It’s safe to say that the current environment is offering a host of challenges to businesses of all types.
Many are seeing significant disruptions in sourcing, especially when it comes to overseas suppliers. Others are seeing demand shift unexpectedly on a dime. And still, others are seeing uncertainty in shipping methods they’ve relied on for years. Additionally, many businesses find themselves in the position of needing to manage their cash flow more aggressively than ever before.
In uncertain times, planning for your future is more important than ever. Despite the current challenges, many businesses are looking ahead to a time when operations will resume. How prepared is your organization to re-mobilize once it gets the green light?
When it comes to restarting your operations and the associated logistics, your freight forwarder can be an invaluable partner in the planning process. Specifically, there are three areas in which your forwarder can help you prepare to resume operations smoothly and effectively:
1. Pre-Positioning Equipment and Inventory
When your business is ready to re-open, how easy (or hard) will it be to distribute the inventory and equipment you need to operate effectively? One thing you might consider is pre-positioning some of these items closer to their final destination sooner rather than later.
For example, if you’re regularly sending shipments to Hawaii, consider strategizing with your freight forwarder around moving some of these items closer to port.
Let’s say your main supplier is in the Midwest. In this case, you might consider shifting some inventory to a warehouse close to the Port of Los Angeles. That way, you’ll be much better positioned to get your supply chain up and running when your business restarts operations.
A good forwarder can help you decide how much to move—and help you find storage solutions that make sense with your current available cash flow.
2. Establishing a New Mix of Modes
You may want to take a new look at the transportation modes you’ve used in the past to move your freight. More specifically, consider adding modes like air freight to your roster, especially if you anticipate a spike in demand once business resumes. Although it can be more expensive than ocean freight, air freight could allow you to move critical inventory quickly to meet demand.
A freight forwarder can help you formulate a new strategy, using all of the modes at their disposal. Remember, when you’re deciding how to move your freight, you’re always balancing speed vs. cost. A freight forwarder can help you find the right mix that allows you to meet your customers’ needs with an eye to your bottom line.
For example, one plan for a retail outlet might involve:
Sending an initial supply of inventory via standard air freight to meet immediate demand.
Sending a second wave of inventory via deferred air freight at a lower cost to meet the next wave of demand.
Moving a third wave of inventory via ocean freight, which will arrive just in time to restock your shelves after those first two waves of demand.
Think of your freight forwarder like the conductor of a symphony. They can help you choose modes and coordinate delivery schedules just like a conductor keeps the orchestra in sync. The results? They’ll manage the logistics so you don’t have to, and they’ll make sure everything gets delivered on schedule, which helps you keep your customers happy.
That brings us to the next advantage a freight forwarder can offer you in uncertain times.
3. Managing Communication and Coordination
Delays, schedule changes, hiccups and more are all a part of the mix when global uncertainty enters the picture. However, this is where a freight forwarder can truly shine: by managing all of the communication and coordination around your logistics.
Rather than having to wade into the mix yourself, partner with your freight forwarder to handle the communication and coordination of your supply chain. They can work with your suppliers, the freight lines, and the delivery teams to make sure that things keep moving and everyone is in the loop, even when schedules get disrupted. Mid-course corrections, rescheduling pickups and deliveries, tracking progress to maintain your timelines—it’s all in the wheelhouse of an experienced freight forwarder.
Uncertain times often mean you have less bandwidth to deal with day-to-day operations. Let your freight forwarder take the logistics of your supply chain off your plate, so you can make the high-level decisions that drive your business.
One More Note: Look for a Forwarder That Controls Its Own Assets
Especially in uncertain times, it pays to work with a freight forwarder that owns its own assets. What exactly does that mean? Some forwarders have their own warehouses, terminals, trucking fleets, and staff. Others may lease out some or all of these services.
When schedules start getting disrupted, it pays to work with a forwarder with their own assets. At the end of the day, they have a much higher level of control over the level of service they can deliver.
For example, if your weekly Monday delivery unexpectedly turns into a Thursday delivery, a forwarder with their own fleet will be much better positioned to reschedule your final delivery—and give you priority for your preferred time. If a forwarder is using a partner in your delivery area, it may be tougher to get your delivery rescheduled at your preferred time.
At the end of the day, it all depends on the relationship the forwarder has established with their delivery partners. However, owning their assets means a forwarder has 100% control over your experience from start to finish.
The Support You Need in Challenging Terrain
No matter your specific challenges, an experienced freight forwarder can help you navigate this uncertain time. They can help you make the pivots that keep your supply chain moving or position it to get back up and running quickly, once business operations resume. While we named three areas in which a forwarder can help, these are by no means the only ones. As you look for guidance in these uncertain times, keep your freight forwarder close, since they can be an invaluable partner in helping your business move forward.
If you’d like to talk with one of our experts about your current challenges, we’re here to help! Just reach out to us for a complimentary consultation. We’d be happy to help you navigate this situation with logistics solutions built for the long-term health of your business.