For most companies, the last few years have been characterized by disruption. From geopolitical issues like the tit-for-tat tariff war between the US and China; the customs and regulatory headaches of trading between the UK and EU since the beginning of 2021; and of course, escalating transportation costs and supply disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
For global organizations, the only constant is change. Manufacturers may not be able to do much about some of these global trade uncertainties, but they can boost supply chain resiliency with tighter connectivity of trade compliance and shipping activities.
According to a July 2022 World Trade Organization report, the global economic outlook has deteriorated since February as a result of the war in Ukraine. This has resulted in the WTO reducing its forecasts for world trade over the next two years from 4.7% to 3.0%. Shippers have seen transportation prices increase as part of this economic impact. Consider that trucking prices increased 2% year-over-year since 2008 — but have increased 45% in the past two years, according to KPMG.
Tariffs are an ongoing theme and seem to constantly change. In 2018-2019, the US imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on imports from the EU. With an agreement between the parties made in October 2021, the US will now pull back on those tariffs which have been a contentious issue between these parties for the past couple years. Under the new agreement, the EU is permitted to export a certain amount of steel and aluminum duty free with any excess amount subject to agreed upon tariffs.
Relations between the US and China remain difficult. Today, the 2018-2019 US and China tariffs are the new normal. China is still dealing with coronavirus and their zero-COVID policy has hampered both import demand and economic growth.
Economic conditions in the US are not helping American exports to China due to inflation and a stronger US dollar. In another example, US exports of gas, oil, and coal to China have declined as a result of the Russia aggression in Ukraine. Now, the US is selling and exporting more energy to Europe.
There is very little that enterprises can do to mitigate global trade uncertainties like geopolitical disputes, changing tariffs and natural disasters. Nevertheless, they can optimize their own operations to ensure that they are better placed to navigate difficult trading conditions.
However, optimizing trade operations is easier said than done, particularly for multinationals that work across a number of geographies. Accessing and maintaining global trade and transportation information can be difficult. Business disruption and change is ever present in the forms of increasing transportation costs, accelerating customer expectations and a growing regulatory environment. Trade policies and export regulations are subject to change, and companies have a legal obligation to keep abreast of these changes.
One of the most effective and reliable ways of mitigating the risk of compliance violations is by automating trade compliance. Manually checking each shipment and customer is an onerous task. Critical compliance checks, such a denied party screening, would require ensuring that you have access to the latest government and denied party lists, as these are subject to frequent change. Furthermore, even if a company has the staff resources for this, human error can occur.
Automated trade compliance software streamlines workflows, speeding up processing times. In addition, by using an automated solution a company can standardize compliance processing across all locations. This also frees up global trade professionals to concentrate on long term planning and strategy.
Multinational enterprises and global shippers have two critical needs that sometimes can seem to be at odds with one another:
The need to mitigate trade compliance risks;
The need to ensure that their products reach their customers efficiently and cost-effectively.
Compliance missteps can result in customs delays, fines and damaged customer relationships. Despite this, enterprises with a number of manufacturing and distribution sites across the world may not have standardized compliance procedures. Some sites may be better than others at compliance processes because they have the necessary staff to do so.
Furthermore, many multinational companies have different shipping practices across different sites. This makes it almost impossible to have a clear picture of global trade and shipping operations.
By integrating trade compliance along with a global shipping solution, all sites will follow the same standards, workflows and processes. This ensures that compliance processes are being met, and that enterprise-wide shipping controls are being followed. As a result, global companies mitigate the risk of a compliance violation, while building stronger relationships with customers and partners by providing a consistent, reliable service.
Most multinational companies have complex operations. As a result, many rely on just a handful of carriers. However, as we have seen during the recent pandemic, certain carriers have better capacity than others to respond to difficult circumstances. Relying on a single carrier, therefore, puts a company’s shipping operations at risk.
Of course, the pandemic is an unprecedented situation. Nevertheless, other disruptions can occur, including capacity crunches, labor disputes, and route and lane outages.
Leveraging multiple carriers also reduces costs. When you have access to a truly global network of carriers, you can seamlessly switch between carriers to always avail of the lowest cost service that will meet your delivery requirements. However, if an enterprise is using different carrier systems to process shipments, it will be necessary to compare routes and rates first — a time consuming and inefficient process. Furthermore, all your shipping and tracking data is spread across different systems.
With a comprehensive multi carrier shipping solution, all shipment data is in one place. As a result, no matter which carriers you use, or where you ship, logistics staff can track all shipments from a single, accessible-anywhere location. For further information, learn how QAD Global Trade and Transportation Execution (GTTE) can help your organization streamline global trade management and boost competitive advantages.