Manufacturers and suppliers forced by tough competition to squeeze their quotes to win business may consider international transportation costs a minor aspect of their bid.  But unless you have developed a shipping plan based on specifics, you could find yourself in the hole for freight costs you never expected. And that could cut deep into your margin.

What can possibly go wrong?

  • A shift in the value of currency, a labor strike, a political upheaval could make your quote out-of-date.
  • You assume “packed-for-shipping” means one thing, while the manufacturer in Asia thinks something far different.
  • Your machinery has been warehoused and is being held by customs because your documentation was incomplete.
  • There’s no one representing your interests once your equipment leaves the plant, which may be a country where you don’t speak the language, understand the customs or have any influence over the various people handling your shipment.

“When you’re shipping overseas, the devil’s always in the details,” says Dan Cser, owner of ICAT Logistics Detroit, who has deep experience moving heavy and bulky freight all over the world.

“Here’s what we want to know before we decide on possible shipping options,” he said:

  • What are you shipping?  What size is it? How heavy? Can it be disassembled?
  • What’s the deliverable date?
  • Are there any restrictions on shipping any part of your order?
  • Is the production schedule on target?
  • Who is the broker overseas?
  • Who is the importer of record?
  • What are your concerns about meeting your obligations to your client?
  • Can we review your paperwork and any documentation that you’ve begun?
  • Do you have a preference between air or ocean?

“With answers to those questions and many more, we put our team together to propose several shipping options,” Cser explained.  “We’ve done the research for you, talked to our transportation partners overseas and at the port of entry.   We know what’s expected and what it’s going to cost.  And we have people on the ground who will follow the shipment until it is delivered.”

When you have the answers you need and a clear view of what may influence the timing and cost of your shipment, your risk exposure decreases significantly.

“My advice?” says Cser.  “Don’t underestimate the impact freight transportation can have on your order and on your reputation.  And if you are doing business in a new country, it may comfort you to know that it’s not new to us.”

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