Event blog: Keeping the Economy Moving: Rethinking Supply Chains Post-Brexit and COVID-19 | IPT

On Wednesday 16 September, I spoke alongside Phil Roe, Chief Customer Officer & Strategy Director, UK & Ireland, DHL at the IPT’s virtual event Keeping the Economy Moving: Rethinking Supply Chains Post-Brexit and COVID-19. The discussion was chaired by Mark Pawsey MP, who sits on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, and was attended by MPs, Peers, and representatives from industrial companies in energy, construction, food, trade and supply chain sectors.

Below I have detailed the main points I covered during the event.

Modern supply chains 
There are many challenges that modern supply chains face such as fierce competition in markets, increasing expectations and changing customer preferences, shorter life of products, new technologies and, maybe one of the most prominent, globalisation; supply chain facilities are located all around the globe. Two characteristics of supply chains that are often considered by both academics and practitioners are robustness and resilience. A robust supply chain has consistent performance in an uncertain environment with a very little variation in its performance, while resilient supply chain can recover quickly after a disruption. It was commented in the discussion that adaptability has become an important requirement of supply chains nowadays in order to be able to survive in Post-Brexit and COVID-19 era. 

Supply chain risks 
There are various types of risks that impact supply chain performance such as risk in supply, production, logistics, demand, information and communication technology, external factors such as import and export rules, political instability, currency fluctuations, etc. The impact of risk affecting one member of a supply chain, propagates along the chain and may affect all other members. Supply chain risks were modelled and analysed in two projects awarded to Coventry University by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and EU. The expertise obtained would be very useful to handling supply chain risks in Post-Brexit and COVID-19 environments. 

Post-Brexit and COVID-19 supply chains issues 
Post-Brexit and COVID-19 bring new challenges to supply chain management. New issues relevant to supply chains in the Post-Brexit environment were highlighted by a number of participants. Would there be reshoring in the future Post-Brexit? How would this affect the UK job market and local communities? How could business prepare for some activities that were previously provided by the 
EU? How to provide clarity surrounding Post-Brexit that businesses urgently need so that they could prepare for new regulations and changes in operations? What support could be provided to SME’s whilst there is uncertainty surrounding Post-Brexit? 

Some supply chains demonstrated great adaptability caused by COVID-19. They have changed their area of productions to the one required by COVID-19. New problems are faced by manufacturers. They have to operate with the reduced production capacities respecting social distancing. A question is how to design a supply chain in such a way as to minimise the impact of reduced productivity on supply chain performance? 

A new research group formed at Coventry University was mentioned, PCP – People Centred Productivity. The aim of the group is to analyse how productivity can be improved by deploying technology, focusing on the human skills, customer and employee experience. 
Existing mathematical models will need to be adapted and novel models will be developed to handle new problems caused by Post-Brexit and COVID-19.

Words by Dobrila Petrovic, Professor, Institute for Future Transport and Cities, Coventry University