Without a well-oiled import/export team, it’s a mystery how anything gets done. At a 3PL (third-party logistics) company, so much sits on the shoulders of this team — even when we’re not in the midst of a global pandemic that’s taken its toll on global and domestic supply chain.
There is no doubting COVID-19’s impact on global imports and exports. For those of us working with global shipments, the evidence is clear. Ships are not coming in and going out like they’re supposed to. There’s more paperwork, more need for verification, and more time spent chasing down location and destination details.
Prior to the pandemic, it was normal and acceptable for import shipments to delay a couple of days here and there. Nowadays, the new normal can look like waiting two or three months for a European import.
Still, shipments need to get where they’re going, and even when things are moving slowly, it means they are moving. These days, import/export teams are adapting to meet near-endless uncertainty. That means more efforts spent checking on ships, pre-planning, pre-quoting, and of course, over communicating.
Because when that ship docks and unloads, the ball is in our court, and the clock is ticking.
Communication is Key
For 3PLs, communication continues to be one of the most important elements of a job well done. Communication needs to happen on the front end, back end, and everywhere in between.
It includes communicating with team members, coworkers, customers, and carriers. You’ve got to know what’s going on, because you’ve got to rely on that detail to inform decision-making.
Here at Ascent Specialized, the number one thing we talk about is communication. Being on the same page is an essential part of our system. We communicate across departments, across projects, across everything. And the success of our import/export team depends on it.
Communication is the number one thing that makes a logistics company work. You can have all the carrier relationships in the world and still fall short on communication.
A lack of communication is a recipe for disaster. If your team members don’t know what you’re working on, how can they lend a helpful hand?
Imagine you’re on lunch and the call comes through — the permits you were waiting on are ready. Now, it’s time to notify your carrier, your customer, and anyone else you need to in order to get that shipment moving.
If your coworkers are aware of what you’re working on, they can step in to help.
Now, I know this was an overly-simplified example, especially when we’re talking about an industry as complex as specialized third-party logistics, but with the experience we’ve had with import and export logistics, that complexity feels natural to us.
One of the benefits of an experienced import/export team is the foresight they bring to each individual shipment. It is not our first rodeo. We know how to check our bases, avoid the common mistakes a greener 3PL may make, and set your shipment up for success. Once you’ve worked with an import/export team who knows what they’re doing, it’s hard to go back.