Tackling supply chain challenges

12th of January 2022 Article by Tim Furniss
Tackling supply chain challenges

Supply chain challenges are hitting all manufacturing sectors due to the impact of the pandemic. Tim Furniss, category manager at Hillbrush, UK manufacturer of brushes and specialist cleaning tools tells us how the company has been dealing with the issues it has faced in the last year.

A recent survey by SAPIO Research indicates that 47.8 per cent of UK businesses are using more UK suppliers now than pre-Brexit. The effects of the Coronavirus pandemic and the UK's departure from the EU has dictated a requirement for companies to re-evaluate their supply chains, ensuring they are resilient, agile and robust enough to ride out the storm.

As a British manufacturer, this of course is good news for Hillbrush. While we spent many months planning for the arrival of Brexit, Covid-19 was a real ‘double whammy', resulting in global supply chain issues and unforeseen challenges regarding costs and major extensions to lead times.

Indeed, the SAPIO Research survey conducted in March 2021 highlighted that 76 per cent of companies had their Brexit response disrupted by Covid-19. The pandemic has had a massive impact on the way in which product delivery planning is managed and businesses are looking at new ways to create a robust, resistant supply chain for the future.

The pandemic has contributed to a number of setbacks and a far more pressurised supply landscape. We are now all seeing the impact of driver shortages, with ‘out of stocks' on retailers' shelves and the inevitable price inflation that comes with this. Hillbrush has worked closely with its suppliers and, in turn, their suppliers to manage the whole process as efficiently as we can in an ever-changing business environment.

The manufacturing sector is seeing the impact in raw material costs, freight prices and increased lead times. Raw material cost, with timber for example, has seen enormous inflation and we have had to negotiate hard with our suppliers to try to keep costs down.

As for others in product manufacture and supply, increased shipping costs were challenging before Covid-19 arrived. The trend before the pandemic was to adopt a lean ‘just in time' business model. The knock-on effect of freight containers being used to transport goods such as PPE and sanitisers meant there were simply not enough resources to move other goods. This, coupled with the availability of lorry drivers, either unavailable or not able to work due to illness, exasperated the situation.

As a result, businesses are now looking to adopt a far more resilient supply chain model, with available stock and careful forward planning. Hillbrush has always held a significant amount of stock, but we have had to work to increased lead times with supplier ordering and order much more in advance to ensure we can fulfil our customers' requirements.

We are investing in a new warehouse at our HQ, for example, so we can hold much more product in stock for quick despatch. Our British made brushes are also a real selling point for us in the current uncertain climate.

Covid-related challenges and worldwide container shortages have led to long delays and huge increases in shipping costs. Trying to find the best solution to these challenges has added major complexity to my team's workloads.

We have reviewed the supply chain, our processes, invested in the teams and have gone big on stock levels to deliver the best possible service to our customers.


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