Supply Chain Risk and the Cross-Channel Problems

Labor Day

Particularly if you are a reader in England, Scotland or Wales, have you ever modelled - as part of your supply chain risk planning - what would happen if no goods (or people) could come across the Channel to Great Britain for a few weeks? Would your business be adversely affected? If you haven't done that exercise, at least to some extent, perhaps you should make a start now. It does not seem inconceivable that the UK might be cut off at some point, given recent events!

The problems with England / France cross-channel traffic have continued in recent days. Refugees and economic migrants trying to get into the UK have caused huge problems for police, lorry drivers and tourists at Calais and led to road closures on the Kent side as hundreds of trucks were stranded, unable to get through the channel tunnel.

We do tend to take for granted the fact that, although Great Britain is an island, people and goods can easily move over to the European continent. The recent events show we should not take that for granted. The problems are having a major impact on some businesses now, and the Road Haulage Association estimates the cost to the UK is getting on for £1 million a day. (That feels on the low side, it we take into account aspects such as some shipments having to be scrapped because migrants have got into truck loads of foodstuffs, for instance).

There must be indirect knock-on effects too, with negative implications for business. If I were back in my days as a raw material purchasing manager, I'd be looking at increasing local stock-holding, which does of course have a cost. And it is not always possible - for instance, if you are importing 20 tonne tankers full of anhydrous milk fat to be pumped straight into your factory storage tank and used within hours! That was the case in my first ever procurement role, and my worst nightmare in those days was a blizzard in Kent leading to my insulated but unheated tanker turning into a 20 tonne block of solid butter on the M20!

If the UK's Labour Party were a proper opposition to the Conservatives, rather than dissolving into a factional mess with an apparent self-destruct mechanism, it might be suggesting that protecting our borders whilst enabling free trade and movement of goods and people are pretty basic roles for a government. It might also point out that those goals are not being achieved very successfully at the moment. I don’t understand why Labour aren’t all over this issue.

However, to be fair to the politicians and indeed the police, it is not an easy problem to solve. You can't build a fence around an entire town, and any security precautions inevitably affect everyday life in a negative manner - witness long delays for tourists now as passports are checked more diligently. But something will have to be done about the situation with regard to the supply chain issues, or the economic effects on businesses in GB are going to become more and more noticeable and eventually severe.

And do that modelling if you haven't already!

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