Safety first: untangling supply chain red tape
We are experiencing a period when many already under-pressure product manufacturers are having to get to grips with the UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) mark, a new UK product marking regulation to be used in place of the CE mark for goods being placed on the UK market.
Director Mark Lupton argues that when supply chains are already stretched as we deal with the ongoing fall-out from Covid-19, manufacturers should not have to face an increase in the regulatory burden and suggests we need less, not more, red tape.
Fresh from the divergence of success on the football pitch in Sunday’s Euro 2020 Final, the nation’s attention – in particular, that of British manufacturers now turns to the divergence in rules around product safety labelling of many consumer and industry products, such as toys, cars and medical devices.
One of the perceived upsides of Brexit was the ability to control regulations and the UK has sought to do this by creating a homegrown version of the renowned CE safety mark, the UKCA. Unfortunately, for many businesses that trade with the EU, this has not halved, but has instead doubled the regulatory hoops that need to be passed through to get a product to market, because even though UK standards very closely follow EU rules, there may be a need to have two certifications.
Backlog in seeking approvals
Some businesses will be aware of the need to seek re-certification by an approved UKCA agency, but often have found severe backlogs in seeking such approvals; this is particularly problematic for businesses manufacturing hundreds of component parts for complex machinery, for example. Likewise, this has a knock-on effect on UK distributors and agents on behalf of EU-based businesses wishing to access the UK market, as they will have to apply for UKCA approval, which may be uncommercial for many.
The changes are likely to have an impact on already stretched supply chains – particularly in commercial and domestic construction.
Increased regulatory divergence between the UK and EU
The requirements come into effect on January 1st 2022. After this point UK businesses placing products on the EU products on the UK market (and vice versa) will need to take responsibility for those products, leading to difficult conversations at each end of the supply chain regarding responsibility for compliance – and ultimate liability – if something goes wrong. Whilst currently the issue is mainly a practical one, it is possible that increasing regulatory divergence between the UK and EU will lead to more friction in future negotiations between manufacturers and suppliers. It is therefore critical for businesses throughout the supply chain to address this as early as reasonably possible.
The UK government has already agreed to extend the deadline in some industries and lobbyists are pushing the Government to agree to a blanket extension, or even a change in approach, to reduce the burden on manufacturing to enable already battered supply chains time to cope with the changes. The outcome of this remains to be seen.
Given how complex modern supply chains can be, businesses will want certainty sooner, rather than later on this key issue.
It may not be coming home just yet, but manufacturers will need to make sure that they have the correct certification and contractual processes in place before it goes anywhere.