To start with the basics, it’s essential to know what freight forwarders do. Freight forwarders are companies that specialize in shipping for businesses that export or import goods. While they don’t physically handle your goods, they arrange for the logistics and paperwork that is needed from the start to the finish of the supply chain. Since international shipping involves a lot of complicated processes and procedures which involve parties from different countries, freight forwarders act as intermediaries who streamline the movement of freight from the source to the destination. The service they offer involves things such as export documentation, customs clearance procedures, international freight charges, port handling fees, import duties or taxes, insurance, and local transportation.
Check if they meet your requirements
The first step in selecting a freight forwarder is to assess whether they meet your requirements. Have a list of the services you need the most, such as the different types of transportation, the various intermediate services you would require, and your average volume of shipments. Once you know exactly the services you would want, look in the market for forwarders who offer the same or slightly better. You would also want to look into whether they offer end-to-end support in the supply chain, their terms, and conditions and legal framework.
Examine their reputation
The freight forwarders’ reputation speaks volumes because it takes years of excellent service to build a robust one. One way to know is to check if they are a WCA-approved member, this can tell you a lot about their trustworthiness as it is considered a benchmark in the industry. Their website reviews from reputed clients can also give you plenty of insight into their services and modes of operation. If you are unable to find any, you could always ask them for references and review their financial statements online (if they are available).
When it comes to maintaining tight deadlines and troubleshooting problems experience matters to a great extent. Dealing with export and import customs for example involves complicated guidelines which your freight forwarder should be fully aware of and work to see that your freight goes through seamlessly. A second area where experience is equally important is when working with specialists who deal particularly with one type of cargo. Be it exporting perishable goods or hazardous materials, you would need an experienced specialist to deal with it.
Their network of logistics partners
Connections and networking in the shipping industry can make the difference between a successful freight forwarder and a nobody. Having industry-wide connections help forwarders to ensure the paperwork goes through smoothly and that your shipment reaches where it needs to be on time and on budget. Delays and breakdowns always happen unexpectedly and the forwarder’s ability to arrange for a back up immediately can help you stay on time.
A critical aspect to consider is how much of the freight forwarder’s operations is run by a digital platform and how much automation is being used in their business. The best freight forwarding companies use end-to-end ERP software to manage all their operations from the stage of booking orders to the delivery of the shipment. An automated platform ensures that the paperwork goes through seamlessly by integrating with the government and carrier portals and saves time. Advanced software features give real-time insight to all parties involved regarding the status of the shipment and the expected ETA. Softwares also improve customer experience as they are kept up-to-date with all the procedures and the transparency bolstering the trustworthiness of the forwarder.
Choosing the appropriate international freight forwarder boils down to criteria such as your requirements, their expertise in meeting them, and the technology they employ to offer the best service in the industry at the most reasonable price.