When the world woke up to the news that the British people had voted to leave the European Union on 23 June 2016, the team at Europa Worldwide Group, knew they would need to work hard to ensure their operations delivered when Brexit finally happened.
In a series of articles, based on interviews with staff across the company, Europa’s team talk about their experiences and how working together turned a potential challenge into an opportunity that will benefit customers for years to come.
Rob Yates, Warehouse Manager at Europa Road knew he was on the front line.
Based at Europa’s £30 million 1Hub in Dartford, the UK’s largest groupage hub, Rob knew the road ahead might be tough. All of Europa’s customer consignments move through this purpose built transit hub, which was opened in May 2015.
Rob, who has been at Europa for six years said: “Freight to and from the EU has to pass through our 1Hub quickly. Before Brexit, goods passed through without delay as they could simply be unloaded in the transit hub and sent out to customers.
“We knew that after the transition period ended on 31 December 2020 that there would likely be delays because of the new customs processes – and that this would mean consignments would remain in the warehouse for longer.
“A transit warehouse isn’t a storage warehouse, it’s not designed for goods to hang around. If goods don’t move, the warehouse gets full and the efficiency and flow becomes threatened.”
In anticipation of slower moving goods, Europa pre-emptively embarked on a £2 million reconfiguration programme at its 1Hub transit hub.
Rob said: “We increased capacity by around 75 per cent by adding 3,500 rack locations and increased staff numbers to handle the additional volume.
“When your warehouse is experiencing space pressure, it can take much longer to pick and locate, and this can significantly slow down operations.
“So, we built more racking upwards, this meant we needed the right type of equipment capable of quickly accessing goods within that new configuration.”
In total, his team size increased by 12 people and seven high reach forklift trucks.
Rob said: “The Warehouse team really pulled together to get everyone trained up so that they could cope with the changes. In the early days, from January to March, there were some teething problems because, although the process had been tested repeatedly, this was the first time we were able to use it in the reality of a post-Brexit world.
“In the two years that we spent preparing for Britain’s exit from the EU we tried to make as few changes as possible, to keep things as simple as possible and maintain efficiency.
“Our staff had to put in extra hours, but most importantly we all worked really closely together. We fed back any issues to operations and IT and each department supported one another. There was a tremendous feeling of camaraderie as we were working together extremely closely during that time to cope with all the changes.”
The creation and successful implementation of Europa Flow, Europa’s bespoke customs product, played an important role in Europa’s ability to navigate Brexit successfully. Europa Flow launched in September 2020 after 12 months in development. It facilitates exports to and from the EU by enabling the movement of goods on DDP terms (Delivered Duty Paid), so removing the hassle of customs and the need for EU buyers to appoint a broker or pay duties on imports. It also enables EU buyers to zero rate the VAT on imported goods.
Rob said: “Europa Flow helped speed up the entire process. There were a few hiccups at first, but we worked extra hard, long hours and did everything to keep the pain to the minimum.
“Now it feels like it did pre-Brexit, with freight moving through very quickly meaning we can keep volumes held at the warehouse to a minimum.
“It is really satisfying that we got through probably the most complicated thing we have ever had to do. I’m extremely proud that the staff pulled together and that everyone stayed really positive, and we have come through the other side.”