Freight forwarding – supply chain’s new frontier

More than 70% of potential savings and service enhancements in a supply chain come from the re-engineering and integration of logistics processes, writes Philip Wylie, COO of Barloworld Logistics' freight forwarding division.

Freight forwarding has become an increasingly complex and specialised service in the current context of globalisation, tight security regulations and skills shortages. Maintaining a competitive advantage in such an environment requires strategic planning and action, and it's going to become more challenging as complexity grows.

As with most industries, one of the biggest challenges facing freight forwarders in South Africa is a skills shortage. In an industry where speed, reliability and responsiveness are crucial in successfully moving goods around the world according to client demands and expectations, knowledge and understanding of the processes and procedures involved and the ability to identify the best possible solutions is critically important.

The available skills base, at all levels, has not grown at the same rate the industry has. Ideally we need an industry-wide training program such as that operated by the German Freight Forwarding Industry to increase the number of skilled people entering the industry. Barloworld Logistics has various group initiatives underway designed to maximise our talent base and to recognise the extraordinary contribution made by those who perform above and beyond the call of duty. A further competitive differentiator is established by holding regular forum and strategy meetings where we are able to develop new strategies and solutions through the cross-pollination of ideas.

Since 9/11, there has been a significant increase in the number of security regulations governing the transport of products around the world. This has impacted on the freight forwarding industry, which is responsible for cargo routing, local and international documentation, clearances and product classifications. Keeping up to date with new and changing regulations is therefore imperative to successfully moving goods. For freight moving to or through the US, for example, there are fourteen separate interventions designed to ensure secure supply chains and minimise the terrorist threats. 

In order to meet and exceed client expectations and offer successful, repeatable solutions, we need to follow current regulations. Barloworld Logistics maintains a close relationship with the key regulatory authorities, including the World Customs Organisation, in order to implement new and changing regulations.  

In an industry experiencing rapid growth with increasing competition, one of the greatest challenges lies in maintaining a competitive advantage. It is critically important to maintain contact with clients in order to offer customised and flexible services according to their changing needs and challenges.

Philip Wyllie is chief operating officer of the freight forwarding division at South Africa-based Barloworld Logistics.