Hitting the Links?

No, I’m not referring to golf, but using links as a logistics term. Exporters tend to become comfortable with their LSPs (Logistics Service Providers) and may be overly reliant on a single provider. Supply chain audits and best practices make it clear that diversifying LSPs can help mitigate disruptions, improve service, and possibly reduce costs.

Logistics is tactical in support of supply chain strategy, so must be able to adapt to the planned diversification. The textbook terms nodes and links are descriptive in logistics and supply chain discussions. Nodes are fixed locations such as factories and distribution centers. Links are Logistics Service Providers (LSPs) which connect the nodes from pick up (first mile), through line-haul operations (middle mile), to end user delivery (last mile). The links include ocean and air carriers, freight forwarders, truck lines, integrated parcel systems, customs brokers, and possibly 3PLs. It is easier to change links than nodes. However, if diversification is to reduce supply chain disruptions, both nodes and links must be strengthened.

New LSPs must be evaluated for their export compliance and ability to perform first mile, middle mile, and last mile operations. Details matter. Failure to review documentation, for example, can cause customs delays. New LSPs can make or break supply chain strategy. Consider their services as “value adds” rather than just cost. Consistent performance is more important than rates when new links are utilized in your supply chain.

Diversifying any supply chain requires time, a complete project plan, upper management commitment, and attention to detail.

We can help you work with the links. Contact mitch@adhoclogistics.com for assistance.

A Little Service Please?

As all logistics professionals know, problem solving is a big part of the job. My clients are mostly small or medium sized firms working with minimal staffs, so I frequently assist them in resolving service issues. I have shared my thoughts about customer service in previous posts. AI is adding a new way of interacting with supply chain partners and can be an efficient way to transmit info. However, for me, transmitting info is not the issue. Ultimately, clients of LSPs need someone to take responsibility and actually solve the problem without passing the buck.

We engage with a variety of providers including freight forwarders, carriers, integrators, and customs brokers. Most have automated systems for efficiency and cost control purposes. When looking for a status update or answer to a simple question these systems are fine. Self service can be frustrating, though, when the problem is not easily described, and is of no use for more complex issues. Information is easier to get than action.

The ability/authority to solve problems is what defines great customer service. Reaching a human being in customer service requires patience and many times that person is simply reading from a script. If I haven’t been able to solve the problem on-line then I need someone with the ability and authority to resolve the issue.

LSPs, don’t force your clients to dump problems on their account rep or e mail the CEO. A few key people in customer service roles with the authority to fix problems on the spot will earn you a lot of customer loyalty.


What is a Customs Broker?

Clients often ask me to train new employees on the basics of international trade and customs clearance. This includes the roles of LSPs (Logistics Service Providers). Shippers are usually familiar with Freight Forwarders but may be unclear about Customs Brokers. Here is some info from the CBP website for reference:

Customs brokers are private individuals, partnerships, associations or corporations licensed, regulated and empowered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to assist importers and exporters in meeting Federal requirements governing imports and exports. Brokers submit necessary information and appropriate payments to CBP on behalf of their clients and charge them a fee for this service.

Customs broker. “Customs broker” means a person who is licensed under this part to transact customs business on behalf of others.

Customs business. “Customs business” means those activities involving transactions with CBP concerning the entry and admissibility of merchandise, its classification and valuation, the payment of duties, taxes, or other charges assessed or collected by CBP on merchandise by reason of its importation, and the refund, rebate, or drawback of those duties, taxes, or other charges. “Customs business” also includes the preparation, and activities relating to the preparation, of documents in any format and the electronic transmission of documents and parts of documents intended to be filed with CBP in furtherance of any other customs business activity, whether or not signed or filed by the preparer. However, “customs business” does not include the mere electronic transmission of data received for transmission to CBP and does not include a corporate compliance activity.

Contact mitch@adhoclogistics.com for info about our copyrighted presentation “Exporting for Smart People”.