Importance of Shipment Planning part 2

Last week I talked about the importance of looking at freight shipments with the end (or destination)  in mind and how important it is to consider all potential issues working backwards to the shipping point.  When it comes to international shipments, there are even more issues to be considered.  With an international shipment, the freight is typically handled by many more parties.   Also, unless it is a short distance trans-border shipment from Canada or Mexico, the freight usually travels a much greater distance than standard domestic freight.

Let’s use our consignee in Warren, AR from the last week’s entry as an example.  But this time, the shipper is located in Huizhou, China.  There will be a total of 6 pallets of metal furniture components packed in cartons.  So, the same questions regarding the consignee’s location are still needed to be confirmed as in last week’s scenario.  Six pallets would be considered LCL, less than container load.

The next items to be considered involve how the freight will be routed and the type of service used.  If it is a time critical shipment, air freight might be considered because it’s so much faster.  Let’s say that transit time is not a huge factor, so ocean would be preferred because it’s the least expensive method.  The freight would likely be delivered to Warren, AR via truck from a CFS (Container Freight Station) in Memphis, TN.  The most economical method of getting it there would be via intermodal transit from the ocean port. Los Angeles is the most commonly used port, but east or gulf coast ports could be considered.

Although the shipment is only 6 pallets, it will arrive at the Memphis CFS in a 40’ container, packed with other freight.  At the CFS, it will be unloaded, sorted and once cleared by US Customs, made available for pick up by the trucker.  If coming from Los Angeles, the container would arrive via rail where a drayman must pick it up and deliver to the CFS.

Before the freight arrives in Memphis, it needs to be placed on the rail system from a CFS at the port of Los Angeles after arriving via the ocean vessel.  Oftentimes there is not enough LCL freight moving to Memphis from the origin point to fully complete a 40’ container.  When this is the case, the container arriving in Los Angeles CFS will be unloaded, sorted and placed in a different 40’ container to go to Memphis.

Looking back to the origin point of Huizhou, the closest ocean port would be Shenzhen.  So getting the freight to that port would require similar thinking.  The six pallets would arrive at a CFS station in Shenzhen via truck.  At the origin (Shenzhen) CFS, the freight will be placed in the 40’ container where it will be combined with other consignee’s freight to completely fill it and ship to Los Angeles.

So as you consider what seems like a simple LCL import shipment, you begin to notice just how many times the freight will be handled.  To summarize: It will be packaged at the shipper’s location, and then handled by a trucker on its way to the origin CFS at Shenzhen.  There it will be combined to complete a 40’ container bound for port of Los Angeles.  In LA, the freight will be drayed to another CFS, unloaded, sorted and placed in another 40’ container bound for Memphis via rail.  Upon arrival at Memphis rail yard, it will be drayed to the destination CFS, unloaded and sorted for pickup by the trucking company, likely an LTL (Less Than Truckload) carrier.  The LTL Carrier will bring the freight back to their Memphis terminal where it will be combined with freight bound for their Little Rock, AR facility.  There, it will be unloaded and re-loaded onto a delivering trailer to the consignee’s door in Warren, AR.

It is good to be able to step back and see the things that have to take place in order for an international shipment to arrive safely.  By considering the number of stop points that the shipment in our example has to make, it becomes clear the importance of planning.  The slightest hiccup at any of the points in transit can delay a shipment by a day or two or even weeks.  For instance, freight departing the origin port has got to be there by a cutoff day or else it might miss the vessel.   If it misses the vessel it might wait a week before it departs.

Therefore, understanding how shipments get from one location to the other can greatly help in planning the where and when it will arrive.  Adding buffer times to allow for any possible bottlenecks in the transit line can greatly help keep your work and processes flow more smoothly.  Knowing these things can greatly help in planning production schedules at the shipping location.


About jaymcgheelogistics

I am a Logistics Professional with over 25 years’ experience in the combined fields of procurement, purchasing, customer service, sales, trucking, air freight, freight forwarding , supply chain and international trade industries. Please feel free to contact me at

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