Matt Philp, Managing Director of QED discusses how the company and the wider industry has reacted to a host of global challenges.
The security industry continues to face challenges in 2022 and at the same time the growth in demand for security products and its services is rising, not only in the UK, but globally. As a security distributor, it is crucial that we adapt and bring new ideas forward to meet these challenges. On the topic of this, let’s discuss some of the challenges we may face.
Advances and new innovations in touchless solutions, data protection, biometrics, cloud deployment, seamless system integration and access management (to name a few) have been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and are transforming the landscape of security and the solutions available.
Digital transformation has also brought with it a move to cloud deployments and service models, providing opportunities to manage access control for applications, physical assets and data while new form factors enable seamless, trusted authentication. The cloud is not new, but it is continuing to expand as more and more businesses move to cloud-based security solutions. The move to cloud-based security solutions has accelerated due to the pandemic, for example, to help security operators remotely help their clients quickly and in real time. The existing frailties in the national infrastructure will also continue to improve and, as a result, become more effective.
AI has also been one of the fundamental technologies to reshape the industry in recent years: improving computer performance with many manufacturers opening their hardware to third-party applications. AI is the way forward and it’s predicted that “AI will be everywhere” and take over basic functions in many applications as well as improving efficiency, cost effectiveness and accuracy for the end user.
Supply and demand
The impact on the supply chain continues to dominate, with product shortages – specifically semiconductors which influence so many other items – cost increases and logistical issues creating global bottlenecks. The Office for National Statistics reported that around 79% of importing businesses experienced challenges with importing in December 2021, with exporting challenges being 66%.
Adding to this, the manufacturing industry saw the highest percentage of businesses experiencing global supply chain disruption at 35%. The market predicts that the issues with the supply chain are set to continue and possibly get worse over the next six months.
We predict this challenge will continue and, to alleviate as much as possible the impact on customers, we are in constant contact with suppliers: finding out which products are being impacted due to raw material and component shortages, sourcing alternative products or exploring alternative technology options and solutions. Purchasing teams are under constant pressure with questions about product availability and changing delivery dates for products in high demand and this is not going to end soon.
We know this issue is industry wide, but it is how you handle these problems that sets you aside from your competition. Knowledge is everything in an ever-changing environment and working with partners that are flexible, proactive and imaginative is paramount to future success.
In addition to the increase in manufacturing costs, this year in the UK, we also face a growing rate of inflation, National Insurance increases and in April 2023, Corporation Tax is due to increase from 19% to 25%. The effect on business operations is massive and inevitably costs will either be passed onto customers where they cannot be absorbed, ultimately adding to the risk of even more inflation. During the last 12-18 months, we are sure every business, like ourselves, has explored and implemented initiatives to reduce operational costs and introduce more effective and efficient ways of working but there are limits to these cost saving measures.
The change in customer buyer behaviour triggered a whole different challenge. Buying goods online increased massively and this challenged many businesses, including our own. This change triggered a more rapid development of our online shop and customer portal. Priorities shifted and in collaboration with our partners, we updated our website and developed a dedicated online customer portal where customers can quickly place orders or reorder, request POD’s, reports and see their activity and more.
The rapid advances in technology to support the way we communicate with customers and suppliers has been invaluable over the last two years, with online meetings becoming the norm. This has required unexpected investment and changes in how we process information. However, we see this as a long term benefit and we plan to continue exploring different technologies to improve business operations and a smarter, more flexible way of working.
Investment in safety measures
It’s been reported by The Office for National Statistics that more than half of businesses reported their operating costs had increased because of the implementation of safety measures. The top three safety measures reported included hygiene measures, social distancing and PPE; this is not surprising.
We know investing in health and safety has always been important and since the pandemic hit it is now a mandatory requirement to invest in protective equipment and technology to protect employees, visitors and customers and these additional safety measures and associated costs are another financial strain on business. On a positive note, these costs should be reducing as we move forward.
For years, the security industry has reported that finding and retaining qualified staff is an ongoing challenge. In December 2021, approximately 3% of the workforce were estimated to be on sick leave or not working due to COVID-19 symptoms and this figure is much higher in some sectors.
There is a huge demand for technical staff and engineers as businesses invest and implement new technologies and this comes at a time when there is already a shortage of skilled security professionals.
Investing in new talent and, for example, taking advantage of the government apprenticeship scheme is one way to encourage the next generation of security professionals which we have found very successful. We’d recommend recruiting specialists from related sectors, investing in training and up-skilling existing staff both in technical capabilities, project management and collaborative working. This enables you to be more agile as a business and provides an opportunity for employees to hone their skills, add value and support colleagues in different areas of the business when the need arises.
A more recent challenge has been the shift to working from home which has helped many industries and companies, but not all of them. Some have shined because of the great team ethics that they had prior to the COVID-19 outbreak; however, many seem to be disjointed. This major change in the workforce has been challenging and the speed in which some companies have reacted has had a major effect on their performance.
In reverse of this, many companies will have problems getting staff to return to the office with continued fears about the risk of infection. People have also found working from home a positive experience with a better work/life balance.
The distribution side of the industry seems to be in a period of change with a number of high-profile takeovers and acquisitions. We predict this trend will continue as the industry finds a new equilibrium. During these times of change it is inevitable that the focus may be taken away from the customers whilst such large amounts of change takes place in these companies. The normal powerhouses are not the same as they once were and QED sees this as a challenge and an opportunity where customers require a high level of service.
The changes on NDAA compliance have attracted media attention and we are already seeing an impact on customer choice and selection. New products are being introduced by manufacturers to comply with the new regulations and it will be interesting to see how this will change the UK security market.
Quality Essential Distribution (QED) believes in today’s market, companies that change, survive, but companies that transform, thrive. QED decided to change its business strategy due to changing market conditions and advances in technology – all with the end goal of improving efficiencies, service quality and most importantly, making the customer’s life easier.
Having a strong team of dedicated individuals that truly care about the service we offer automatically produces major benefits for our partners when dealing with us. When we work alongside our customers, we generate a real understanding of what makes their job hard and what the headaches are; then, we marry up the most suitable bespoke offering to make sure the whole process flows and becomes pain free.
To find out more information, visit: https://qedgroup.co.uk/
This article was originally published in the February edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.