Has Brexit forced Phonak's operational shifts from UK to Spain?


Marvel by Phonak
One of the events to launch Marvel in the UK. ©PhonakUK

The Swiss giant Sonova Holding AG has played down the possibility of a Brexit motive behind an "optimisation" operation that will see it shift some of its UK Phonak services and manufacturing activities to centres in Alicante (Spain) and Vietnam.

However, Phonak's parent company is admitting to being wary of "potential new trade barriers" and to "closely monitoring" the threats from an eventual Brexit.

Phonak runs three distribution companies and one regional service centre in the UK. A Sonova media release in March announced the firm would be implementing measures by the second half of 2019 in the UK, Germany, and Canada as part of structural actions to strengthen its supply chain and consolidate certain services. This involves moving "certain services and manufacturing activities provided by its UK service centre in Warrington to its Regional Centre in Spain as well as to its operation centre in Vietnam", reads the press release.

Sonova's global head of media relations, Mirko Meier-Rentrop told Audio Infos: "We are currently working on a variety of scenarios to be prepared and guarantee that operations for our customers continue as seamlessly as possible. We therefore do not see any repercussions for our partners in the UK (as all services to them will be provided from within the UK)."

Regarding the newsletter announcement of a "combined reduction in workforce in these markets by about 250 employees", Meier-Rentrop commented: "In the case of reduction of personnel, the consultation process would likely take up to several months. At this point we are not able to disclose any specific steps that may have to be taken."

While the company is "considering all structural options", its head of media relations claims the reason for the current reorganisation is to "maintain and further improve the customer experience and guarantee existing service level agreements".

"As a result of this requirement and to mitigate overall risk, we will split the service volume between the two Regional Centres, namely the Regional Centre North Europe (UK-Warrington) and the Regional Centre South Europe (Spain-Alicante). The goal is to ensure the best possible seamless service for our European customers both now and in the future."

But this looming "overall risk", Meier-Rentrop admits, does involve the market earthquake threatened by Britain's agonising and fiercely-contested decision to leave the European Union. "The UK is likely to leave the EU and its free trade systems in the coming months. As a potential result, we may not be able to fulfil our contractually agreed lead times without taking the necessary steps. Therefore, we will monitor the situation closely."

"As a direct result of potential political decisions and in considering a spread of risk across locations, we may need to take steps in order to ensure flow and functionality within the supply chain. In doing so, Sonova would be fully committed to following the rules and regulations of UK labour legislation," Meier-Rentrop underlined.