Building a logistics system for today’s sourcing needs requires a quantum leap from past shipping practices, in which companies too often neglected transportation in their strategic planning. A poorly constructed or outdated supply system with inadequate communication can create unnecessary delays and expense caused by information snags, missing or ill-prepared shipping documents, and inappropriate cargo routing.
One resource, however, can serve as the missing link in supply chain communication: a professional freight forwarder that represents the interests of all supply chain participants.
Here is what freight forwarders bring to the supply chain communication dynamic:
- Logistics understanding. A freight forwarder should be familiar with the customs rules and regulations of every country through which freight will pass, in addition to understanding the associated service parameters and costs. Equally important is the forwarder’s knowledge of Incoterms (the standard international shipping terms) and demonstrated ability to manage transportation, risk, and costs, and to establish advantageous transport and delivery terms.
- Customer service emphasis. From a door-to-door service backed by customs clearance, storage, and distribution to a straight one-off transaction, a freight forwarder should understand and adapt to meet shippers’ needs. The objective is cost and time efficiency, with minimum downtime and as few obstacles to delivery as possible, complemented by maximum uptime for freight delivery.
- State-of-the-art technology. Sophisticated online tracking technology is a must for a competitive freight forwarder. Shippers should receive protected system passwords for complete confidentiality, enabling them to access accurate real-time data about shipment location. Simply by entering a purchase order number, shippers should be able to see the whole picture.
- Global capabilities. The best freight forwarders are an integral physical part of the global supply chain, with offices in centers of world commerce, such as New York City, London, and Hong Kong. Equally important, they should maintain a comprehensive global network of agents chosen for their expertise, rigorous professional standards, insight into multinational standards, and enthusiasm for customer service.
- Professional certification. Freight forwarders should meet ISO 9000 international process quality certification standards. They should also be approved to participate in cargo security programs such as the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) for global imports from any country, and the Transportation Safety Administration’s Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP) for air cargo.
THE POWER OF PLANNING
When manufacturers, shippers, and freight forwarders work together, products move around the globe quickly, cleanly, and without loss, creating a supply chain with minimal inefficiency and maximum flexibility. Strategic logistics planning is the only way to make sure mission-critical supply chain factors don’t get lost through poor communication, missing documentation, or disadvantageous shipping terms.
Proper logistics planning, executed through the services of a trusted freight forwarder, makes the process work and goes right to the bottom line.