Just how critical is a company’s ability to properly collect and correctly analyze information in an ever-expanding global logistics market?
Given the myriad of unique regulations and countless other considerations involved in moving goods from Country A to Country B, the depth and quality of your information makes the difference between profitability and the kind of failure that can ruin a company. The efficient processing of data and the execution of strategy based on the knowledge gained now stand along with personnel and equipment as the cornerstones of a successful logistics operation.
The exponential growth within the international logistics market in recent years has been, in part, a product of logistics providers and 3PLs in the U.S. seeking to expand as their domestic market growth began to stagnate. Meanwhile, the ever-broadening international trade market has become so complex that shippers from the U.S. and abroad are discovering it’s much more efficient and effective to partner with experts in the international logistics field.
There is no question we are in a period of great opportunity for domestic brokers and 3PLs to consider entering the international market. The U.S. is recognized around the world as the leader in logistics efficiency and productivity. However, any U.S. logistics operation seeking to play on the international stage must clearly understand four key considerations:
- Effective strategies within U.S. domestic logistics operations will not necessarily transfer to the international market.
- Economic and political situations are in a continuous state of change within countries around the world.
- Regulations governing transportation and international trade are constantly evolving.
- Information is the common denominator within the U.S. and international markets.
The Power of Information
The No. 1 challenge today for logistics professionals, 3PLs and brokers throughout the world is maintaining the ability to stay informed on the key issues. Properly managing information allows logistics pros to anticipate what’s next and how it will impact their customers and their respective operations.
Today’s most successful international (and domestic) transportation strategies are rooted in the insightful analysis of information. There are a number of requirements that logistics professionals must meet in gathering and processing information, including:
- Establishing reliable sources of relevant information.
- Utilizing systems with the ability to automate the sizable amounts of data that must be collected.
- Working with professionals who can offer a comprehensive perspective and develop effective strategies based on the information collected.
At the end of the information trail, logistics providers are still focused on effectively serving customers’ needs and ensuring success for the overall operation. A few select transportation optimizers in today’s market can build highly sophisticated solutions to very complex problems. Yet, when it comes to optimization, there is an inescapable reality to consider:
Without the proper information related to regulations and laws of the countries where you are operating, you will not be solving a transportation problem for your customer. Instead, you will be creating an international trade problem for you and your customer.
The Value of ‘Actionable Intelligence’
The process of harnessing information and channeling it in the right direction to obtain the best result is very difficult to master. First of all, collection of the information is hard, and the analysis of what you collect is challenging. Most importantly, the proper and effective utilization of that information can be very difficult. The spectrum of information challenges can be very broad, as demonstrated by a few select examples:
- The state of politics in the country or countries you are serving.
- Fluctuations in the value of currency and any impacts it could have on buying power.
- Labor or other issues related to ports of entry.
In a logistics setting, information reaches its greatest value when the various sources of data can be translated into actionable intelligence.
The Route Ahead & Entering the International Stage
With the expansion of markets across the globe, traditional domestic logistics customers are increasingly seeking to test how their products will fair internationally. This global marketing trend has created increased demand for expertise in international trade. Providers seeking to make a successful debut on the global logistics stage should do the following:
- Target a market and don’t try to be all things to all people.
- Focus on the unique challenges of that market and find the right solutions.
- Invest in people and technology.
- Stay in your target market and become proficient with your service before expanding into new markets.
- Keep your eyes wide open and never lose the ability to adapt.
Of course, the fastest route toward gaining measurable international trade expertise is by converting information into a competitive advantage.
Doug Surrett is the Vice President, Global Logistics for MercuryGate where he oversees the company’s expansion plans outside the US market. Prior to joining MercuryGate, he worked at UPS in Operations, IT and Customer Automation. He has also owned his own consulting practice focused on TMS, Global Trade and WMS software systems.