Forwarders Benefit From Network Collaboration
By Peter Bouwhuis, featured in BreakBulk Magazine
Project freight forwarders need networking organizations. They recognize that while they might be highly specialized in their own country or region, they do not necessarily have a global presence, so it is important for them to be part of a trusted group of similar companies with the shared goal of increasing revenues.
The various existing network organizations greatly differ in what and how much they offer their members. Some offer a basic network infrastructure package, others offer their members collective insurance, payment protection plans, or other programs to meet their needs. Complete IT suites, systems for operating and managing project logistics, project freight management, or customer relation management systems similar to Salesforce may also be offered as benefits of membership.
Whatever they offer their members, the main purpose of a network organization is to bring together a trusted network of peers for collaboration on, for example, international capital projects, project freight and heavy-lift shipments.
In a sector in which larger forwarders also cover project freight and logistics these networks have proved themselves essential to the survival of most of project forwarders. While larger companies have logistics operation systems in place that can do some of the needed processing, very few have a system specifically designed for project logistics. Instead, they tend to focus more on shipment tracking and general freight forwarding. Project logistics calls for more rigorous project freight management to cope with its inherent complexity.
The power of bringing together project freight and heavy-lift specialists from various dedicated project freight forwarders is incredible. The combined expertise in a network organization often far exceeds the expertise available in any large freight forwarding company, and as such network organizations have proved themselves to be technically capable of taking on any complex project.
Network organizations offer a safe haven for small and midsize project forwarders and bring value to both their organization and their customers. In my corporate years in the energy sector as a shipper and cargo owner, I often opted for small and midsize project forwarders over large ones precisely because of their local expertise and know-how in their country or region. Larger forwarders are generally not always able to offer this value add.
That said, the project world is changing due to low oil prices and the global financial crisis. In addition, shippers are increasingly seeking innovative approaches from their project logistics services and support.
In my view, the entire heavy-lift, project freight, and breakbulk sector will undergo significant change both in terms of existing services as well as in the scope of new services over the next five years. The level of innovation and the extent of that change will determine whether companies will be able to survive in these new times. Networking will become evermore essential during these challenging times and the extent to which a network organization is able to offer support and expand business will ultimately deter- mine the success of its members.
Peter Bouwhuis is managing director of Netherlands-based iBrabble BV, an organizer of training programs and events for industries. Educated as an electronic engineer and logistics manager, Bouwhuis is a certified customs broker, customs compliance expert and European VAT expert with more than 34 years of industry and project freight experience