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Keeping Your Business on Track During the Coronavirus Outbreak

business

Keeping Your Business on Track During the Coronavirus Outbreak

The coronavirus outbreak, which is severely affecting business operations around the globe, was recently declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. C.H. Robinson continues to monitor the situation in the U.S. and globally, staying close to our contract carriers and discussing continuity plans in the event shipping trajectories need to be adjusted due to disruptions or closures at any ports. Although this is not the first or the last event to disrupt global supply chains, unpredictable logistics require a proactive approach for importers and exporters to keep business running as usual.

The latest in air and ocean travel

As factories and production in China return to full efficiency, the whiplash in other areas is starting to take place, particularly in consuming nations such as the U.S. and Europe. We continue to see elevated cases in developed nations that have a heavy reliance on manufacturing outside of the U.S., specifically China. Given this continued volatility, global importers are eager to restock their inventory. As a result, available capacity on the Trans-Pacific will continue to be volatile due to the removed capacity in the market.  The empty container supply has also dwindled in regions where China trade has been a catalyst, primarily North America and Europe, this can have a ripple effect if these empty containers do not get repositioned back to China to support the increase demand that is anticipated at the tail end of March into April.

Similar to China, airlines have canceled majority of passenger flights in and out of Europe and South Korea due to safety concerns and lack of travel demand. Cargo space may be constricted as certain limitations are imposed on passenger travel resulting from adjusted flight schedules and capacity. Although passenger planes have been used to transport cargo more frequently in recent years, available capacity is not heavily impacted by the cancellations due to air charter operators and blank sailings diminishing from ocean carriers. However, contract rates and transit times may need to be adjusted as the airfreight market remains fluid.

As we continue to closely monitor the situation, below are important considerations that will help keep your supply chain moving and better navigate any shipping challenges associated with the latest travel restrictions and schedule shifts.

Assessment of inventory levels

Having an accurate assessment of your inventory is expected, but it’s important to understand how limitations on imports, not only from China but around the globe, will impact your current inventory and regular shipping cadence. If you haven’t already, start discussions with your freight forward around production planning and forecasting. It’s important to look ahead to determine your transportation needs as demand is expected to surpass available capacity in the coming weeks.

Planning ahead in production

There are numerous variables to consider when planning for production. Working through these with a supply chain expert will help you be prepared and proactive as the uncertainty around the virus continues.

-What will production look like and has there been any discussion with the vendors and factories?

-How are existing inventories compared to sales projections?

-What plans are in place in case there continues to be a shortage of workers in China or the demands are not being met within a specific window of time?

-Has there been a discussion about how the backlog will be addressed?

-Where are your warehouse locations in proximity to delivery locations? Ensure you have business continuity plans in place, so deliveries are not impacted.

-Do you have enough air capacity to address decreased passenger flights?

-Is an expedited ocean or sea-air being looked at as an alternate option?

Backup sourcing options

The current backlog in China is a prime example of the importance of a diversified supply chain – including modes of transportation, carriers and sourcing locations. When there is any kind of delayed start to production, keeping up with the workload poses a challenge, and backup sources may need to be considered. Additional sourcing options are not always easy to find and keeping up with the sheer demand and quality controls can be a challenge. Connecting with a global supply chain expert to vet reliable options is important to help ensure success.

While we may not know how long this global pandemic will last, C.H. Robinson’s global network of experts are dedicated to helping you get your shipments where they need to be. We continue to closely monitor the situation and provide updates through our client advisories as needed. We encourage you to reach out to your account manager or connect with an expert for additional questions.

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Sri Laxmana is the Vice President of Global Ocean Product at C.H. Robinson

C.H. Robinson

C.H. Robinson Names Thomas Schoett Vice President of Latin America

C.H. Robinson, one of the world’s largest logistics platforms, is proud to announce Thomas Schoett as vice president, Latin America (LATAM), Global Forwarding. He will report to Mike Short, president of Global Forwarding at C.H. Robinson.

