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  December 28th, 2023 | Written by

Navigating Global Waves: The Role of Adaptability in International Trade

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International trading is more accessible to businesses of all sizes than ever before. This is largely thanks to the emergence of tools that enable companies to connect with global consumers and supply chain partners. Nevertheless, this isn’t quite the same as saying that global trading will always be easy.

Somewhat inevitably, challenges will occur that threaten to disrupt your international operations. These issues can take a variety of forms and you’ll have more warning of some than others. This means that you’ll need to establish practices that enable your business to swiftly and effectively adapt when disruptions arise.

Let’s look a little closer at the role of adaptability in global trade and how you can make your business more agile.

Building Greater Resilience

For all its many benefits, international trade is fraught with risks. You might find there are delays in shipping due to weather conditions or products may become lost entirely. There may also be occasional regulatory changes that significantly impact both the administrative hurdles and costs of trading. Many internationally trading UK businesses discovered this last in the aftermath of Brexit. These risks don’t mean it’s not worth engaging with the international markets. Rather, to be adaptable in the face of hazards, you need to create greater resilience in your business.

Developing operational resilience is about establishing protocols that empower you to keep functioning in the face of disruptions. This begins with a thorough assessment of your company’s working practices. You need to identify what aspects of your international trade processes could make you vulnerable and what specific risks you’re likely to confront.

From here, it’s vital to take a holistic approach to resilience planning, rather than just focusing on individual departments or senior staff contributors. Involve staff from all areas of your organization both in arranging solutions and implementing them during emergencies. This isn’t just effective because it encourages collaboration and knowledge sharing that can make your company more robust. It also means professionals with a diverse range of perspectives are involved in highlighting issues and developing more relevant and innovative tactics.

Adopting Technology for Agility

It’s not just resilience planning that can influence your adaptability when you’re navigating challenges. The technology you choose to use in your organization plays a significant role, too. Tools that help you gather reliable data and pivot when problems arise are increasingly accessible. This is both in terms of affordability and user-friendliness. It’s well worth taking the time to consider upgrading.

Perhaps the most important resource for adaptability in international trade is the technology that supports smart manufacturing. Otherwise known as industry 4.0, this is in effect a combination of hardware, analytics software, and network infrastructure that enable reliable automation. For instance, sensors in the Internet of Things (IoT) can gather data throughout your production, inventory, and international shipping processes. Connected analytics platforms can monitor this and market information for shifts, including those related to potential disruptions in global trading conditions.

That said, IoT devices can be problematic to security and operational stability if not properly implemented. It’s important to test IoT devices before launching them in the supply chain. Use test-driven development (TDD) to check for failure cases. Testing phases include unit testing, integration testing, system testing, and end-to-end testing.

From here, connected artificial intelligence (AI) driven software can use machine learning (ML) algorithms to make predictions about likely disruptive scenarios. When integrated into your wider manufacturing infrastructure, it can make automatic adjustments to production in line with expected demand changes. Alternatively, managers can review the interpreted data and make informed decisions about how best to pivot operations in response to the challenges.

Remember, though, that while this tech is useful, it’s not a guaranteed solution. Always aim to position your technologies as collaborators with human workers. Your experienced staff have nuanced perspectives on production processes, risks, and international markets that the machines may not be a party to. Keeping them meaningfully involved in the effective use of automated tech means that your company can adapt to issues not just faster but more responsibly.

Maintaining an Open Dialogue

One of the most important resources to keep you adaptable when navigating international markets is communication. Your resilience protocols are essential and your tech provides great support. Nevertheless, building good quality relationships and maintaining an open dialogue with this network enables you to be adaptable on multiple levels. 

Firstly, it’s a solid way to keep you informed of potential international trade challenges well in advance. Focus on developing a range of industry connections in each territory you ship to. This may involve regularly having video calls with them or occasionally flying out to visit in person. Ensure these meetings aren’t just one-sided information-gathering sessions, though. Share your local knowledge and aim to connect on a personal as well as professional level. This helps to create a mutually positive experience that will benefit you in the long run.

It’s also vital to keep an open dialogue with all partners in your supply chain. Establish procedures to ensure you get immediate contact as soon as there are signs of potential issues that might disrupt any other link in the chain. Where possible, adopt digital technologies that allow all partners in the chain to share current information on market influencers. Additionally, keep communicating regularly with backup supply chain partners. Your efforts can make a difference should you need to urgently pivot to them if a current partner can’t meet your needs.

Perhaps most important of all is to keep an open dialogue with your staff. The need to respond to unexpected scenarios can be stressful and logistically challenging. It’s a matter of both practicality and respect to keep your employees abreast of the status of all current and potential disruptions. This transparency enables them to make more informed decisions that influence your company’s agility. 


An adaptable business is essential when you’re navigating international markets. This requires thorough planning, automated technology ecosystems, and good communication. It’s vital to remember, though, that putting these elements in place isn’t enough. The market evolves, as do the tools that can help you respond to it. You need to regularly test your resilience and identify the practices that meet the current needs of both your business and global trading conditions.