How to select the right freight forwarder
Finding the right freight can be a difficult task and a potential minefield. Shipping is a massively diverse and varied industry and the various methods and infrastructure can be mind boggling, but logistics is quite simple, if you know what you want.
If you were heading into town with your chums and there was a group of 3 you would choose a different method of travel than if you were heading out with a huge party of 35, right? If you all lived in different places but needed to arrive together this might affect your choice of transportation, and what’s more if you each had a flamboyant carnival costume to dress into (not a real life example), then you might want to consider how it will all come together at the parade. So it is with freight. Shipping methods and modes rarely serve the same product, much less the same markets or demands.
So how can we make sure we are working with the right partners?
1. You will need to be clear in your mind about what your business really requires, how much risk you want to take, how much money you’d like to spend and how much time you need. Take our advice - tell us what you want from your shipping and storage and we will tell you how to achieve it realistically and efficiently.
2. Look at credentials and experience. Does the forwarder have happy customers? Can you speak to them? How long have they been trading successfully?
3. What are your requirements? Despite the protestations of their sales departments, freight forwarders specialise in different aspects of the industry. We work with dry, manufactured goods, but not with cold chain and storage, or bulk goods like iron ore.
4. What about warehousing and storage? Do you need to keep items in bond, paying duties only when orders are placed? A customs expert will help you do this. We have bonded warehouse which can improve potential cashflows for your business.
5. Check for financial stability. The importance of this cannot be over-stated. The last thing you need is to be caught in the crossfire in a payment dispute between a forwarder and their supplier. You could pay a heavy price for other’s mismanagement of their business.
6. Make sure they hold membership of professional bodies. Our membership of BIFA for 30 years and our retention of ISO 9001 certification for 25 years as well as our AEO accreditation provide independently checked and vetted assurances that we provide the highest quality services.
7. Find out about their network. In many cases freight forwarders don’t own the trucks, aircraft or ships that are used to carry the goods. Their job is to put everything together in a single package. It is worth established who the subcontractors are. We are all only as good as our suppliers after all.
8. Make sure their customer service is up to scratch. Much like any service provider how they look after you is a telling sign as to how well you will work together. We’ve all been on hold for 20 minutes with some call centre mile away or been at the receiving end of indifferent service delivered by a moody teenager (some teenagers are amazing by the way) so we should know what kind of service works for us.
The above considerations should sit above prices. In a competitive market, costs can always be brought in line but here we have 8 aspects to freight forwarders that can truly differentiate one from another. All freight forwarders are NOT created equal!