Let’s just stop, stand back for a few minutes and have an objective look at what is about to unfold in March this year, and I mean Brexit.

For years now we have had traceability, accountability and transparency across a large range of goods and services. That would include banking and insurance for one, food production for another. Then add to that advances in our IT legal systems, some of which are better, faster and significantly more reliable than their human counterparts. Is it now such a leap into the blue to automate border control?

In my opinion there can be no agreements without standards. Standards are the things we expect from the goods and services we buy and engineering goes to a lot of trouble to make sure they are fit for purpose. If you doubt the significance of that, you should immediately stop travelling!

However, it is the issue of travel that has been at the heart of the BREXIT debate, they even used a bus all beautifully adorned to spread the words they wanted us to hear prior to a life-changing vote that we were hardly geared up to take.

So what are the key issues that challenge us? I list a few below:

  1. Management control
  2. Collective accountability
  3. Travel
  4. Entry and exit ports
  5. Goods
  6. Finances
  7. Protection
  8. Standards
  9. Expectations
  10. Performance

It seems ludicrous that with all the technology around we have no specification for a ‘Smart’ Border. The fact is we actually have everything we need and companies are at work on the opportunity of a lifetime, just as soon as our duly elected representatives sort the “what” of it all out.

1. Management Control

With around 15 or so ducks to get lined up management control is a vital part of a Smart Border, once a consignment leaves its creator a whole spectrum of businesses swing into action starting with carriers, logistics fixers, shippers and port facilities by land, rail, air and sea. The most vulnerable of these and arguably the hardest to control are vans and lorries so much so that there is talk of south-east road gridlock if the most meagre of inspection facility is imposed.

So business opportunity number 1. A drive through border which tracks and clears you from collection to destination to international border control standards to allow Roll Through traffic with no hold ups. Toll booths have had this technology for more than 20 years now. If I can find out where my mobile phone is on the planet a lorry should be no problem.

2. Collective Accountability

Again, this is not rocket science, banks have the infrastructure to detect money laundering and other criminal activities. The penalties and costs of evading detection are no longer attractive to the criminal communities, so much so that there is more money in illegal dumping which doesn’t even carry a prison sentence!  So a transactional inclusive document which checks out for all activities can be easily linked in at a push of a button with secure access and complete compliance and traceability.

Business opportunity number 2. Consignment documentation which is process-scaleable and starts with the raw material sources and is fully trackable by the end user. It is single entry which is created at source and follows the item through its life and capable of giving valuable recycling information. It is no extra work since all QA companies already have this information with full supporting care documentation. This is no more complicated than writing out your name and address, only with this document it’s a one time for life entry. Data protection can be included so that only those with either permission or authority can access it. This way confidential trade data from services can be protected but still included. That would protect brands for automotive assembly, for example, if Mercedes didn’t want you to know where they assemble or buy components, that data would not be accessible without special clearances.

3. Travel Post-Brexit

Business opportunity Number 3. ID cards are long overdue, but why on earth do we need to go through manned customs and security as billions of annual hours are wasted per year is a mystery. If a head of state can go through without checks, so can I. I just need a status which would enable me to be cleared to do that. There has to be a better and more thorough system than the one we have today, it is by no means 100% reliable. Hands up if you have ever sat in an aircraft departure lounge wondering about some of your fellow passengers.  Five checks on international travel even to the EU is not unusual. Full disclosure is a small price to pay for total freedom of movement for both goods and people without hindrance but with full protection at all times. This is an option today so why can’t we have it?

Business opportunity Number 4. If drive-through detectable screen mounts are available for cars at toll points,  then surely a phone chip/ app or passport RFID chip could do the same. The technology for this exists, so why are we not using it?

4. Entry and Exit Ports

Scanning documentation and data has never been so simple, companies are checking your data all day long on computers. RORO systems (roll-on/roll-off) can easily be applied to both people and goods and scanned non-invasively. ANPR systems and other sensors have been about for years. My garage and vehicle supplier know how many miles my car has done and call to my house to collect service and redeliver the vehicle. Her Majesties government and the NHS know just about everything they need to know. Why on earth do we need a government official to do what data capture system with full analytics can do? Because it puts a man out of work? He is free to work on serious threats and improved security. There will be more jobs, not less, better focused and far more accurately tasked. We would all be so much safer.

