Seamless International Shipping
For an American company serving the wedding industry, smooth, hassle-free international shipping is just good customer service. It’s a business necessity when the company policy is 100 percent customer satisfaction, as it is at Bumblebee Linens, an online handkerchief and linen store for special occasions, and the source of experience for Steve Chou’s popular blog, My Wife Quit Her Job, which chronicles how to run an online store.
“Shipping internationally can be a major pain,” Chou says, “especially from a customer service perspective.” The Bumblebee Linens founder recommends: “Err on the side of charging more and taking extra special care of those customers.” When his company ships to Canada and timing is crucial, Chou uses UPS and FedEx door-to-door services.
When an American company uses a global door-to-door service, the process should be simple, whether they’re shipping to Canada or Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “Ideally, it’s no different than shipping domestically for the shipper,” says James Vitez, president and owner of KMX International, a global third-party logistics provider located in Hamburg, Pennsylvania. “It’s simply a matter of having the package picked up, loaded, transported, unloaded and delivered.”
While global door-to-door shipping shouldn’t be complicated for the shipper, it is a complex process. “It becomes a maze to move something door to door internationally,” says Vitez. An American shipment headed for South America may go through five or six different scopes of work—with each one separately regulated—before it arrives at the customer’s door.
SELECTING A DOOR-TO-DOOR PARTNER
Currently, competition between global door-to-door providers is high. Over the last 15 months, U.S. exports have declined along with the U.S. dollar and “many more [are] out there seeking less work,” says Vitez. Providers include freight shippers, which make shipping bookings and outsource the process to competitive vendors, trucking companies offering global logistical services, and third-party logistics companies.
Providers may outsource the work to five or six different vendors, from trucking companies to packaging contractors to cargo loading facilities at a port, and then the reverse at the country of destination. Other companies outsource to a single-source partner responsible for all or most of the work, using company-owned assets, such as warehouses, trucks, packing facilities, cranes and employees. “This reduces risk and increases security,” says Vitez, whose company owns 75 percent of its assets and serves freight forwarders as well as manufacturers.
Beyond assets, seamless shipping extends to global relationships. Vitez says the “object is to find the person working in the freight-forwarding industry who is very strong in shipment in and out of Brazil, for example.” The person may have an office in a country and stay updated and know the resources.
PREPPING FOR THE BIG MOVE
Preparing an international door-to-door shipment can start up to a year in advance. The two main factors affecting a shipment are the size, weight and magnitude of the cargo being moved and the destination.
Shippers should start by compiling a detailed packing list. “Itemize every piece to ship,” Vitez advises. A good situation is when a company shipping a machine with 27 pieces emails the dimensions and weights of each piece, provides a destination such as South America and an origin, like Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With this information, Vitez can offer a “ballpark number that doesn’t move too much.”
An unhelpful situation is when a shipper calls up wanting to send a machine to China and suggests the logistics provider “look up a picture of it on the Internet,” Vitez says. Providers need to know if a machine is in one or more pieces and the measurements of those pieces.
By providing measurements and the final destination, the shipping path unfolds. Choosing a shipping line comes from knowing what is being shipped and how it is packaged, as some ships only take containers while others have a flat-rack service, Vitez notes. Once a shipping line is selected, a port serving that line is located, as different shipping lines call on different ports and, though there may be a great port close to the global customer, a ship may not call there.
Final shipping details and a firm quote are provided once the terms between a buyer and a seller are set. These can change right up to shipment time. “It can change or limit what a global door to door service provider can offer,” Vitez says. “Someone might add a part to a machine to change the weight and size and this can affect whether the cargo is able to go into a ship container or not.”
While international shipping can be a challenge, it doesn’t have to be hard on a company selling globally. When it comes to “domestic versus global, it’s just contracts versus different contracts. It’s domestic, with trucks and water,” says Vitez.
Using the right global door-to-door partner makes international shipping profitable versus painful.
10 FLATBED TRUCKING PROVIDERS
AMERICAN FREIGHT INC.
With more than 100 years of combined experience in the trucking and freight industry, American Freight Inc. provides full-service transportation in all 50 states, as well as Canada.
One of Fortune’s Most Admired Companies in 2015, ranking for global competitiveness and social responsibility, Ryder offers flatbed solutions for industries such as energy and utilities.
ABF Freight Shipping flatbed service covers commercial heating and air conditioning, electrical transformers, oil and gas and other industries. Trailers eliminate the need to tarp and delivery on flatbeds eliminates roll-offs.
C.H. ROBINSON WORLDWIDE
An industry leader, C.H. Robinson is one of the world’s largest third-party logistics providers, having grossed $13.5 billion in 2014. Track flatbed shipments on industry-leading platform Navisphere.
Mercer is one of the largest privately held flatbed carriers in the United States and has delivered 3.6 million loads to more than 12,000 customers in North America.
A global provider of door-to-door service, KMX International offers land and flatbed hauling service as well as rail, sea and air transport. The company owns 75 percent of its assets.
AMERICAN LOGISTICS INTERNATIONAL
Based in California, American Logistics International is a full-service global logistics provider. The company is a Regional Center under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.
Covering 48 states with a flatbed division fleet of more than 45 tractors and 60 trailers, Ameri-Can specializes in North American point-to-point shipping.
Now headquartered in Montreal, Canada, Mexicom Logistics was founded in Mexico City. With Canadian and U.S. standards, Mexicom expedites Mexican border crossings. Flatbed service comes with specialized equipment like tarps and frames.
TENNESSEE STEEL HAULERS
Tennessee Steel Haulers is a flatbed logistics company based in Nashville, Tennessee, with a growing fleet of 500 professional drivers.
Trucking in a Post-Covid World