Thomas joined C.H. Robinson in May 2017 as the regional director of South America. In his time with the company, he has improved global alignment and increased our presence on regional trade lanes that are important to our customer base. His efforts continue to add to our global suite of services and the ability for customers to work with one provider for all their logistics and technology needs.

“Thomas brings a deep knowledge of the region, logistics expertise and leadership skills to this role,” Short said. “He will focus on creating synergy within the region and further develop global trade lanes to and from LATAM.”

Latin America is an important part of the company’s Global Forwarding growth strategy, and focused strategic alignment and strong partnerships are critical for continued success.

“I am delighted to be leading the LATAM team,” Schoett said. “Through our network of experts in LATAM and around the globe, we continue to act as an extension of our customer’s teams and drive personalized solutions according to their needs in the region. Additionally, our technology built by and for supply chain experts offers market-leading solutions and real-time visibility to drive better outcomes for our customers’ supply chains.”

vendor

Reduce Risk in Your Global Shipping Strategy With Vendor Management

Trying to coordinate deliveries to make sure they arrive on time can be a stressful job in today’s volatile shipping landscape.

You need to contend with unexpected shipping cancelations by carriers that are trying to stay profitable. Unpredictable rates caused by too many or too few vessels available at any given time adds to the uncertainty. And if you don’t have complete visibility across your global supply chain, your job is only harder.

Many shippers have found peace of mind by using a global vendor-management program, which combines PO management, global visibility, and shipping consolidation. The program can help you make sure freight arrives on time. And it can help you bring greater savings, consistency, and security to your shipping strategy.

How the Program Works

With a vendor-management program, a logistics provider helps manage both your POs and your global flow of cargo, while serving as a single point of contact between you and carriers.

As POs come in, the provider can calculate when cargo will be picked up and continue to verify that timing as delivery dates near. The provider can also use consolidated shipping to combine your partial shipments with others to create full shipments. This can help you get shipments to their destinations on time, and do so cheaply and efficiently.

With a vendor-management program, you no longer need to arrange multiple order pickups or worry about orders not being ready for pickup.

Instead, you can use the provider’s transportation management system to monitor your current order and shipment statuses in real-time, and see exceptions down to the item level. And if you encounter increased demand or last-minute supply chain outages, you can use the system to reroute freight.

3 Key Benefits to Your Business

A vendor-management program offers you more than the comfort of knowing that your shipments are in good hands. It can also improve your global shipping strategy to help you realize some key benefits.

Lower Costs: There are clear cost benefits of using consolidated shipping. You only pay for the volume of a container that you use rather than paying for a full container that you may not fill. Combining multiple shipments into one can also reduce your customs entries and terminal charges, deliveries, and handling fees.

And the savings only start there. Because you can reduce your supply chain spend even more when you combine a vendor-management program with a provider’s transportation, logistics, warehousing or customs services.

Better Consistency: Global supply chains have more opportunities for service failures. A single point of contact can give you answers and offer alternatives before service failures happen. Customs entries can also be processed more consistently. And fixed weekly schedules that have known transit expectations can make it easier to track your orders.

Greater Security: Less-than-truckload and less-than-container-load freight faces the risk of theft and needs to be secured.

With a vendor-management program, a provider can accept your containers for unloading, consolidation, and reloading. And they can pick up containers at ports and bring them to their facilities for faster, more secure customs clearance. Providers can also run CCTV and seal containers to reduce theft risks.

Choosing a Provider

Make sure the logistics provider you work with can not only understand your unique needs but also turn them into solutions.

For example, shippers have different levels of risk exposure. Limitations of liability, terms, and conditions, and cargo insurance options vary by mode of transport, service type and country.A logistics provider can help you uncover potential liabilities in your supply chain and prepare to manage costs associated with cargo damage or loss. This is why it’s important that you use a provider that has in-house risk-management professionals.

