The interesting thing that I see in my work as a freight forwarder is that with so many ways to communicate in today’s business world, it is amazing how many times and how easy it is to mis-communicate. Time, money, and endless headaches can be saved if you make sure everyone in a transaction supplies the other parties with the information they need for things to happen smoothly.
The first thing a logistics professional should do is to take stock of their contacts list. It is important to understand not only who the key players are in the supply chain, but what their roles are. There are many options out there for managing contacts, with Microsoft Outlook being one of the most popular. But more important than just having the contacts stored in an easy place is the knowledge of how those contacts need to interact in order to make work flow. This knowledge has always been critical, but with international commerce it becomes imperative.
For instance, let’s say you work for a wholesale distributor of plumbing parts with strategic warehouses in Los Angeles CA, Norfolk, VA and Houston, TX. Primarily, you import many of your goods from China, and use a company that is both a Customs Broker and Freight Forwarder to assist. Let’s call them Freight Forwarder A.
Recently, your company has begun procuring galvanized pipe from Brazil. Part of the decision to source the product from Brazil is because you developed a relationship with a Freight Forwarder that specializes in importation from South America. They are Freight Forwarder B. The caveat is that this company cannot clear the goods through U.S. Customs for you – they need to use a partner broker to do so. You have the choice to either let them do this or to allow Freight Forwarder A to do it.
Because Freight Forwarder B specializes in South American freight, you elect to let Freight Forwarder B handle the Customs Clearance also via their partner. This creates 2 separate supply chains and 2 separate lines of communication. You need to make certain that not only you, but all your staff understand where and to whom specific documents need to be sent. You don’t want Freight Forwarder A receiving customs documents from Brazil that Freight Forwarder B should be receiving.
Additionally, one thing that I see regularly is an organization’s decision to simply “copy all” parties in e-mail chains. They copy in their vendor overseas, the manufacturer, the overseas agent, and the Freight Forwarder. This creates a problem because those who don’t need all that information start ignoring the e-mail chain and may miss information they do need as a result.