It’s no secret that these are trying times for international supply chains. Every business is working hard to keep up with the latest news headlines and tweets to make sure they are able to react to ever-changing tariffs and regulations. But how much can your supply chain really react to these changes? It’s hard not to feel prisoner to your own inventory when it’s in transit or hard to reach.
Luckily, there are many easy changes that can be made to a supply chain to make it more agile and responsive. Simple adjustments can save your business headaches and dollar signs with more control and agility over your inventory and transportation. Here are our top 5 tips for keeping your supply chain agile and adaptable in the midst of chaos:
1. Have Broad Visibility Over Your Supply Chain.
Supply chain visibility always makes management easier, and that’s especially true when tariffs are changing on a whim. When you’re able to see where all of your inventory is, whether in warehouses, on the water, or waiting to load, you’re more able to react in real-time. Knowing and acknowledging what can be rerouted for entry at another port, what can be expedited to beat a tariff deadline, or what should be held back can save you thousands by giving you the ability to beat and minimize duties paid. In fact, one Navegate customer was recently able to use global supply chain visibility to reroute a massive shipment to Long Beach, rather than its usual port of entry in Houston, and get its product cleared by customs before September 1, when List 4A tariffs went into effect.
2. Have Deep Visibility into Your Supply Chain.
New digital supply chain technology makes it possible to track your shipments down to the very SKU, no matter where it is in its journey. That means that when you’ve got multiple shipments to track, you’re able to see exactly what is in each one, exactly where they are, and exactly how much they’re worth. From there, it’s not difficult to imagine how much more control you’ll have over their movements. Easily calculate which shipments will face the highest duties, which can be rerouted, which can be delayed, and which ones won’t face many extra duties yet.
Seeing deeply into your supply chain also makes it easier to keep track of all of your product. And when you know exactly where every single item is, you’re able to run a leaner supply chain with less working capital tied up in inventory. When you’re not making or shipping excess product, you’re able to reduce the overall value of on-the-water inventory, and therefore have far more control over where and when you pay increased duties.
3. Maintain Close Relationships with Your Supply Chain Partners.
If you want to be able to react to changing regulations and make any alterations to your product or process, you need easy and organized communications with the other parties involved in your supply chain. The ability to communicate with multiple suppliers and transporters at once, in one place, can save you precious time and money. Don’t waste any more time digging through email chains or waiting on phone calls. Your supply chain partners are your closest allies in chaotic times, so keep them close.
4. Keep Your Information Organized and Accessible.
If you’re still managing your supply chain out of manila folders and storing bills of lading in your inbox, you risk missing important information and dates. Modern supply chain software makes it possible to store all of your shipping data in the cloud, making it easy to find, share, and access. When you’re moving your supply chain with speed and agility, it’s imperative to have documents accessible by all parties involved and tied to each shipment, vendor, and SKU.
5. Stay Close to Your Customs Broker.
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but maintaining a close relationship with a customs broker you trust can make or break your balance sheet in the face of rising supply chain costs. The best brokers have teams dedicated to tracking the most current and accurate regulation and policy updates. A great customs broker will keep you informed the minute something changes, will explain how the changes may impact your business, and will help you file exclusions, request binding rulings, and determine your best options for savings based on your shipping terms.
While there’s little we can do to change the current state of global trade, there are plenty of ways to react to them and minimize their impact on your business. To learn more about how you can utilize these methods to keep your supply chain more agile, or to learn more about Navegate’s Digital Supply Chain Capabilities, reach out to us.
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