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From peak season to RFP season, there are always lessons to learn in logistics management.
And for exporters, finding the right partners is paramount. Given the complexity of 2020, which is likely to bleed into 2021, gaining hindsight based on this year’s experiences can be helpful.
1. Review What Went Right and Wrong During 2020
As peak season wraps up, two key questions can help you assess the fluidity of your supply chain:
- Were you able to manage exceptions in real time?
- Did you have accurate data to use as a single source of truth?
Without taking action, issues will likely recur. But more importantly, resolving those challenges can have a strong, positive impact on business agility and ROI—and doing so now can set you up successfully for another potential looming crunch time: Chinese New Year (CNY).
For instance, working with a digital freight forwarder like Flexport offers the advantage of a technology platform that presents real-time visibility into obstacles as they occur. And, with SKU-level detail, businesses can easily manage exceptions and verify invoice details. In addition, data analytics feed into rich reports that can reveal trends or patterns that can lead to better forecasting and greater cost efficiencies.
2. Test Before Committing
With CNY and RFP season still a few months out, businesses that take the time to vet freight partners now can find themselves ahead of the game later. The best way to do that is to do a pilot run when the stakes are not so high. Take the time to get to know how potential partners operate and what level of service they provide.
Three questions to ask include:
- How many TEUs can they commit to on a regular basis and what happens when the volume isn’t there?
- Are there additional fees or surcharges beyond the quoted shipping price?
- Do they have in-house experts who can provide advice when unexpected events or customs issues arise?
A test or trial with a new potential vendor in Q4 will enable well-informed decisions for 2021 RFP season. Be sure to assess service and capabilities—and if they have digital tools—to help simplify and empower the end-to-end process.
3. Look at the Data Before You Start Planning
Volatility appears to be here to stay. As market conditions continue to be erratic and capacity goes in and out of crunch periods, businesses need to adopt ways to gain control. Data can help make that possible and inform strategic planning and forecasting.
Be sure to ask any prospective freight forwarding partner about the quality—and usability—of their data. For instance, with Flexport’s digital platform, clients can:
- Track SKUs in transit and optimize shipment schedules to ensure there’s enough inventory to meet customer demand.
- Explore trends in volume, spend, and delivery time, and break it down by shipment, by SKU, by mode, by supplier, and by port of loading.
- Determine landed cost per unit.
This level of transparency and visibility helps improve businesses ability to create more accurate forecasting—a critical step in supply chain optimization.
While switching freight forwarders might seem like a big undertaking, in reality, it’s as simple as getting clear on what your business needs in order to operate at full capacity.
Discussing current frictions and goals with prospective partners can pave the way for smoother logistics management and a business that can withstand the challenges that come with disruption.