The beginning of 2023 marked three years since Britain left the European Union and businesses all over Europe will have seen an impact, either positively or negatively.
Technical Foam Services (TFS) are a UK-based company from Corby that specialises in the conversion of foam for industries such as medical, automotive and aviation. Business Manager, Duncan Geddes, has reflected over the last three years and the impact of not only Brexit, but also the pandemic, war in Ukraine and rising costs in the UK.
Q: What are some of the biggest changes to your business over the last three years?
A: in 2021 TFS was acquired by The Vita Group. This has helped expand our presence within our sector and gives us first-level access to even more grades of foam. In addition, we now have Vita’s support in areas such as Health & Safety, which is a very important part of our business.
Q: What are some of the ambitions you have for the next three years?
A: TFS has a unique place in the technical foam sector, we produce the foam products which our competitors can’t produce. As long as we continue to identify and work at that extreme end of the sector, we should continue to grow and maintain our reputation. Being part of The Vita Group, gives us additional business resource as well.
Impact of Significant Events
Q: It’s now been three years since Britain left the European Union, what are some of the challenges that you have faced because of this?
A: Initially there were some major administration challenges, but we quickly got to grips with those. We realised our EU suppliers were actually struggling with Brexit more than us, in particular road freight companies found it difficult to get their trucks through the ports such as Dover, Felixstowe etc, and the delays due to the extra administration caused a lot of frustration.
Q: What were the main concerns with Brexit and how did the business deal with this?
A: Our business sales have been 80% UK, 20% export to the EU, for many years. Our business purchases, i.e., raw materials, have been 30% from UK suppliers, 70% import from mainly EU. Leading up to Brexit, I was really worried about how our EU suppliers would be able to send us raw materials, because as a convertor of their materials we are totally reliant upon their deliveries to us. I was also concerned about the possible anti-UK backlash from some of our EU customers, but as it transpired all our EU customers were very supportive of us.
Q: What were the changes in practicality of getting materials from abroad?
A: We now plan and order further ahead when ordering raw materials from EU suppliers
Q: How has it changed your business for the better?
A: No difference
Q: How has the partnership with the Vita Group, and its larger European arm, been affected by Brexit? Has this helped expand horizons?
A: I don’t think Brexit has made much difference to us, hence why we’ve ‘moved’ on from it so quickly
Q: Has the war in Ukraine had any impact (positively or negatively) on your business?
A: Yes, there’s been a shortage of some key chemical used in the foam industry, making availability of some grades quite difficult. Also, our energy costs have risen significantly, and the war doesn’t help this. However, our difficulties pale into insignificance when compared to the problems the Ukrainian people are living through.
Q: And similarly, has the pandemic had any impact (positively or negatively) on your business?
A: Pleased to say we got through Covid relatively un-scathed, the main positive aspect is as people we are probably more aware of each other’s mental and physical health, so I think we’ve become even more compassionate as a team.
Q: With regards to the inflation and subsequent recession in the UK, has this impacted (positively or negatively) your business?
A: Costs of some key chemicals rose significantly in 2022, and now we are grappling with cost-of-living increase, energy increases, which means we’ve had to increase our prices to ensure our long-term stability. Our customers are facing similar challenges, we are all in the same boat!
Changes and Adaptations on the Business
Q: What ways of working have changed/been adapted since Brexit/the pandemic that have remained to this day?
A: Neither Brexit or the pandemic created any positivity for us, but as we have navigated through both and are still trading well, I think we’ve had to learn from both experiences. We have retained all the key members of our team, and still have the same, loyal customer base, and that has proved how resilient we are.