The right provider can also help you manage your regulatory challenges and combine vendor management with your other logistics needs for greater efficiency. Additionally, with businesses, suppliers, and the solutions provider integrated onto the same technology platform, you can gain clear visibility to overall inventory, maintain lower transportation costs, and help ensure on-time deliveries.

Countries require compliance with their own specific set of customs rules, governmental regulations, VAT, duty rate calculations and payment schemes. Even small errors like misspelling on a declaration can lead to fines, penalties or even cargo seizures. For this reason, it’s critical that the logistics provider you choose has regulatory experience in the markets where you do business.

Tailored to Your Needs

Vendor-management programs can be structured in different ways based on what you want to achieve. You could customize it to deliver freight from multiple global suppliers to multiple customers. You could also source all freight for a single company. Or you could use a highly efficient merge-in-transit approach to ship products directly from vendors to customers.

Whatever approach you choose, the end result is the same: Efficient and cost-effective control of your global freight so it arrives on time, wherever you do business.

south american

Embracing the South American Ecommerce Marketplace

Ecommerce is on the rise in South America. Double-digit growth is expected for 2019 with sales of $71.34 billion (USD), tying it with the Middle East and Africa as the world’s second-fastest-growing retail ecommerce market. 

That’s great news for shippers looking to expand their online retail presence in South America.

A diamond in the rough

Online retailers in South America have been struggling for years to overcome several obstacles to success, including extensive customs delays, poor transportation infrastructure, and the lack of end-to-end supply chain visibility. Progress has been made on all three of these “challenges,” but more work is necessary to ensure the region’s continued double-digit growth. 

Within each challenge lies opportunity

While these obstacles may keep a few shippers from expanding into South America, others are viewing the area as a “diamond in the rough” and working diligently to reap the rewards of this truly untapped region. 

Having the right information is the first step to wading through the muck and mire of this complicated ecommerce marketplace:

South America customs vary by country

Red tape and bureaucracy pose the biggest obstacles for importing products into South American countries. In addition to customs taxes, tariffs, and fees, it can take 30+ days for some goods to be cleared through customs, especially in Brazil and Argentina. As a result, inventory builds up, costs rise, and customers wait longer for their products to arrive. In comparison, however, Chilean customs are very similar to the U.S. and allow products to flow through relatively quickly.

As you can tell, customs procedures can differ significantly, making it difficult for shippers to ensure compliance with each region’s unique customs. For a more seamless process, it’s essential shippers work with a customs broker or third party logistics provider (3PL) with local offices in the area. They’ll know the customs standards and understand the paperwork necessary to ensure products are approved for import.

Free trade agreements 

The United States-Chile trade agreement allows all U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to enter Chile duty free. While still in the works, the United States-Brazil free trade agreement can help facilitate trade and boost investment between the two countries, especially in infrastructure. The United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement eliminates tariffs on 80% of U.S. consumer and industrial imports into Colombia. 

South America infrastructure at port and inland

South America is hobbled by its inadequate infrastructure, and it’s probably not going to change anytime soon. Roads remain the primary means of transportation, but 60% are unpaved, hampering the speed of delivery by truck to inland locations. Improvements are slowly occurring, thanks to increased government funding (but corruption hampers many efforts). It’s worth mentioning that China, the largest trading partner of Brazil, Chile, and Peru, invests heavily in the region, providing more than $140 billion (USD) in loans for infrastructure improvements in the past decade, according to The Business Year.  

While surface transportation remains stagnant, ocean freight shows promise. According to icontainers.com, routes going to and from South America represent 15% of the total number of trade services.

The largest container port in South America is in the city of Santos in Brazil’s Sao Paulo state. Its location provides easy access to the hinterlands via the Serra do Mar mountain range. More than 40% of Brazil’s containers are handled by the Port of Santos as well as nearly 33% of its trade, and 60 % of Brazil’s GDP, according to JOC.com

In 2018, Brazil’s busiest container cargo port handled 4.3 million TEUs, compared with 3.85 million TEUs in 2017. 

