Choosing the Right Freight Forwarder
by Selma Canas | December 20, 2017
Freight Forwarders (FF) can handle a great deal more than just shipping your products but there isn’t a “one solution” fits all. FF’s are an extension of the exporter’s logistics department and a good FF should visit the exporter to have a full understanding of their operational needs. This is really a partnership and choosing the right FF is extremely important in the success of a company’s exporting endeavors.
A good way to choose a reputable FF is to go through top affiliations and associations, such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Cargo Association (WCA). FF’s belonging to associations show their commitment to quality and efficiency as well as financial strength by investing in their reputation.
Freight Forwarders can provide warehousing services that could save the exporter money, especially the small exporter. Exporters can partner with a FF with offices in shipping ports that can keep their inventory and ship cargo directly from their warehouse. This could be a cost effective solution for those companies that are located far from a port of departure and would normally pay inland freight from the company to the port or airport. This could be a very good option for exporters who may not have the resources readily available to maintain a warehouse and personnel to manage the inventory. Also, by having the FF keep inventory, they can provide labeling services which could save the exporter time and money.
Some FF’s have labeling software to create specific labels with the information required by the exporter such as PO #’s, bar codes and company logo. The cargo would be shipped directly to the FF for labeling and packing the freight for shipping, bypassing the need to first go to the company for labeling, then the FF for shipping. Most FF’s are consolidators and labels have to be correct in order to deconsolidate at the destination without having problems with mislabeled cargo ending up in the wrong place. Exporters can also prepare the labels and send them to the FF for labeling – depends on the level of trust a company has with the FF. This service is especially helpful if the exporter is not located near the shipping port.
Exporters usually provide documents such as pro-forma invoices and packing lists, as well as classification codes for the goods, but a good FF can help exporters with this. Ultimately, it’s the exporter’s responsibility and they really need to know the product like the back of their hand in order to classify correctly and avoid potential problems at destination. Misclassification of codes could result in tens of thousands of dollars in fines to the exporter and the loss of a client for the FF.
Don’t sell yourself short by choosing a less expensive FF that may not offer these added services simply because you may not need them now. As your business grows, you may need these services and then you’re in a position of having to switch FFs to accommodate your needs. Choosing the right FF is about building a relationship with a partner that will help you grow your exports and building relationships takes time and effort so choose wisely.
NASBITE Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP), Florida SBDC at USF, Tampa
Specialties: International Trade, Export Marketing Plans
Selma Canas is responsible for guiding small businesses through the complexities of developing export marketing and international expansion plans and teaching seminars on basic international trade and a bi-annual Florida Export Series. Canas has more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing and customer service in a variety of industries, including freight forwarding, real estate and advertising. As a co-owner of Restaurant Guide USA, she increased sales and distribution points and tripled the size of the distributed product. As a real estate broker-owner, Canas carved a niche in the Latin American community and had a career sales volume of more than $37 million. Canas earned her bachelor’s in economics from the University of South Florida. She is a NASBITE Certified Global Business Professional and holds an Export and Trade Counseling Certification from the U.S. Small Business Association. She is a member of Toastmasters international and is fluent in Spanish and Portugese.