26TH MAY, 2020

How The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Brought Our Supply Chains Into Sharp Focus

The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has put incredible pressure on UK supply chains, putting them into very sharp focus. From fresh food and supermarket essentials to pharmaceutical supplies, freight and logistics have been at the heart of modern consumption for decades.

The panic buying that swept our supermarkets in March was eye-opening to say the least. Unprecedented demand for basics such as loo roll, bread, flour and tinned goods starkly laid bare supply chain weaknesses, against a background of fear and unrest.

Since then, both businesses and the general public have become more aware than ever about the challenges supply chains face - after all, it’s so easy to take them for granted.

Panic buying and the global health supply chain

Governments across the world are working to stabilise their supply chains and bring back some kind of normality. This is particularly the case with medical supplies such as PPE, as well as other medicines and foodstuffs. As we’ve seen, it’s actually very easy to overwhelm a supply chain, particularly in a world of ‘just in time’ management. Shortages of raw materials for some things are driving up prices in certain sections of the market, which also piles on political pressure.

In many cases the pandemic has also meant that demand has far outstripped supply, making it a “seller’s market”. In turn, suppliers and distributors have brought in new terms and conditions for buyers, including higher prices, less favourable payment stipulations and longer delivery times. But the unfortunate fact is that without a large amount of further innovative investment in supply chain management, only the wealthiest economies on the global pharmaceutical market will do well. Panic buying is unsustainable for many it only serves to further reduce access to goods.

What's changing in the UK in the wake of COVID-19?

One thing’s for sure - ‘normal’ is shifting. With large numbers of employees now working from home, many of us are discovering a far healthier work-life balance via Zoom and Skype. How we interact with each other, and indeed our purchasing habits, could well change forever.

Logistics operators have always based their output on downstream demand created by procurement, whether by individual customers or organisations. But in 2020, the amount of data we can harvest and scrutinise is broader than ever. This data, and the technology used to harvest it, will allow for supply chains to be better equipped in dealing with surges in demand as seen recently. It will also improve opportunities for collaborative working.

Further technologies that are continually evolving also include blockchain, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, Virtual Reality and robotics. Together they are changing the way that products and services are designed, built and delivered. One particularly recent example of this is the acceleration of drone usage to transport medical supplies across the Solent.

Internet of Things (IoT)

This is such a large, innovative and diverse area of emerging modern technology that it’s worth exploring in more depth.

The Internet of Things is helping massively with supply chain visibility and will continue to do so as time goes on. For instance, using IoT technology across retail outlets and in warehouses can offer substantial improvements in inventory and production management. Additionally, live tracking updates can be gathered through the use of sensors added to transportation used in shipping and delivery. Data gathered from IoT sensors on lorries can also allow businesses to have a better understanding of driver behaviour, as well as helping to calculate the impacts of traffic congestion, route diversions and driver rest stops.

Information generated in real-time by IoT can play a crucial part in minimising down time, improving customer service and bolstering the overall efficiency of the supply chain, particularly in logistics. In a world that’s driven by super-fast delivery and ever increasing demand, the use of IoT in logistics is likely to increase.

Supply chain innovation funding

But what help is there available to fund supply chain innovations that companies look to take on? Well, a particularly lucrative one is R&D Tax Credits.

R&D Tax Credits in brief

R&D Tax Credits are a highly-prized tax incentive offered by the UK Government. The scheme allows companies engaging in innovative research and development to claim up to 33% of their R&D costs back, even the case if the project failed.

The scheme is open to any UK company of any size in any sector and there's no minimum claim amount. A huge range of costs can be covered, including staff wages, materials and certain overheads, and money clawed back can be spent on anything, or reinvested. The scope of eligible projects is also very broad - as long as a new product, process or service has been developed, or an existing one appreciably improved.

Sounds good? We think so!

Find out more on our R&D Tax Credits page.

Going forward

The year 2020 will go in history as a time when the world’s supply chain had to adapt - and fast. The future regarding COVID-19 is uncertain, and innovation has been essential. So now is a good idea to look into R&D Tax Credits and see how your business can benefit.

Try the Tax Cloud portal today

Interested to see how much your company could gain from R&D Tax Credits? Perhaps you’d like to get going on your application but not sure how?

Then the Tax Cloud portal for businesses (developed by the R&D tax experts at Myriad Associates) is for you.

Offering a fully guided way for you to independently manage your R&D tax relief claim, the Tax Cloud portal comes with a handy calculator to get you started. Excellent value and easy to use, you then put a claim together yourself and the team at Myriad Associates checks it for you before submission to HMRC. It’s the perfect solution for companies with relatively straight-forward tax affairs or for smaller, less complex R&D projects.

Give the Tax Cloud portal for businesses a visit today, or you can call 0207 360 4437. Alternatively, feel free to send us a message and we’ll get right back to you.

Barrie Dowsett, ACMA, GCMA
Author Barrie Dowsett, ACMA, GCMA CEO, Tax Cloud
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Barrie Dowsett Barrie Dowsett ACMA CGMA Chief Executive Officer
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Rabia Mohammad Rabia Mohammad Corporate Tax Associate