“Our biggest challenges are tracing freight, knowing where it is and tracking it,” says Wayne Martin, senior account managerat Global Link Logistics, an Atlanta-based freight forwarder. This is no small task for a company that manages the movementof more than 40,000 containers a year for its clients. “We use multiple carriers to handle cargo throughout the United Statesand Canada. We need to know what’s happening with our customers’ cargo at any point in its movement.”Thanks to its state-of-the-art information management system, Global Link can do exactly that.“A customer calls and wants to know where their shipment is,” Martin explains. “We can get a container number, or a purchaseorder (PO) number, and access that shipment record in our system. Every event that occurs in a shipment’s life we record. Wecan tell the customer their container was sighted in Yuma, AZ, and its ETA in Memphis is three days, and four days to deliverto their distribution center. Or a customer calls and thinks their container was not delivered. We check and find that it was —the warehouse simply hadn’t informed corporate of the arrival yet. The customer can check all of these things themselves on the website. They don’t have to stop to make a phone call. And we’re more productive. We can move on to their next container.”Global Link provides these immediate answers through its robust freight forwarding software solution, developed by SilverBullet Technologies of Miami. “Our old IT system didn’t allow us this real-time access to information. Nor did it allow us toprocess information to the Web,” Martin remembers. “We used paper-based spreadsheets and manually input data. If a cus-tomer called with a question about a container, it might take us the better part of an hour to track down the answer with a man-ual spreadsheet-based system. With Silver Bullet, we can access that information immediately. That’s a huge time savings.”
Global Market Drivers
Global Link’s business, like that of its fellow freight forwarders and third-party logistics service providers (3PLs), is all aboutmanaging customer inventory movements around the world on a 24/7 365-day basis. “The world has evolved from a col-lection of national economies with import-export activity to a global economy,” says Satish Jindel, an air industry econo-mist and principal, SJ Consulting, Pittsburgh. “We have gone far beyond just import-export. A U.S. shoe manufacturermay buy leather in Brazil, ship it to China to manufacture shoes, and then import the finished product to the United Statesfor sale. This behavior creates a complex criss-cross flow of goods around the globe, occurring on a greater order of magni-tude than ever before.”
The demands of this business environment are changing the face of freight forwarding today.Companies shift sourcing and manufacturing locations around the world in their continual search for better or less expensiveraw materials, components, labor and production capacity. At the same time that businesses are expanding their global supply chains, they are reducing inventory – substantially wherever possible. And they are increasing the velocity of the inventory thatthey do hold to accelerate the cash-to-cash cycle.Leaner inventories have one downside, however. They make supply chains significantly more sensitive to disruption andinterruption.
“The globalization of business introduces its own risks and uncertainties,” notes Yossi Sheffi, professor of systems engineering at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in an interview for
Strategy + Business
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The Future of Forwarding
Mid-sized freight forwarders are under the gun. They must broadentheir service portfolios to meet the increasingly global service needs of customers. Affordable, state-of-the-art IT makes this possible.