The Supply Chain Leaders Insights event has the primary purpose of helping logistics operators access the experts who can help them solve their problems. Supply chain problems can sometimes be general, but more often than not relate to very specific issues—so specific in fact, that specialist knowledge and advice can be essential to achieve a satisfactory resolution.
When solving global logistics challenges for example, it can take a lot of research and legwork just to get a handle on particular issues, before resolution efforts can even commence.
In this post, we’ll explore some of those global logistics challenges. I’ll share some tips to address them, along with some suggestions about information sources, from where you can gain more ideas for potential solutions.
The Three Supply Chains of Global Logistics
If your company is an importer or exporter of goods, you have three separate flows to manage in the global supply chain. There is the flow of goods, the flow of money, and the flow of information, all of which are made more complex by the transition across national boundaries. Let’s take each of these flows in turn, with a quick appraisal of the global logistics challenges they may present.
Physical Flow of Goods
You need to have a thorough understanding of where your goods will be moved and stored as they make their way along the global supply chain. You also need to know how they will be handled and especially, how many times they will be handled.
It’s important to remember that every time your goods are handled, there is a risk of loss or damage and a certainty that you will incur the costs of handling. You need to consider how you might reduce the number of touches to save money and mitigate risk. If eliminating touches is not an option, you might need to think about how your goods are packaged to keep them intact and secure.
A good freight forwarder will serve as a stalwart ally in solving global logistics challenges related to packaging and handling. A forwarder will help your company to move goods safely and securely from point-to-point, both by seeking the most direct routes to reduce handling and by aiding selection of effective insurance protection.
Naturally it makes sense to engage a forwarder to help you directly, but you can also gain valuable information about safe and secure shipping by attending conferences and events held by trade associations such as The Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia.
Flow of Information
If goods are the life blood of your enterprise, data is its nervous system. Indeed, if not for the technology which today makes data transmission so easy, there would be far fewer organizations taking advantage of global logistics. Without an effective flow of information, your goods are going nowhere. That’s why global logistics challenges faced by importers and exporters often relate to improvements in data sharing and transfer.
The information flow in global logistics is not only a necessity for shippers and receivers though. The most voracious consumers of data in cross-border shipping scenarios are customs and border agencies, whose documentation requirements are complex enough to confuse all but the most knowledgeable experts in the shipping industry.
Fortunately those experts, in the form of customs agents and brokers, are on hand to shoulder the regulatory burden of getting your goods from one country to another. If you just need some advice to help you solve a specific global logistics customs conundrum, many brokers will be happy to share their knowledge free of charge.
Of course if you engage a broker to provide services, you’ll need to start paying, but given the problems a customs-held shipment can cause for your business and its customers, a broker’s fees are a small price to pay for steering clear of trouble.
The Fiscal Supply Chain
The third of the supply chains involved in global logistics is the monetary flow. There are a lot of parties involved in moving your goods between two or more countries. If these parties don’t receive payment at the right time and in the right manner, your flow of goods will be interrupted.
As long as the money is flowing, you should be fine. However, the fiscal supply chain can be highly complex, with customs authorities, 3PL service providers, packers, forwarders, brokers, and other partners’ payments to keep track of.
Typically, solving global logistics finance challenges involves digitization and the use of software applications. There is a fast-growing market in supply chain finance software applications, which can automate many of the payment processes and workflows required in global logistics operations. These systems offer finance functionality which extends beyond that offered by most ERP platforms.
Some supply chain finance providers take their solutions step further, enabling buyers of products and services to free up working capital with extended payment terms. These innovative programs benefit suppliers, who get paid early, and buyers, who enjoy longer periods before they must pay for their goods.
Providers of finance software solutions and those which offer reverse factoring or similar practical financing services, often share advice about their offerings via seminars or online webinars, as well as by articles published on their websites. If you are looking for ideas to solve a specific finance issue, these events and publications can be a great way to find inspiration, even if you don’t have immediate plans to engage a provider.
Develop Your Overall Knowledge
So far, we’ve been looking at where to turn for information to help you solve problems in specific aspects of global logistics. However, service providers can’t solve your global supply chain issues unless you engage them and sometimes even then, are unable to do so unilaterally.
There is no substitute for building your own general knowledge relating to the supply chain sector in which you operate. For example, when goods don’t flow through your network as well as they should, laying the blame at the feet of your customs agent is little more than a cop-out. As a manager in global logistics, you must make sure you understand the regulatory environment in which you operate.
To learn about customs regulations and the nuances of goods import and export, you can turn to a number of information sources. Plenty of training courses are available, some of them at very reasonable prices. A good resource for information about training is the Export Council of Australia, membership of which is never a bad idea for businesses involved in global logistics.
Information about import and export regulations can also be gleaned from books, from attending supply chain conferences, seminars and webinars, and of course from scouring the many web sites covering customs and excise topics. Just knowing the most important rules for the nations whose borders your goods cross can help a lot when you need to solve global logistics challenges.
Don’t Forget to Use Your Network
The importance of building a network of professional peers can never be overstated for global logistics professionals. With a solid network, solutions for many of your company’s challenges might be found with a few calls or emails to colleagues and contacts in your industry.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to spend some time at industry events such as our own unique Supply Chain Leaders Insights conference, which will take place this year (2016) on October 26th.
By attending, you’ll have the ability to network with hundreds of supply chain professionals, perhaps make some new contacts. Most importantly though, you’ll have access to a host of experts, all present with the sole purpose of sharing information and knowledge to help you solve your organizational challenges.
To learn more about the Supply Chain Leaders Insights event and to be the first to know when tickets are available, just fill out our online form and you’ll receive all the news in your inbox as it’s released.