One of the biggest challenges faced by operations and logistics solutions managers is ensuring their freight forwarder’s performance is up to scratch. Generally, the communications are limited to discussing rates and timelines, and once that’s done, it’s treated like a “set and forget” process. But there’s a better way to get things done, and it starts with informing your provider about the big picture of your business objectives, establishing key performance indicators and making sure they know what you expect from their service.

This gives them a much clearer picture to base decision-making on, for example when choosing between shipping modes such as air freight or sea freight to meet your supply chain timeframes. They also have to make cost comparisons while factoring in carrier service levels, and they need to make decisions around exception reporting, issue escalation, and how to reduce risks.

Astute Operations and Logistics Managers understand that the best place to start is by aligning your freight forwarding company with your business objectives – so you can achieve the main goal of getting the best results for your business and customers.

Read on to find out the best ways to align with your freight forwarding company and keep your supply chain strong, reliable and efficient.

1) Have a plan in place

A clear plan from the outset is essential. Know what you want, why you want it and when you want it and you are halfway there to understanding exactly what you need your freight forwarder provider to achieve.

Include both the short-term and long-term goals for your business, and then work out the specific actions needed to get there. Now share the plan with the people you are entrusting your cargo to, so you can establish a shared sense of purpose.

It’s all about getting them to buy into your roadmap and creating a sense of partnership, not just the usual arms-length supplier relationship.

2) Clearly identify KPIs and their measurement

There’s a tried and true saying in business: “what gets measured gets managed”. In terms of your supply chain and logistics task, this means setting clear KPIs and a method for assessing if they are being met by your freight forwarder and other suppliers.

Decide what is most crucial for your business and how you will determine if it is being successfully achieved, whether that is total lead time, break-up of lead times, lead time deviation, total costs, deviation from agreed costs or fill rates.

These KPis are also the bones on which you can build effective systems both internally and with your suppliers, customers and other stakeholders.

Ensure the people handling your logistics and shipping are reporting back to you on their performance in relation to the KPIs – and never be afraid to pick up the phone and ask about discrepancies or failure to report.

3) Have regular evaluation meetings

So you’ve got your plan, you’ve established your KPIs – the next step in ensuring your operations are running like a well-oiled machine in ensuring no-one loses focus on your strategy and expectations.

As part of ensuring your freight forwarding provider is committed to a proactive approach, make it clear from the outset that regular meetings to discuss performance and share feedback are part of the deal.

It’s not just about you either, these meetings also assist you gain valuable insights from your supplier about what’s happening within the logistics sector, any changes you should be aware of, or any new challenges that may be emerging.

That’s valuable intelligence in terms of your business and its operations.

4) Think long-term

The sea-route from Europe to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide or Brisbane is not the only long-haul to consider. Like any successful business, those handling your importing, exporting or domestic transport tasks are also inclined to go above and beyond for long-term customers.

Being regarded as a valuable and important account means you will get better service, and your provider will be more inclined to go the extra mile to meet your needs and deliver exceptional results.

If you find a freight forwarder that embraces your plan, is committed to your KPIs and is willing to commit to regular evaluation and feedback meetings – that’s the kind of supplier you sign a longer-term contract with.

5) Start as you aim to continue

“Well begun is half done” is the real secret of ensuring effective, efficient and de-risked operations. By taking on board the strategies you’ve just learned, you are well on the way to ensuring you can get the best results – without increasing your costs.

To discover more ways you can streamline your operations and make your supply chain management more effective, subscribe to the BCR blog on the right of this page and get tips, advice and insights direct to your inbox.

For more than a century, BCR has continued to help small, medium and large businesses achieve an optimum logistics solution with warehousing and transportation, including air freight and sea freight services to and from the major ports including Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle (Perth).