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East Midlands Chamber News

Preparing for the future of trade: How exporters and importers are upskilling their workforce with international training

A new trading relationship with the EU beckons from 1 January and, for many businesses, it means upskilling employees to deal with extra documentation and procedures. Dan Robinson finds out how three East Midlands firms are getting ready by working with the Chamber’s international training team.


Fujichem Sonneborn

Given the automotive industry has one of the most complex supply chains of any sector, Fujichem Sonneborn’s landmark contract to provide coatings for the new Peugeot 208 and 2008 models has not been without its complications due to Brexit.

The company, which has its largest factory in Chesterfield, is preparing to navigate more red tape when exporting its paints into the EU after signing the deal with French auto giant Groupe PSA last year, just before Britain left the bloc.

Sales and logistics manager Darren Hall says: “We work with OEMs three to five years ahead of manufacture as we need to get approvals for colours of paints for models that haven’t come out yet.

“It was just before the Brexit vote that we submitted the colours for the vehicles that have just gone into production, but the deal was signed last year.

“The paradox is we’re exporting vast amounts of paint into Europe while preparing to come out of the EU, so we’re having to work hard to keep supply chains moving.”

The firm, which has origins stretching back to 1899, is one of the world’s top manufacturers of specialist paint coatings for automotive, wood and cosmetics packaging.

Its R&D function is based at the head office in Essex, while the manufacturing operation is located in Chesterfield, where the company opened a £5m factory three years ago and employs about 70 of its 130 workforce.

More than two-thirds of Fujichem Sonneborn’s turnover is made up of exports and the two Brexit deadlines in 2019 forced the company to stock up its warehouses in Europe so border delays could be prevented.

The end of the transition period on 1 January will also increase the administrative burden as it must ensure the correct codes are attached to goods before export.

In preparation, Darren’s sales colleague has completed the Chamber’s international trade operations and procedures (ITOPS) course, which has equipped her with knowledge on latest exporting procedures to pass on to her accounts team based in the UK and France.

The company has also been able to review its incoterms – which define the responsibilities of sellers and buyers – so it can avoid bearing unnecessary risks and costs.

He says: “Without that training, we’d be vulnerable. It teaches you to question freight forwarders a bit more so you can bring down costs.

“It also puts a degree of reality into the whole process. When you’re sat in an office in Derbyshire, it’s difficult to know what you need to do to get something into France or Germany.

“So it helps you understand what happens when someone picks up a pallet and what the port is looking for.”

JG Pears

The family business JG Pears is one of the UK’s largest processors of animal by-products and food waste.

It collects materials otherwise destined for landfill from across the UK to recycle it into the agriculture and food industries, using cutting-edge techniques at its plant just outside Newark to produce sustainable animal feed ingredients that are exported to 20 countries worldwide.

“Until now, we’ve relied heavily on freight forwarders and trackers to move things around the world,” says customer relations manager Vicky Prussia.

“Exporting is something we’ve been doing for a long time but without having to take much responsibility for it.”

While the EU accounts for just 20% of the Sheffield-headquartered company’s business, Brexit has been the driver for taking on more responsibility for how it exports in other markets too.

It has hired an export clerk, reviewing its shipping arrangements with buyers and training about six members of staff on topics such as incoterms rules, customs declarations, advanced exporting, and international trade operations and procedures.

Vicky adds: “The training has been incredibly important to ensure our staff are able to meet the new requirements and it’s taught us a lot as a business. It’s a big project for the company so this has given us a good basis to work on.”

Newson Gale

Static electricity is the unseen danger in many parts of heavy industry. Lorries transporting fluids and solvents, such as oil, will often carry a charge that could cause an explosion during loading and unloading without the right safety equipment.

To mitigate this risk, Newson Gale supplies a range of static earthing and bonding products that provide layers of protection of electrostatic ignition hazards.

“Our systems interlock the pumps and continuously monitor the static to make sure it reaches its designated earthing point,” explains operations manager Damian Lathall.

“If there’s a build-up of static in a lorry, these prevent it from creating a spark.”

The Colwick-based company, which is part of Swiss multinational Hoerbiger, assembles the equipment after buying from suppliers.

While these are mainly based in the UK – although there are some located in Germany, US and China – more than three-quarters of its sales are overseas, both in Europe and beyond.

A shipment leaves for the US just about every month, while pallets are sent almost daily by road to distributors spread across the world in markets such as France, Italy, Germany and Poland.

“The EU is a massive customer of ours,” says Damian. “It’s probably worth about 40% to 50% of the exports, although the US is also about a third.

“The biggest change resulting from Brexit for us is we’re going to have to start invoicing everything from the EU up front.”

Attending the Chamber’s courses has enabled the company to review some legacy processes and understand the fine print of trading overseas, such as commodity coding, attaching free samples to goods and the difference in documentation between permanent imports and exports, and those crossing borders temporarily for repairs.

Damian, who has been at the company for nine years, admits he has gone through the same self-learning as his team.

He adds: “Some of the questions relate to Brexit but we’re also generally trying to rewrite the legacy from where we’ve been and get a better understanding of how everything should work.

“If goods get stuck at a port and a customer comes back to us wanting to know the CPC (customs procedure code) or tariff code, we need to be able to at least know what they’re talking about.”

East Midlands Chamber international training in customs and exports

By Julie Whiting, East Midlands Chamber international trade training and services manager

The UK left the EU on 30 January 2020 and the customs border with Europe will be operational from 1 January 2021. Therefore, businesses need to prepare themselves for these changes the best they can.

If your company trades goods anywhere in the world, new border controls that start when the EU transition period ends will mean you must prepare for change now.

Do you have a member of staff knowledgeable in customs and export? Would it be valuable to train a member of staff in this area?

The Chamber is able to provide both ongoing support and relevant training virtually, including bespoke courses for companies with multiple employees who require the training.

In July, the Government made £50m available as part of HMRC’s Customs Grant Scheme, which reimburses organisations for a number of costs associated with increasing their capacity and enhancing their ability to complete customs declarations ahead of the new rules from January.

It has since extended the deadline to apply for funding to June 2021.

The funding will provide up to 100% of the cost of training for your employees, up to a limit of £1,500 per trainee, per course.

Early application for the HMRC grant is advised, even if the training takes place later in the year, as it is being allocated upon approval of applications.

The funding can be used for the Chamber’s flagship ITOPS qualification, export and import courses, customs declaration training, Incoterms 2020, IP/OPR and customs courses. There is also a grant available to update IT equipment.

To discuss how the Chamber can help with international training requirements, contact Julie Whiting or Theresa Hewitt on 01246 207207 (extensions 2020 and 2018 respectively) or email internationaltraining@emc-dnl.co.uk.

For more information on the Chamber’s international training courses, visit www.emc-dnl.co.uk/enabling-international-trade/international-trade-training3/.


This article featured in the November issue of Business Network magazine. To read an online version of the magazine, click here.