Airbus said that it may need to stockpile parts to keep production at its UK plants operating smoothly and avoid border delays when Britain leaves the EU.
“We spend £5bn a year on the UK supply chain,” senior vice-president for Airbus in the UK Katherine Bennett said in a BBC interview. “It is really important the parts don’t get held up in warehouses. We have a very just-in-time delivery system.”
Bennett said: “It’s critical for our business to ensure that the wings that we build in Broughton and in Filton can get to France and Germany for the final assembly line.”
The aerospace manufacturer, which employs about 15,000 people in the UK, will decide soon about “pressing the button” on stockpiling.
Airbus operates a “just in time” supply chain, meaning that it only holds a limited supply of parts and relies on steady deliveries from European suppliers to keep production going.
Bennett said that even a three-hour delay at docks would disrupt production and be “a critical issue” for the company.
She added: “It would be very expensive for us and a burden we don’t want to be suffering. Our key preference is for the UK to remain a home nation for Airbus. But we really need the conditions for us to be effective. We don’t want extra costs on our UK business which may make Airbus think differently about us.”
Airbus chief operating officer Tom Williams recently warned that “the clock’s running pretty fast” on the need for certainty over the way borders will operate.
According to Reuters, Williams said:
“If we think there is going to be a kind of gumming up of the docks and the airports, certainly in March of next year and during a transition period, then clearly from our point of view we are going to have to start ordering additional components now, because it is less than 12 months away. And that is at a time when all of our suppliers are already pretty busy,”