Simplifying Supply Chain Challenges

The UK has a strong reputation for building quality products at competitive prices, thus raising exports and economic returns. Taking steps to increase our influence and manufacturing around the world requires targeted changes to strengthen supply chains and identify possible weaknesses.

 The supply chain has progressed from a local area to a global arena during the last two centuries. A good part of that status is due to the ability to virtually cross the globe in seconds with the Internet and truly move an item to the other side of the world in less than a day. The likelihood of a purely national supply chain in any country is not realistic because of the types of goods needed in the overall picture.

Domestic producers are unable to compete with the lower price of various inputs from other countries, making imports an important part of the chain.

 Every UK business should understand the elements and progress of its individual supply chain. Investors and buyers are more driven to support companies with backup plans to keep the chain moving even if one of the links is broken. A secondary benefit of preparedness is training a workforce ready to take over a particular task when needed.

Track and evaluate the performance of each supplier who is part of your chain supply. Monitor tangibles like the quality of inputs and intangibles like customer service and communication. If a weak link is identified, discuss the problem with the supplier and expect a resolution within a certain amount of time. If none is forthcoming, search for an alternative, reliable source for the item that will keep your business operating in a timely manner.

 One large international conglomerate may have companies that are major suppliers of diverse, but critical, inputs to a number of UK manufacturers. Plans should be established to reduce the impact of an interruption in delivery, including supplementary storage of raw materials.

Establishing credibility as a reliable part of the supply chain is easier to do when we have a qualified workforce with key skills required. Candidates are attracted to organisations who invest in their workforce and assist employees with the expense of obtaining specialised supply chain and logistics qualifications – e.g. CIPS (Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply), CILT (Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport) - technical skills that will make us less dependent on other nations. Affordable seminars designed to encourage managers and owners of small businesses to participate in new markets will also demonstrate our continued readiness and willingness to be economic leaders.
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Scottish Supply Chain Forum

The Scottish Supply Chain Forum (SSCF) addresses supply chain issues from a Scottish perspective.

What does it do?

The SSCF addresses issues affecting Scotland's supply chain, including:
  • internal strategic Scottish developments
  • Scotland's connectivity with the rest of the UK
  • international supply chain issues
The Forum works to inform Scottish and UK public policy formulation through private submissions and public lobbying. This relates to public policy issues arising from the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the EU (as they impact Scotland or its supply chain) and their associated regulatory bodies.
The group also shares information across the industry to promote best practice and optimum use of services and infrastructure

Who can join?

If you're an FTA member with an interest in supply chain matters affecting Scotland, then you can join at no cost. Non-members may be able to participate on an invitation basis if it's judged they will add to the meeting

What current issues is the SSCF discussing?

  • Scottish infrastructure investment plans: road, rail, ports, airports
  • Ports issues: service issues / market trends / international connectivity
  • Strategic road and rail operational issues within Scotland
  • Air freight issues: operational issues at Scottish airports, market trends in UK and international connections, UK/EU/global regulatory issues
  • English, pan-UK and European rail freight developments: infrastructure enhancements, Network Rail plans

How can I get more information?

If you'd like to learn more about the Scottish Supply Chain Forum, please email Chris MacRae at

Welcome rise for Scottish Exports

SCOTLAND'S manufactured exports have grown for the first time in almost two years, according to figures published yesterday.
The small quarterly rise of 0.1 per cent came against a fall of 12.1 per cent in the year to the end of September, the Scottish Government data revealed.

The rise over the third quarter is a sign of "improving conditions" in the economy, according to enterprise minister Jim Mather.

In the previous three months, exports fell by 0.7 per cent.

The quarterly rise was driven by a 25.1 per cent increase in exports of wood, paper, publishing and printing, and a 14.1 per cent rise in exports of textiles, fur and leather. Exports of food, tobacco and from the drink industries were also up, gaining 5.4 per cent.

The Scottish Government said that large quarterly rises often happened in smaller industrial sectors, where business varied at different times of the year.

But the general picture of the year to September remains gloomy.

Engineering and allied industries exports were down 12.6 per cent, metals and metal products down 25.6 per cent and textiles, fur and leather down by 19 per cent.

The overall 12.1 per cent drop in exports is worse than the previous annual rate, when exports fell by 8.5 per cent in the year to June.

Mather said: "This small increase in Scotland's manufactured exports – the first since the first quarter of 2008 – is a welcome sign of improving conditions in the global economy and encouraging news for the Scottish business community.

"However, the 12.1 per cent decline in exports over the year to the third quarter of 2009 underlines the scale of the challenge ahead as we continue our work to position Scotland's economy for recovery.

"There can be no complacency. The Scottish Government is always looking to build on our economic recovery plan."

David Lonsdale, CBI Scotland's assistant director, said: "Overseas demand appears to be on the cusp of returning and the opportunity exists to take advantage of the weak pound to deliver a step change in export performance.

"It is crucial Scottish exporters continue to be provided with a supportive policy framework. We would be very worried if looming cuts to the budgets of Scotland's enterprise agencies resulted in reduced levels of support for manufacturers and exporters."

A separate report showed Scottish international exports, excluding oil and gas, were worth an estimated £20.7 billion in 2008.

About £14bn came from manufacturers, according to the Global Connections Survey 2008.

The value of all exports was up £1.7bn on 2007 because of a £935 million rise in manufacturing exports and £715m more service-sector exports.