For US companies requiring international logistics support, finding the perfect US freight forwarder can be a challenging task to complete. There are a wealth of freight forwarders in the US but how do you determine which are any good and how do you discern between them all?
A report by Gartner regarding the B2B Buyers Journey, shows how buyers typically complete a set of jobs to make an end ‘purchase’ or ‘selection’ in this case:
- Problem identification. “We need to do something.”
- Solution exploration. “What’s out there to solve our problem?”
- Requirements building. “What exactly do we need the purchase to do?”
- Supplier selection. “Does this do what we want it to do?”
- Validation. “We think we know the right answer, but we need to be sure.”
- Consensus creation. “We need to get everyone on board.”
So, in the interest of this article, let’s assume that you’ve reached the ‘supplier selection’ stage. You’ll be looking at how to best gather your supplier options. This tends to be driven by two routes. The first route that we look at in this article is using your referral network of peers, colleagues and or ex-colleagues to gather information on the suppliers that they use and which they’d recommend. This may not be possible but if it is then it can form a reliable part of your supplier selection process.
Although recommendations can be really effective, it has become a less relied upon route and is more likely than not accompanied or replaced by online research as B2B buyers look to find their best supplier candidates. A Forbes report on what B2B Buyers ideally need during the buyer’s journey showed that buyers in all industries are using digital content to make their purchasing decisions, and B2B is no different. An overwhelming majority (89%) of B2B researchers use the internet in their research process and they conduct 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand’s site.
On top of that, Forbes also state that B2B customers today progress more than 70% of the way through the decision-making process before ever engaging a sales representative, so if that’s true for you then having a good grasp of the fundamentals of freight forwarding and a handful of the right questions during your research period, will stand you in good stead.
For some supply chain purchasing managers or logistics managers on the buying side, this next part could be almost too basic but that won’t be the case for all. Let’s go back to basics and establish the fundamentals.
What to consider during your search for a US freight forwarder
There is a lot to consider when trying to find your perfect freight forwarder. If you have a freight forwarder in mind, ask yourself the following questions.
How credible and experienced is the freight forwarder?
As logistics is a key pillar of many businesses, it’s crucial that you find a credible and reliable US freight forwarder. It’s no good entrusting your valuable cargo to a freight forwarder who isn’t fit for purpose and it’s always good to avoid a pitfall if possible.
Think about the following:
- How long have they been established for?
- What accreditations and assurances do they hold?
- What specific services do they offer and are they predominant in any of them?
- Are they experienced in the specific trade lanes that you operate in?
- Do they offer customer testimonials and case studies on their website?
Here are some examples of the key assurances that you should be looking out for. A freight forwarder holding the below assurance examples will help to give you confidence that they are competent.
- Federal Maritime Commission (FMC)
- International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA)
- National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America NCBFAA
- Customs Trade Partnership Against terrorism (CT-PAT)
- Cargo Network Services (CNS an IATA Company)
Can the freight forwarder scale up with your business growth?
It is sensible to suggest that the majority of companies have growth plans as a part of their business strategy. When you’re planning which freight forwarder to partner with, the ability for them to support your planned scalability could be key. If this is essential for your business, ensure that you make this element a crucial part of your selection process.
To help discover which US freight forwarder may have the ability to scale up with you, ask for some credible customer examples that demonstrate how they have already done this for other relevant customers.
What technology do freight forwarders provide?
Ideally you should look to work with a freight forwarder that invests in technology and innovation and provides live tracking / track & trace as a minimum standard service. Depending upon your needs as a business, you may also require PO Management. This is a more advanced technology and requires the input of your suppliers to update a shared platform.
Which Warehouse Management System (WMS) do they use and what level of reporting can they provide you with? Automated reports, like weekly stock reports in CSV format that can be easily imported into your in-house ERP or stock management system.
You’ll be looking to drive efficiencies, so find a freight forwarder that puts value on continual improvement, has the ability to adapt to new technologies and, most importantly, can integrate with your systems.
Can the freight forwarder provide bespoke solutions?
The best freight forwarders don’t tend to offer generic off-the-shelf services. They prefer to work closely with their customer’s specific needs. Every business is different and comes with unique logistics requirements. A freight forwarder that recognises and accommodates this can become an extension of your business – almost your very own logistics department, supporting your strategy for efficient growth.
Look for case studies as these can be an insightful way to determine how the freight forwarder works in partnership with its current customers. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for current client recommendations too.
What level of communication can you expect from the freight forwarder?
Reliable, timely and consistent communication from your freight forwarder is crucial. With long distances and transit times for your cargo to travel through, not to mention multiple transport modes, there is potential for delays and challenges along the way. In most instances, your freight forwarder may not have control over these eventualities but making sure that you are aware of them is key.
A combination of communication mediums is best. For example, auto alerts into your inbox from their track and trace system and one point of contact to manage your shipment and system integration. Having these types of services reliably in place can leave you feeling reassured that your valuable cargo is in good hands.
What is their service and value offer?
If you’re looking for an end-to-end solution from a US freight forwarder then consider the following list of solutions/services as standard requirements for your needs:
- Sea Freight
- Air Freight
- Road Freight
- Warehousing fulfilment, ecommerce
- System Integration
- On-line tracking
- PO Management
- Export Packing
- Well established global network
- Key accreditations (as listed above)
Contact Pinnacle today and speak to one of our Leicestershire based team of global logistics experts for information, pricing and advice for your unique requirements.
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