For Argentina, Zarate serves as the critical port for roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) and breakbulk cargo, while Buenos Aires and Rosario serve as the top container ports. Only two countries in South America are landlocked, Paraguay and Bolivia. 

Shippers and ocean carriers using the Port of Santos have been complaining about congestion and labor disputes at the port, and about politicization and time-consuming bureaucracy. That’s why it’s essential that shippers must have the latest information on traffic through these South American ports. Global freight forwarding companies in the area will have the newest information available to help you choose the right port of entry for your freight.

End-to-end supply chain visibility

Most online retailers and carriers understand that the sale is not complete until the product is delivered to the consumer. If merchandise is damaged during transport or arrives much later than promised, it reflects poorly on both parties and undermines consumer trust in ecommerce purchases. 

Lack of adequate infrastructure has forced many online retailers to put logistics on the back burner, focusing on the user experience through purchase. That’s why many products take weeks to arrive at the customer’s door, setting a bad precedent that must change. 

The South America trucking industry is highly fragmented, with providers ranging from owner-operators (about one-third of the industry) to sizable fleet operators and experienced freight forwarders who may not own any trucks at all, according to Tire Business newspaper. 

Final mile, LTL services paramount in South America

Once your product reaches port in South America and makes it through customs, how it gets delivered to the customer’s door can add extensive costs to your supply chain. Less than truckload (LTL) and final mile services are paramount to successfully operating in the region. Especially those carriers that can provide GPS freight tracking capabilities, such as C.H. Robinson’s Navisphere® technology

Final thoughts

Yes, there are obstacles to operating a supply chain in South American countries. Knowing the ins and outs of each country’s unique customs procedure, understanding which South American ports are best for your freight, and being able to track your shipments end-to-end will ensure your success in the region. Shippers who realize the potential of this “diamond in the rough” marketplace should work with a freight forwarder who will be extra focused and diligent in ensuring their freight moves quickly from customs fiscal warehouses to the final destinations. 

Enlist the aid of a global freight forwarding provider, like C.H. Robinson, who offers a global suite of services and has offices in the region that can help navigate any disruption in your supply chain.

Start the discussion with an expert in South America to accelerate your ecommerce trade. 

Goods

Is Your Supply Chain Prepared for Potential U.S. Tariffs on EU Goods?

Transatlantic tariffs came closer to reality in recent months after the United States Trade Representative (USTR) proposed tariffs on a list of products from the European Union (EU). 

Unfortunately, even if you’ve already gone through something similar with goods imported from China, the same strategy may not be effective for the tariffs on EU goods. This is due in large part to the types of proposed commodities from the EU.

The good news is there are things you can do today to adjust your import strategy to maintain compliance while insulating your company from the proposed tariffs.

Up to $25 billion worth of EU goods at stake

The USTR announcements in April and July proposed tariffs targeting up to $25 billion worth of goods. This includes items such as new aircraft and aircraft parts, foods ranging from seafood and meat to cheese and pasta, wine and whiskey, and even ceramics and cleaning chemicals. 

To date, the USTR has only provided a preliminary commodity list for the proposed U.S. tariffs on EU goods. No percentages have been announced, leaving many to wonder if the tariffs will be manageable—in the 5-10% range—or more substantial, like the 25% tariffs applied to China imports. 

On top of the tariffs, when the French Senate announced a 3% tax on revenue from digital services earned in France, President Trump threatened a counter-tax on French wine. But it’s unclear if this tax will come to fruition or fizzle out—especially since the USTR’s tariff list already includes many types of wine. 

5 key questions to insulate your supply chain

Looking for the best way to prepare your business from the potential tariff increases? Answering these key questions may help you adapt and insulate your company. 

-Do you have a plan to cover the costs? 

You may not be able to avoid paying the tariffs, but there are various strategies you may consider to help cover their costs. 

