now know, do we really wish to return to a normal that’s built on a house of cards? Is simply returning to what we know the answer? I don’t think it is.
I believe that the answer lies in the UK taking a more discerning approach to procurement. The balance between price and provenance must be redressed, with provenance given more weight.
Of course, local authorities must still make budgets stretch as far as possible, and businesses still need to make profit. But these processes need to be carried out with a more holistic approach.
Organisations must now take a step back, review their procurement processes and stress test their supply chains, leaving no stone unturned. Furthermore, shortening supply chains is essential if organisations are to build in operational resilience and safeguard themselves against future crises, regardless of the form they take.
This point also speaks to local authorities that have declared a climate emergency. In order to reduce their carbon footprint, shortening their supply chains not only represents a tangible way in which they can move towards carbon reduction, but also support UK supply chains in the process.
As a UK manufacturer that sources its raw materials and produces its own products locally in the UK, I’m proud to say that Egbert Taylor has a resilient supply chain. In fact, the furthest we source materials used in the production of our steel containers is 25 miles from our Droitwich manufacturing facility.
However, just as a house of cards only takes one weak link to fall apart, a strong UK economy cannot be built on only a handful of businesses that practice mindful supply chain strategies.
Covid-19 has demonstrated that organisations can no longer have their cake and eat it without the risk of facing consequences. When we are all back to a degree of normality, however that may look, rebuilding safe supply chains must be an integral part of rebuilding the economy, safeguarding brands and protecting jobs.