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Supply Chain Lessons from 2019: Global Trade Challenges and Solutions for 2020

Dec. 11, 2019

Supply Chain Lessons from 2019: Global Trade Challenges and Solutions for 2020


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Volatility has reigned in 2019. Tariff turmoil demands remarkable agility as the trade war with China stomps into 2020 and Brexit hiccups along. Not only that, climate requirements are critical as IMO 2020 nears—and global competition is breathtaking in a world of here-now e-commerce.

Businesses are feeling stretched and crunched at once, but 2020 offers refreshing opportunities, like flexible trade finance or optimized ocean shipping, and solutions designed to simplify.

Four Challenges

Based on the knowledge and experience gained during what was a rocky year for many shippers, four major currents threatened to disrupt even the most successful supply chains and battle-tested business models. The new decade brings a new foundational approach, built on awareness of rapidly emerging trends that crested in 2019 and ride high into 2020 and beyond:

  • Complexity New tariffs and customs regulations are unsettling businesses, which need transparency and actionable data to thrive.
  • Cost Trade wars force businesses to absorb tariff hikes, causing them to scale back supply chains in what Dr. Phil Levy, Chief Economist for Flexport, calls “uncertainty about uncertainty.”
  • Competition End-to-end business acceleration is the only way to keep up with e-commerce. Consumers want more choice and they want delivery ASAP.
  • Climate Regulations and international pacts are resolving to mitigate climate change as much as possible. Standards are higher by law and social expectation.

Three Considerations

To better prepare for what’s coming, at all levels of the supply chain, businesses should consider the following as critical tools of the trade:

  • Technology One-stop dashboards, real-time shipping maps, and tighter collaboration between shippers and suppliers are on deck for 2020.
  • Tariff and Trade Advisory Services Data, expertise, and technology can reveal exceptional benefits, like substantial drops in customs inspections, even as US Customs gets aggressive on fees.
  • Transportation Strategies and Services Expect pass-through costs from IMO 2020 requirements to switch to lower-sulfur fuel. They’ll impact air and rail, too, but knowing how to leverage speed vs. space maximizes value.

With the right steps, the chaos of 2019 can be harmonized—and lead to a fresh decade of growth and expansion.

From this reality, Flexport has developed a white paper to guide business decisions in 2020, including new solutions for trade finance, cargo insurance, carbon offsets, and more. To learn more, download the white paper “Supply Chain Lessons from 2019: A Guide to Navigate Global Trade Challenges in 2020 and Beyond.”

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