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Richard Newbold: How the UK warehousing industry will cope after Brexit

Wednesday, 31 Jan 2018 ( #857 )
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Serial entrepreneur Richard Newbold set up in 2000. It has grown to become the busiest freight exchange in the UK.

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With Brexit looming ever closer, the future of the logistics and warehousing industry in the UK is uncertain, a word that has been thrown around a lot when it comes to Brexit. However, even with the amount of uncertainty in the industry, businesses have no choice but to prepare for the future as the British government negotiates the finer details of the Brexit deal.

One thing is for sure, the European Union will most definitely not let go of the UK easily, and it currently appears that the EU wishes to make an example of the UK in the hope that it may prevent other nations with strong economies from leaving the European Union. This could possibly result in future difficulties when it comes to unhindered logistics between the EU and the UK and standardisation within the  warehousing industry. Possible differences in future safety standards, regulations or restrictions between the EU and the UK could result in the need for a closer cooperation between UK logistics and warehousing companies which will, in turn, mean more consolidation within these industries.

As a result, it has become clear that better communication between warehouse companies within the UK is going to become vital after Brexit and will result in a need for networking via Internet platforms. It is predicted that more and more manufacturers and importers will be looking for warehousing within the UK after Brexit in order to avoid any extra cost or problems that might arise with having their warehouses in any of the EU member nations.

The European Union looks set to make an example of Britain. Image: BITA
However, the constant flow of restrictions, regulations and red tape which will no doubt continue to be generated from Brussels in the future are not the only things that will impact the logistics and warehousing industry. With a smaller pool of qualified labour, as well as possibly increased operating costs for courier and haulage services, it will mean that these types of companies will have to look more carefully into employment automation platforms, thus maximising not only their vehicles, but also their warehouse capacity, in order to lower costs and increase profit.

It is not just exchange platforms which are becoming more popular in the industry. More companies than ever are introducing warehouse and traffic management systems into their organisations to help them keep track of their overheads and costs and to maximise efficiency. Transportation companies and owner/drivers are also constantly trying to increase the amount of work they can achieve from the resources available to them. The cost of keeping, operating and maintaining vehicles is rising - even without the effects of Brexit. Therefore, these companies and individuals also must seek new and inventive ways of improving efficiency whilst making sure that they don't have empty vehicles on the roads.

With the effects of Brexit still being calculated every day by the UK government and industry in general, and the usual increase of utility and general operating costs, companies within the warehousing and logistics industry are seeking an effective way of doing smarter business with each other in future. Further restrictions and extra regulations from the European Union could very well result in a smaller amount of resources entering the UK from EU countries and unknown increases in costs for those who use services outside of the country.

An example of collaboration is demonstrated in the rapid increase of users of The Warehouse Exchange, which is part of the freight exchange platform. Since its launch just four months ago, 650 registered users have already signed up, with over 55 million sq ft. of warehousing space listed among UK warehousing organisations. Platforms such as these provide the opportunity for companies to work together through the use of technology, being able to utilise space that may otherwise have been empty. It also means never having to turn down storage requirements from customers just because their own warehouses are full. Services such as these are going to become even more important in the future, especially until the landscape for business becomes clearer after 29 March 2019.

As a country, Great Britain is clearly going to need to become more efficient than competitors in the EU by lowering operating costs and embracing the fast-moving technological advancements which seem to be appearing daily.

As one of the world's leading trading nations, the UK does not need to be scared of leaving the EU and the consequences that may arise from that move. But it does need to look towards the future and to use all available resources to keep ahead of the competition.
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