Ask any international project manager or CEO what the most stressful aspect of their manufacturing process is and nine times out of ten it will undoubtably be "logistics". But what do they mean when they say "logistics"? The term is so broad, covering the whole process form final production to delivery to retailers, so what part of this massive process is so stressful?
The engineering outreach team here at EBBS has dug into the issue to find out what what aspect of logistics is so frustrating to business owners. After just a few phone calls we had our answer, and it was not much of a surprise to be honest. Along the logistics chain the MOST frustrating segment was the shipping from overseas manufacturers to the U.S market.
Once we stopped and thought about it a little it all made sense, shipping from China for example, is wrought with all sorts of challenges from language barriers and communications to estimating time windows for trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific shipping, by sea, air and land.
After doing a little more research online we found there is a whole world of ocean shipping dangers and disasters that are rarely reported in the media today. In fact, the most recent coverage of these events we could find occured in The Guardian in a report from 2015 about just that, shipping disasters that were never reported.
Seas are tremendously powerful and unpredicatble natural elements, so it is only logical trying to estimate to the exact hour when ships will arrive in various ports can be a massive challenge. Even worse, with storms entire ships can be lost at sea with all of their cargo onboard. Of course there are insurance providers to protect against complete disaster but find one CEO that is "OK" with losing an entire ships worth of inventory.
Shipping internationally requires a calm hand and an ability to plan months, even years into the future in terms of ordering product and getting it to its final destination on time and in good condition.
At the end of our exhaustive research our team of engineers have concluded that multinational companies that are able to have offices in the cities and countries in which their goods depart from have a unique advantage over their competitors in terms of controlling and better planning international shipping, particularly between regions such as Asia and Africa and the west, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
For smaller businesses and ecommerce brands renting international offices may not be quite as simple. In this case we recommend finding a local shipping consultancy to partner with in helping ensure quality control and making sure deliverables are sent on-time and under budget.
Being a team of engineers ourselves, we also highly recommend that you inquire as to if the shipping consultancy you plan to partner with has an engineering team on hand to help diagnose and solve packaging and transport products in regards to the physical products themselves. Even if your ship and goods arrive on-time, if they were not properly packages and secured for the tumultuous oceanic journey you could end up with a lot of damaged product to write off.