The sustainability and supply chain sectors were highlighted as engines of growth for post-Brexit Britain at the SCALA Annual Logistics Debate.
The respected industry event held in the superb surroundings of Coombe Abbey was hosted by supply chain consultancy SCALA in association with the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT).
Delegates heard from top quality speakers representing companies such as BT Supply Chain, Collect+, General Mills, John Lewis, Ocean Supply Chain Management, Summit Consulting and Toyota Material Handling.
Keith Newton, pictured, a SCALA Senior Partner and Secretary General of CILT International, opened the evening with a summary of views on Brexit and the need for businesses to now take a positive mindset.
Speakers revealed their business priorities, including the changing nature of consumer behaviour and how it has made supply chain central to the customer experience.
Other priorities raised included the drive to become demand driven, inter-company collaboration, environmental improvement, the importance of data visualisation and the need to attract young talent into the industry.
Tom Schalenbourg, Sustainable Development Director at Toyota Material Handling, highlighted sustainability as a growth sector where the UK has European leadership.
“The UK is 10 years ahead of the continent on sustainability,” he said. “This is one silver lining of Brexit – sustainability is a business opportunity and the UK will potentially be able to take advantage.”
The Chinese view on Brexit was provided by Yong Wang, Chief Executive Officer of Ocean Supply Chain Management.
“The Chinese government has expressed the view that the relationship between China and UK is entering an all-round development ‘Golden Era’ in the medium- and long-term,” he said.
Mr Wang said that the supply chain sector was worth £1.2 trillion in 2015 and is scheduled to grow to £2.3 trillion by 2020.
He added that China’s rapid development in ecommerce, FMCG and the automotive sector means “there will be significant new opportunities for the highly respected and mature British supply chain industry.”
Another positive note came from Ben Farrell, head of central operations and transport for John Lewis, who revealed that consumer confidence has not yet taken a hit and that sales are still strong.
But he added: “We are really conscious of the backdrop in terms of currency fluctuations in our expanding international business.”
The debate was sponsored by Toyota Manual Handling and Autologic Systems and supported by The Food Storage and Distribution Federation.
Other dangers of Brexit were also raised by Ian Stansfield, former VP Logistics & Supply Chain for Asda and now managing director of Summit Consulting.
“The current situation in food grocery is that 15% of all shipments are within the EU and they are currently considered domestic,” he said. “The new situation will see those shipments classed as international and there will be country of origin issues and the likelihood of higher duties and taxes.
“This will make British firms more expensive and less competitive, and will certainly affect the sales line at some point.”