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Preparing for Brexit in the face of uncertainty

The Brexit deadline is looming at the beginning of the new year.

Recently, the UK Warehousing Association surveyed their members about Brexit readiness.

Worryingly, 88% of those surveyed say that their customers are unprepared for the new rules for exporting and importing, which will come to effect on 1st January 2021.

Given the logistics industry has already undergone many disruptions this year and focused on mitigating the effects of the pandemic, this is even more concerning.

Although 78% of UKWA members also stated they knew about the Border Operating Model, it still opposes 40% that do not feel prepared.

Even if companies are planning to seize the opportunity to stockpile – there is not much space: nationwide, there is only 3% warehouse capacity available. While this was partly the result of stockpiling due to the pandemic, peak season has increased the pressure. Although an increase of space availability is expected, this is not seen as sufficient.

How can companies prepare?

With potential delays at the border, higher inventory levels can offer more security. Using intelligent software, organizations can determine which warehouses will be at breaking point based on higher inventory levels. If additional warehousing is required  it can also be determined in what location it should be built and of what size.


Existing operations might be increased to cope with higher levels of stock. For this reason, a smart approach includes using a simulation software to create alternate layouts with different store types such as narrow aisle, or double-deep, or drive-in racking to name a few. This allows to see how the warehouse could accommodate more stock and also show the differences in productivity levels.

If the location of the warehouse is in a popular warehousing zone, labour may not be so freely available or expensive, which means there is room for automating a part of the operation with autonomous mobile robots (AMRs).

An example – warehouse capacities:

Warehouse simulation makes it possible to look at the capacity of a warehouse on an hourly basis broken down into individual chambers. In our example, while overall warehouse capacity looks sufficient (picture 1), looking at individual chambers (picture 2 and 3), it becomes obvious that while chamber no. 1 has fewer pallets in stock as time goes on while chamber no. 2 is indeed running out of available storage.

Coping with capacities by planning ahead

With a site traffic simulation module, it is also possible to determine the overall capacity of a site.  That means parking spaces required, gatehouse queues, number of shunters and shunt units to move around the detached trailers, etc.

With capacity being the issue rather than increased throughput, another way to increase the overall capacity of the site is to pre-pick and load vehicles much earlier in the day, with trailers becoming temporary short-term storage areas. However, this is only an alternative for products that can be stored in a trailer for a long period, so not suitable for temperature-controlled or high value products.

In order to do this, you need to know:

  1. When are the empty delivery vehicles returning to the warehouse?
  2. Is there enough parking to house the full trailers which are waiting for their departure time?

Based on these factors you can determine the additional capacity of the overall site, answers that can be provided by site traffic simulation.

What other issues are our customers facing?

Other than storage capacity, we have recently received requests to support customers with additional paperwork based on Brexit legislation for exported goods:

  • Capture and validate production date and best before date of applicable products by voice 
  • Export shipping reports grouped by “Store”, then “Distribution Unit (DU) Number” and contents of each DU number
  • Capturing country of origin for any SKUs sent to Northern Ireland stores
  • Adding additional voice prompts if a product is shipped to Ireland as a reminder that an additional label must be added on

It is important that the supply chain solution you choose offers the flexibility to customize them according to your needs, Brexit and otherwise. On a short-term basis and given the lack of available warehouse space, working with what you already have is easiest. Without having to make changes, warehouse simulation software can reliably back the decision-making process. This also expands to workforce distribution and implementation of technology to support productivity.

At Körber, we can provide solutions covering the entire supply chain under one brand to conquer your complexities. Get in touch with us.

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