Chris Sargisson of Norfolk Chamber: How your business can become a vital part of East Anglia’s supply chains

Chris Sargisson, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive.Picture: ANTONY KELLY.

Chris Sargisson, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive.Picture: ANTONY KELLY. - Credit: Archant

If I said 'supply chain' what would be your reaction?

There's a fair chance that you'd assume I was talking about the way in which goods move along a chain of transport and logistics, linking the manufacturer to the end user. It's a linear concept.

Every link in that chain is still valid. The railways and lorries, the logistics companies, they all still have vital roles to play in getting your products to market.

But, life isn't as linear as perhaps it once was. Thought that sounded nostalgic? Wrong. This is not about nostalgia. This is about opportunity.

The concept of the supply chain has become more integrated and more interactive. It's about the chain of businesses involved in actually implementing a project. That's why it represents opportunity.

Businesses today can look at contracts differently. Instead of walking away because they thought it would mean pitching above their weight, they can focus on the part of the work that they could deliver and pitch for that. Being an important link in the chain is as vital, and potentially profitable, as being the sole supplier.

In other words the supply chain has become a 'virtual infrastructure' as essential to our region's commerce as the 'traditional infrastructure' along and through which products are transported.

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Our region has some great examples of the sort of venture that benefits from the new attitude to the supply chain. Think about Sizewell C for example. How many local businesses are missing out because they have not identified one part of the overall job that they can provide?

Certainly some key member businesses of the Norfolk Chamber are absolutely up to speed. A recent article in Norfolk Voice highlighted activity from organisations such as Vattenfall, Orsted, Norfolk County Council and Scottish Power. They were described, very aptly, as being 'part of this growth and supportive supply chain journey'.

Key stakeholders in major works are actively looking for companies who can bring something special to the table. That means companies with specific skills can sell their focused expertise as links in the overall chain.

As this new reaction to the chain grows in importance companies need to adjust their thinking. At the Chamber we're more than keen to help where we can with that.

I think the first thing companies can do is be proactive. As soon as you identify a significant project log on and sign up to the developer's website; express your interest.

Next – be interested. Ask questions. Find out about the specific contract and where you could fit into it. At the same time investigate how you can get your business 'supply chain ready'.

And continue with rigorous inward analysis. What, for instance, are your company's transferable skills? How can they be put to profitable use for, and expressed as a benefit to, the developer or contractor?

Consider the role of project management more. Is that where you can make a contribution? Look to you own workforce; does it need upskilling or retraining?

It will help you to have a better chain reaction.