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Brexit - The Main Challenges Facing the Irish Supply Chain & Logistics Sector

12 Sep 2018

Marc Bentley

Marc Bentley, Consultant with Brightwater’s Supply Chain & Logistics division recently attended the Food & Drink Business Expo in City West and was struck by the number of challenges facing the sector, particularly in the face of Brexit.

“I primarily attended the Food & Drink Business Expo looking to keep up to date with the latest innovations in the supply chain & logistics sector, learn about new technology solutions and to understand the challenges facing the industry. There were numerous educational seminars on the latest industry issues from various speakers and I was particularly interested to listen to case studies from the country’s leading logistics and supply chain companies.  However the main topic of conversation amongst the presentations and the attendees, was of course Brexit.

The food and drink sector with all its own inherent challenges and reliance on exports has been one of the hardest hit in the wake of Brexit and a lot of hard work has been going on behind the scenes to try and mitigate its impact. One possible solutions is that we could apply to seek targeted EU aid but the worry is that it won’t be enough to cover losses or sustain markets. The potential red tape involved with Brexit will undoubtedly increase costs to business while those specialising in perishable foods and raw materials could be left particularly vulnerable. The main fear is that Ireland is essentially planning for the unknown and there are major concerns that the Irish part of the deal won’t work in our favour. The movement of livestock from Northern Ireland to Ireland and the UK will be a complex process and although discussed thoroughly, is one of the unknowns where farmers are looking for some degree of clarity.

Another issue arising from Brexit is the relocation of companies to Ireland and the challenges that this brings, including the lack of rental properties and the strain on public transport and amenities that an increase in population can have.  Currency values across the globe will also be impacted due to the uncertainty of Europe after Brexit and that will have a knock-on effect on businesses heavily involved in exports such as those in the food and drink industry.

Regardless of whether it’s a soft or hard exit, Ireland needs to optimise and innovate customers and businesses for the future.  We are in a position to really strengthen our market by innovation and ensuring that Ireland has a competitive edge. Many of the speakers at the Expo urged their audiences to start working to prepare for all the “what if’s” and advised that there was absolutely no room for complacency.

All in all, it was a highly interesting and informative expo with speakers including Colin Gordon from Glanbia and Andrew Doyle, across multiple divisions and platforms. There was a large number of exhibitors from Geodis to Linde, Coldmove to DSV and Irish Water to Jungheinrich all passionately talking about their respective businesses. 2019 is set to be a hugely challenging year for both the food and drinks industry as well as the supply chain & logistics sector but from what I saw at this event, Ireland is more than capable of getting through it!

Marc Bentley is a Consultant with Brightwater’s Supply Chain & Logistics division. He works on a range of permanent, temporary and contract HR assignments, recruiting Supply Chain & Logistics professionals at all levels across a wide variety of organisations.