Brexit was the elephant in the room at the NI Manufacturing & Supply Chain Expo

Martin Norton recaps the Northern Ireland Manufacturing & Supply Chain Conference & Exhibition and finds that industries are in preparation for a nebulous future.

“A boy and girl are sitting at a table having their dinner. The elephant walks into the room and sits down. The girl becomes upset and tells the boy ‘I prefer when we didn’t talk about it’”

This striking image was part of one of many excellent presentations yesterday at the Northern Ireland Manufacturing & Supply Chain Conference & Exhibition in Belfast. This image was, of course, relating to the word on everyone’s lips and the overarching theme of the day: Brexit. From the taxi driver that collected me at the train station to concerned exhibitors, Brexit was the elephant in the room.

This was obvious from the Brexit stage being packed to capacity as people were willing to stand to listen intently to speakers, hoping they would have all the answers. They didn’t, but they produced some interesting and relevant content nonetheless. Jonathan Walsh of Fortior Insight spoke passionately about the challenges facing UK companies around tariffs and VAT. He also delved into how Brexit will affect all companies who have UK companies as any part of their Supply Chain and closed by stating that Brexit should be looked at as an opportunity for multiple companies.

“Companies must prepare for all possible forms of Brexit and train Supply Chain staff to be analysts in order to identify issues and quickly eradicate them.”

Up next was Adrian Kelly of Brexit Plan, a company helping to prepare companies for all types of scenarios. It’s a testament to Kelly that he kept the audience engaged despite drudging up the worst Brexit may have to offer. He spoke of how the transition period will be over by December 2020 and, while there has been goodwill from the EU, companies must prepare staff and have the relevant resources ready. The potential issues faced included AEO accreditation, the effect of weekly / monthly surprises (snap elections, negative border news) and the lack of presence in the ROI. In conclusion, companies must prepare for all possible forms of Brexit and train Supply Chain staff to be analysts in order to identify issues and quickly eradicate them.

Joe Keating (Chief Data Officer, Glantus), Luke Feeney (Head of Commercial, DataChemist), John McLaughlin (Director, De-skill business solutions) and Hannah Rudman (Director of Strategic Transformation, Wallet.Services) made up the cast of the Digital Transformation & IOT & Industry 4.0 panel discussion, which gave us a brief reprieve from Brexit. There was huge encouragement from the panel for a mindset shift around IOT, as it is an industry struggling with validation. This struggle has led many upcoming and innovative developers to lose out on allowing companies to become more fluid. Culture is also a significant issue, as C-level staff maintain an archaic view of IOT, with the fresh IOT ideas coming from younger colleagues who are oblivious to this resistance to change.

While the event was less well-attended than its sister event in Citywest, I met some impressive exhibitors and passionate speakers. The IOT industry is moving at speeds beyond comprehension and the need for open-minded people to have open mouths is key for companies to prosper, especially around the challenge of Brexit. On Brexit, it is well and truly the elephant in the room. We must openly talk about it and we must be proactive in facing the challenges that it is going to throw at us.

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Martin Norton

Martin Norton

Martin Norton is a Business Development Executive at Odyssey VC and Compliant Cloud.

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