by Tami Murphy | 12 Aug 2021
Industry Commentary, Op-Ed
For years GPI has offered international freight forwarding as one of our many services. Our freight specialist, Erin Gagne, has been working tirelessly to manage what is currently a very challenging environment. The situation regarding delays and corresponding higher costs with global freight forwarding is currently affecting all industries across the world, from consumer retail products to industrial components and commodities.
That said, she’s been observing a number of practices that have actually been making the process worse (i.e. slowing delivery times down substantially and increasing costs), and has put together a list of “Dos & Don’ts” to help navigate the process.
This is not a sales pitch for GPI to manage your freight forwarding, although Erin has been having some good success lately getting shipments to port rather efficiently. Instead, this is a list of best practices and mistakes to avoid. Putting these practices in place can help to mitigate delays and better manage costs.
Frankly, whether you hire GPI to manage your freight or rely on your internal staff, any practices to help get your products through the freight forwarding process as efficiently as possible helps all parties involved.
Best practices and recommendations for freight forwarding
Choose a forwarder you can trust. We're hearing about a lot of "miracle workers" out there with "guaranteed sailings" and "100% on-time delivery" lately... Given the state of chaos with global logistics, there are many opportunists taking advantage of companies' desperation. As the old adage goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Speaking of which, there really is no such thing as a "premium, no-roll schedule." Containers booked with this option might be slightly less likely to roll (get deferred to a later sailing), but every sailing can potentially roll in this current environment.
Be prepared to book your container at least 4 weeks in advance of when it's due to complete production. Waiting until the last minute to finalize your shipping plan (what's going where) can cause weeks of delays due to the current amount of time it takes to secure containers.
Make sure your shipping information is final. Last-minute changes could result in significant delays. Obviously, certain revisions might be unavoidable, but just remember that any revisions at all will result in further delays.
CRITICAL: If your sail schedule gets rolled, roll with it! (pun intended…) What we mean by this is that changing freight forwarders at that time essentially will “reset the clock” and you'll be put in the back of the queue. We understand the logic of thinking that you might be able to find someone else who can get it out the door faster, however, we're seeing that customers who stick with the rolled schedules actually end up getting out faster than the shipments that continuously change in search of a better sailing schedule. Also, due to the amount of paperwork required for each shipment, each change request creates a higher margin of human error. Don't make things more complicated than they already are!
In general, expect and plan for delays. We hate to say it, but they WILL happen.
Air shipping always sounds great when you look at the turnaround time compared to ocean shipping. But, air freight expenses are at an all-time high and will almost certainly exceed your cost of inventory and possibly even the chargebacks you might incur from national retailers for late deliveries.
And while we're on the subject of money, here's the ugly truth: ocean freight costs are also at all-time highs and no one knows where the ceiling is. Costs that are almost 3x what they were a year ago have become the norm.
Land transit by rail from the West Coast eastward is critically congested yet still the best option. An alternative would be trucking the goods across the country instead (called "transloading"). However, both a national truck chassis and driver shortage exists, so you will likely pay more to get your product in the same amount of time that you would have had it shipped via rail.
Lastly, for years we've been accustomed to factoring in 30-35 days for shipping from China to your US destination, but we haven't seen lead times like that since before the Covid-19 pandemic. We suggest budgeting 60 days from port to door for the foreseeable future, or at least until things start to return to normal.
Please take these “Dos & Don’ts” into careful consideration. And of course, let us know how GPI can be of best service to you!
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