UK firms say COVID-19, international trade disputes and deglobalisation – including Brexit - are the biggest threat to their business

Organisations in the UK believe the top threats to their business are COVID-19, International trade disputes and deglobalisation – including Brexit, according to Dun & Bradstreet.

In a survey of over 500 supply chain professionals, almost three-quarters (72%) expect COVID-19-related economic disruption to impact their procurement operations this year.

According to Dun & Bradstreet’s COVID-19 Commerce Disruption Tracker, 97% of UK businesses have already been disrupted as a result of the pandemic.

Chris Laws, head of Strategy and Product at Dun & Bradstreet said: “Nothing could have prepared businesses for the impact that the coronavirus pandemic would have on global supply chains.

”The change was swift and sudden, leaving vulnerable businesses little time to prepare with the fallout of disrupted supply and increased exposure to risk. Fast forward one year and organisations are still reeling from the disruption, but they are investing in technology and more importantly, a data-driven approach to effectively manage supply chains.”

A tricky recovery

Organisations’ top concern in the UK when considering business recovery was the scale and complexity of globalisation (68%), while two-thirds (66%) said COVID-19 was their second-biggest concern.

Of the top three largest threats posed to businesses, COVID-19 was cited by respondents as the biggest factor (23%). In addition, nearly one in five viewed international trade disputes (18%) and deglobalisation (18%) – including Brexit – as two of the top three external factors to pose a threat.

In terms of their greatest challenges, 40% of those surveyed viewed the ability to maintain useful and timely supplier profiles across multiple systems as their primary challenge in 2021.

Supply chain 4.0

It’s no surprise, then, that one of supply chain professionals’ top priorities for the year is to better monitor their supplier performance (34%) and having better visibility into supplier spend (34%), which were only preceded by improving operational efficiency (37%).

These were followed by more extensive use of new technologies — such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) — to achieve supply chain insights (33%) and mitigating or decreasing third-party risk (32%).

Central to this challenge of managing supplier data within their procurement and supply chains is the ability to maintain useful and timely supplier profiles across multiple systems (40%), share data across the organisation to inform decision making (39%) and obtain actionable insights from stored and collected data (36%).

Laws added: “Procurement and compliance teams are under pressure to deal with third-party risk and with data they can make informed decisions on the suppliers they work with, the places they outsource to and potential nefarious actors that may damage a business’ infrastructure.

”Only by developing this holistic view of potential suppliers and accruing a greater depth of information on known suppliers can organisations build for a future post-COVID-19.”

As for the key priorities for the year ahead, businesses are now preparing for a year where technology and data sits at the heart of supply chain operations. A third (33%) indicate that digital transformation would be their organisation’s top priority in 2021. This has started taking place to a degree, with procurement teams already using technology to support supplier risk assessment, such as ongoing monitoring (42%), workflow software (39%) and AI/automation (37%).

Looking ahead, this is already taking shape with 85% saying that at least half of their processes are automated and more than half (55%) having mostly or completely automated their supply management process.