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Industry seeks Brexit clarity

Tuesday, 22 Jan 2019 ( #907 ) - United Kingdom
News Story
Brexit uncertainty continues
By Allan Leibowitz

As the Brexit deadline of March 29 approaches, industry is becoming increasingly concerned that the UK may end up with a "no deal" exit from the European Union.

Last week, parliament rejected Prime Minister May’s latest divorce deal with Brussels, leaving the country in confusion regarding its political and economic future.

The British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) is among those lobbying the government for resolution.

BITA secretary general James Clark says since June 2016, BITA members have been eager to know the revised trading conditions the UK will find itself exposed to after 29th March 2019.

"As the clock continues to tick, the waters in the past few days seem to become less clear, so while this is extremely exasperating to all our members, it is now causing many of them to put in place expensive contingency plans for their operations post March 2019.

"We know that this situation is broadly mirrored throughout UK business, and BITA is adding its views and pressure continually through its normal lobbying channels."

The UK Warehousing Association (UKWA) has also expressed its disappointment at the continued lack of clarity surrounding Britain’s exit from the EU.

Following the rejection of Theresa May’s Brexit plan by the House of Commons, Peter Ward, CEO of the Association, says: "Frustratingly, as imperfect and unpopular as Mrs May’s deal proved to be, it was the only evident mechanism to provide the business community with a level of clarity and certainty and, had it been passed, a road map around which to plan."

For the past 18 months, UKWA has been advising its members to prepare for an upsurge in demand for warehousing, whatever the final outcome of Brexit, also pointing out that Brexit has exposed a number of challenges facing the logistics sector – including shortage of capacity after a long period during which little speculative development of storage buildings took place, a looming labour and skills shortage, and a land use planning policy in need of review.

"I am in no doubt that our resilient and creative logistics industry will, as always, find solutions to whatever problems are thrown up by the UK’s exit from the EU. However, it would help to know what form those challenges are likely to take, but, as things stand, the outlook is confused and we urge businesses to prepare for the worst, which is a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

"As the leading trade association for the logistics sector, we are there to help businesses to prepare and ensure that the nation’s post-Brexit supply chains do not break down.  Simultaneously, along with most business leaders, we urge MPs to put aside dogmatic and entrenched positions, abandon political jockeying, and put the future of our economy – and our country - first."

Uncertainty over Brexit is not stopping Narrow Aisle Ltd, manufacturer of the Flexi range of articulated forklift truck-based intralogistics solutions, from pushing ahead with its expansion plans.

The company has announced a major investment strategy that will allow it to significantly increase output at its UK production site over the next three years.
The extra capacity is required to meet the sustained and growing demand for Flexi trucks from third-party logistics specialists as well as own-account warehouse operators across a diverse range of industry sectors – both in the UK and worldwide.

John Maguire, commercial director of Narrow Aisle, says a number of factors are driving the strong demand for Flexi products. He cites continued growth in the e-commerce-based retail market as leading to further investment in high-density product storage, and, as Flexis are able to work efficiently and safely within the narrowest aisles without the need for expensive wire or rail fixed guidance systems, they are an attractive proposition at sites where space is at a premium and speed of implementation is critical.

"In addition, the ongoing short supply of modern warehouse facilities is forcing many companies to refurbish and reconfigure existing building stock in an effort to maximise the amount of storage space they have available and free up areas for ‘pick and pack’ and product returns processing. At the same time, many companies are taking the opportunity to introduce new intralogistics technology and handling techniques to create a much more cost-effective operation."

Narrow Aisle began warehouse truck manufacturing operations in Great Bridge, Tipton in the late 1970s. The current Victorian-era site was earlier used for the production of industrial railway engines and steam-powered narrow boats. The planned refurbishment work at Great Bridge will ensure that many of the building’s original structural features are maintained but the modern factory will optimise quality and production processes.

The project will also include the overhaul and extension of the site’s production and spare parts operation to allow an increased stock handling and pick and pack capacity, to provide same-day dispatch of spare parts to UK and overseas distributors.

Other manufacturers approached for comment did not respond in time for inclusion in this article.
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