Business opportunity Number 5. Trackable ID. Auto lock gates. If your ID is not in order, you are routed down a safe path to one person instead of five checking and delaying thousands of people who are totally law abiding with documentation in perfect order. This system has already started.

5. Goods

Trackable goods would mean less congestion on roads, border tolls could be taken as the goods cross from the vendors account automatically. We do not need vets in slaughterhouses, we need camera technology, automatic blood checks and scans and health chips. Animals that are not well should be removed much earlier in the process. My dog is chipped. How hard can this be?

Systems such as this will bring prices down whilst creating new jobs, skills and a much safer environment in the goods, food and services industry. We have to document this anyway at some stage in the process. Software that follows the item’s life is a great boost to everyone. Everything becomes very visible.

Business opportunity number 6. Passports for all business goods, services and processes, not just for freight. At some stage of everything we do this data has existed. My computer backs up every day. So what’s the problem? A product or service just needs a unique ID tag. Your car, for example, would have one, but every component in it already has one, too!

6. Finances

The banks already have transaction histories, so does your insurer. How easy is it to add draw down payments release? It could be GPS based and trade financed and tie up the whole supply chain neatly. Satellite technology exists to support this. The whole transaction cross borders, banking and currency exchanges can be much more tightly controlled at a significant cost, benefitting to all. Why are we not engaging with it?

7. Protection

Today we are on the cusp of driverless vehicles, drones and automated warehousing. There has never been a more technologically advanced time which is geared to reducing damage, increasing efficiency and saving money. Five vehicles and one armed drone could travel in convoy. Drivers out of work I hear you say. Not at all, they re-skill making and operating the technology which will be cleaner, smart and safer. Employment has never been so high, I don’t see it reducing, just changing.

Business opportunity Number 7. Operators, equipment and smart processes to monitor and cover these events linked to item 7 above.

8. Standards

Far from us getting behind with the ISO I see us leading the way setting new standards, policing them and ensuring safer, better production for the goods and services we make. Manufacturing processes are springing up globally controlling production, inspecting and dealing with logistics on an unprecedented scale, just nobody has joined up all the dots yet. That’s business opportunity number 8.

9. Expectations

This does not just apply to the user, there are expectations all the way down this line from field, quarry or process through all the various stages. Business and people expect to be:

  • paid
  • safe
  • accountable
  • protected
  • supported
  • trusted
  • useful
  • successful
  • included

This is the age of great expectations and we have the means of delivering it. A chip which is modelled on something similar to your Fitbit, with accreditations could be your passport to simply hop on a plane with your hand luggage without having to go through three controls before you finally get to your seat. Before switching off your phone, you might check the plane is in good condition, the pilot is too and that your case has made it to the hold. It is everyone’s right to be safe. As a British citizen, the Queen guarantees your safety and ours hers. There has never been a better opportunity to do your bit!

10. Performance

What hindrances are there to the performance of the UK? Well, I have to admit I didn’t vote for this, but I will fight to the death to protect the rights of those who did. That said, we need to make it work. We have an amazing education system, IT is strong and we are a wealth of creative minds. We have talent from all over the world who will help us. Companies, people, investors and social services covering every aspect of our lives.

We have software which is mountable and deployable into most materials handling equipment so everything I have eluded to here is there to be done… Just as soon as our political leaders agree what needs to be done and the supporting policies to achieve it.

If we take the tariffs issue and lost and held business, it will pale into insignificance against the background of opportunity that has been placed before us. There are a few hurdles to deal with but then there always are. There will be winners and losers as there were in the Thatcher years and will always be. It is my opinion that my industry in materials handling, storage and distribution has never been in a stronger position to support the nation through this change and maximise our performance to help deliver a top performance.

The opportunities, skills, equipment and business exist to deliver this so we should use it, especially post-Brexit.

Written by the Material Handling Hub correspondent Paul Casebourne.

Featured Image © Chris Lawton


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