Every successful business involved in import or export needs a reliable supply chain. Therefore it’s essential that you choose a freight forwarding partner who can manage your international and domestic requirements efficiently and effectively.
So just what should you be looking for when choosing a freight forwarding partner to ensure that your supply chain needs are met? Eight key considerations are:
1 – What level of freight transport coverage is offered?
A reputable freight forwarder will have extensive coverage to a vast number of destinations, with a wide range of carriers. Through these contacts, the freight forwarder will be able to provide you with a variety of high quality service options and prices to meet your supply chain needs, whether you are moving full loads to Europe or part loads to China.
2 – Does the freight forwarder have a strong network of international freight agents?
When looking to import or export goods, having access to a network of international agents enables you to overcome a number of barriers to business that may otherwise cause you difficulties in conducting trade. The freight forwarders overseas agents will provide the local knowledge required, through their understanding of local business customs, languages and cultural barriers.
3 – Is the freight forwarder a member of trade bodies or do they hold any accreditations?
Look for a freight forwarder who is a member of trade bodies. A membership to associations such as FIATA (International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations), BIFA (British International Freight Association) or IATA (The International Air Transport Association) is a strong indication that the company operates in an ethical manner, and is compliant with the applicable legal requirements.
An AEO (Authorised Economic Operator) accredited freight forwarder brings the added benefits of being able to take advantage of certain simplified customs procedures. An internationally recognised accreditation issued by customs, holders of the AEO status are deemed to offer secure and efficient supply chain security standards.
4 – Knowledge and experience is key
The rules and regulations associated with shipping can be a real minefield. And as for the terminology!….. Luckily, for a reputable, experienced freight forwarder, understanding and being able to provide the relevant information is second nature, and they will be able to advise you on all of this. Whether working out the best incoterm under which to make your shipment, advising on commodity codes, or confirming all the relevant documentation is in place to ensure a smooth shipment of your goods, your chosen freight forwarder will be on hand to help. If the goods that you are transporting are a little more complex, such as cold chain, hazardous or dangerous goods, look for a freight forwarder who has specialist experience in these markets. After all, as Einstein once said ‘the only source of knowledge is experience.’
5 – Can the freight forwarder offer flexibility?
Through knowledge and experience, and a strong network of agents and carriers, your chosen freight forwarder should be able to offer flexibility for your shipments. Whether there is a need to plan shipments around the impact of Chinese New Year or other cultural festivals and holidays, or if suddenly presented with unexpected circumstances such as port strikes, your ideal freight forwarder will have the capability to offer alternative solutions to enable the smooth transit of your goods.
6 – Can the freight forwarder offer the provision of value added services?
If you’re looking for complete supply chain optimization, wouldn’t it be favourable to have a ‘one stop shop’ for all of your freight and logistics needs? Whilst most freight forwarders are able to handle air and sea transportation, rail and road haulage, are they in the position to be able to provide you with other services such as Customs compliance or 3PL? Being able to utilise the same company, not only for moving your goods from A to B, but to the point of delivery to your end user, enables a fluid and unified approach. It also offers you peace of mind, in that, at any stage of the supply chain process, you will know who to go to for any questions or queries that you may have.
7 – Customer service levels
Whilst anyone can offer a service, a good company takes time to build relationships and truly understand your business needs. Freight forwarders like Velta offer you a dedicated Client Relationship Manager (CRM), providing you with one point of contact who is responsible for handling the whole supply chain process on your behalf. By having a dedicated point of contact there is complete visibility throughout the supply chain. As such, the CRM will have the awareness of any issues that, on the odd occasion arise, and will be able to act upon these, offering solutions to avoid hold ups in your supply chain, and associated additional costs.
At Velta, we’re with you every step of the process, and will communicate in an open manner, taking the time to explain things. When choosing a freight forwarder you want to be assured that if there is anything that you don’t understand, you can just ask, and that you will receive an honest, non-jargon ridden response.
In the dynamic industry of supply chain management, it is imperative to have answers quickly so you need to ensure that your chosen partner is not the type to keep you hanging on for a response.
8 – What technology is available?
If you want real time visibility of your supply chain, employ the services of a freight forwarder who is able to offer real time tracking systems. An online tracking system provides you access to a wealth of information at the click of the button, 24/7. In addition to providing details of all job bookings, such systems offer a record of key milestones including arrival dates of shipments, dates delivered into warehouse and POD’s for goods delivered to clients.
Whilst it may be tempting to opt to utilise the services of a freight forwarder that offers you the cheapest rates, consider why they are charging less than everyone else. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is! Where you might save on initial costs, you’ll likely pay for in delays, additional charges and poor customer service. For the ultimate supply chain service provision, instead look for a freight forwarder that offers a good service at competitive rates.
If you would like a quotation for your freight and logistics needs, please complete our online form or telephone us on +44(0)1376 505160 and we will only be too happy to help.