July 2002 | How-To | Ten Tips

Using Brokers and Forwarders for Global Trade

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Hiring a broker or forwarder to move international goods can help you manage complex documentation and processes. But it takes some know-how to select and work with these agents. California-based international trade logistics solutions company Open Harbor offers these 10 tips to streamline global trade through brokers and forwarders:

1. Know when to use a broker or forwarder. A forwarder typically coordinates, schedules, and handles transportation. A broker usually facilitates the import and manages the interaction, reporting, and filing of documents with Customs. Sometimes the forwarder acts as both.

2. Identify all your service level requirements. To find the right broker and forwarder, identify your shipment requirements up front, such as destination shipment schedule, methods of transportation, and special requirements or restrictions.

3. Contact your local broker's association for a list of active brokers in your area. Leverage organizations such as the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America for contact information.

4. Consider conducting an industry benchmark survey of companies selling similar products. Surveys can be a useful tool for securing valuable references and recommendations, which can provide the basis for a RFQ.

5. Make sure your broker or forwarder knows your industry. Understanding your commodity and industry's trade regulations will facilitate an accurate and timely transaction.

6. Do due diligence on global trade content. Clearing goods through customs necessitates a sizeable database of rules and regulations. To ensure accuracy, update these rules regularly.

7. Know the laws and rules. Even though you hire partners to handle the shipment, liability resides with the shipper. Appoint a designated individual responsible for ensuring the broker's compliance.

8. Standardize business processes around the world. A truly automated solution can ensure that all parties in your global supply chain follow consistent and compliant processes.

9. Collaborate. If the broker is not plugged in to the carrier or forwarder, manual document turnover can delay customs clearance. An automated solution that ties these parties together electronically streamlines the process and shortens delivery times.

10. The need for "now." To remain competitive, you need real-time information. Make sure your forwarders and brokers can provide the information you need, when you need it.

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