Brexit business transformation: shots in the dark or a place in the sun?
Nothing kills you like uncertainty. It is true in business as it is in life—you’re not going to hit targets by shooting in the dark. The UK’s exit from the European Union brings great uncertainty. Europe is entering uncharted waters, and neither the European fleet, nor the breakaway British flotilla, has a map.
With recent news reports detailing Theresa May’s 12 point exit strategy and her confirmation that the UK will definitely leave the EU single market, the way forward for businesses has become slightly clearer. But it is a two-year process, being played out against a highly volatile political backdrop in continental Europe, and uncertainty—leading to doubt, inertia, and wild shots in the dark—will be our companion, in every sector, at every step.
European businesses must prepare to cope with, and even to thrive in, this unprecedented period of transition, in order to be able to respond rapidly and appropriately to new industrial inputs, and take opportunities where they arise. With the correct business systems, and prudent management strategy, they will emerge tougher, wiser and more profitable. This is the only way for forward-thinking businesses—the alternative is unacceptable.
First, let us consider that recent economic performance has been encouraging, and British industry has retained a sunny outlook, even as dark skies loom. Indeed, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says increased UK industrial output in November, after slipping in October, will push quarterly economic growth at the end of 2016 to 0.5%, and annual growth to 2%, in line with 2015’s full-year surge of 2.2%.
What’s more, twin reports from manufacturing trade body, Engineering Employers Federation and the Federation of Master Builders, show UK industry is fairly upbeat on its prospects for 2017, despite the post-Brexit pound forcing up the cost of imported materials.
The thing is, of course, the UK is not leaving the European Union in 2017. This is the preamble before the real event, now scheduled to be 2019. Latest GDP measures are yardsticks—they don’t work as a compass, and uncertainty prior to our 2019 exit is setting in.
The EEF has released the results of another poll, which says many manufacturers are resisting large-scale investment in new plants and sophisticated machinery, because of the political and economic climate. Some are taking the plunge, in a bid to put clear water in the way of competitors—others are considering safer European homes, where details of borders and trade agreements are written down already.
For many, these last two might be major gambles with long-ish odds, but the only recourse to bring medium-term stability to business dealings. After all, the alternative, to sit on your hands for 18 months and commit to an unknowable course, does not bear thinking about. Instead, businesses have to make good on their agility, and adaptability, and develop these skills fast where they lack them.
As a start-point, businesses must upgrade their technology platforms, and optimise their business systems and processes so they can respond more rapidly and appropriately to changing market conditions. This is the essential baseline to get the party started in the new digital era. Such digital business transformation needs to happen in every sector, as a matter of course. The current political climate in Europe, and the next trading environment, just makes this more urgent.
During periods of great uncertainty, when external factors are so unpredictable, internal elements should be rock steady. This goes for management and staff, of course—“if you can keep your heads when all about you…”—but it applies fundamentally to bedrock business IT systems, which should be utterly dependable, and create value in difficult times. Modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, for example, can respond usefully to changes within the supply chain, adapting easily to new administrative infrastructures, and delivering insights to inform decision-making and strategy.
Now, more than ever, manufacturers need to have a technology platform that is robust, responsive and flexible with advanced configurability to be able to respond to changes within the supply chain. They need reliable software that will be able to supply ‘on demand’ information for business performance data analysis, so that companies may plan, and revise plans, accordingly to sector turbulence and not only maintain market share, but growth.
This will help businesses to thrive in the global economy, and make the most of their information and instincts about Britain’s position in Europe.
By Stuart Hall, Sales Director, Epicor Software UK & Ireland
Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.