While not ideal, you could increase prices to end consumers. It may not be feasible to recover the entire cost of an added tariff, but you can at least offset a small portion of the tariff this way.

You can also adjust the cost of the goods with suppliers and manufacturers to cover a portion of the tariff. Just remember: pricing changes still need to meet the valuation regulations with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). 

-Will you need to increase your customs bond? 

The smallest customs bond an importer can hold is $50,000. That used to be enough for many importers to cover generally 10% of the duties and taxes you expect to pay CBP. 

Unfortunately, as many importers from China are learning, a 25% tariff on products can quickly exceed your bond amount. And bond insufficiency can shut down all your imports while resulting in delays and added expenses. 

To help avoid bond insufficiency, consider any increased duty amounts in advance of your next bond renewal period. And don’t wait to do this until the last minute, because raising your customs bond with your surety company can take up to four weeks. 

-Do you re-export goods brought into the U.S.? 

Duty drawback programs can’t be used by every importer. But if you can take advantage of them, they can result in big savings for your company.

In fact, you can get back 99% of certain import duties, taxes, and fees on imported goods that you re-export out of the U.S. Just be aware that you still need to pay the duties up front. And you might need to wait up to two years to get your refund. 

-Are your product classifications current and accurate?

With potential tariffs looming, consider reviewing your product classifications and make sure they’re accurate. If you find an issue, discuss it with your broker or customs counsel to discuss how you can properly rectify the issue, and avoid penalties from doing it incorrectly.

And while we’re on the topic of product classifications, never change them to evade tariffs. CBP will be on the lookout for this kind of activity, and the penalties for noncompliance can be steep.

-Do you have the support you need?

Changing your customs brokers may not sound appealing, but ensuring they provide all the services you need to stay compliant should be your top priority when working with them.

Your provider should help make sure you pay the appropriate duty rates for your products. And they should have people and services available globally to support your freight wherever it is located throughout the world. 

Also, consider simplifying your support by working with one provider that offers not only customs brokerage and trade compliance services but also global ocean and air freight logistics services. 

If you only employ one strategy…

Discuss your import strategy with your customs attorney or customs compliance expert. Bringing in specialized expertise is the most effective way to analyze how these tariffs could affect your products, your supply chain, and your business. 

If you don’t yet have a customs broker who can meet all your needs in today’s changing environment, consider C.H. Robinson’s customs compliance services. With over 100 licensed customs brokers in North America, and a Trusted Advisor® approach, our experts are ready to help.

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Ben Bidwell serves as the Director of U.S. Customs at  C.H. Robinson

lean supply chain

LEAN OR AGILE? FOR A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE IN THE SUPPLY CHAIN, THE ANSWER IS BOTH

Maintaining competitive advantage in the global logistics playing field is no easy task. There are hundreds of companies striving to earn the loyalty and business of global and domestic clients and the competition is becoming more intense with each passing day. Thanks to technology, companies are now able to take a step back and truly evaluate what structures make the most sense to meet customer demands in unpredictable markets.

Technology offering features such as predictive analytics are enabling logistics leaders to employ proactive measures for even the most complex of disruptions. However, readily available technology does not prove successful without careful consideration of the right platform and what supply chain management structure will meet the needs for specific company goals and customer demands. Company A might require a lean approach, while company B requires characteristics of both lean and agile supply chain structures. Before diving into which one benefits the most, it’s important to understand the differences between the two. 

An agile supply chain structure focuses heavily on layered benefits including visibility, predictability, and speed in terms of reaction times. Lean supply chain focuses on the most cost-effective options, ultimately reducing costs and recovering what’s been spent. Both are extremely important and attainable, but the trick is finding the right balance between the two while recruiting the best partners fit to support meeting the needs of customers. This element is critical in maintaining competitive advantage and ultimately makes or breaks customer relationships. 

“Everyone is striving to find that balance between having an agile supply chain and a lean supply chain because logistics and transportation costs fall to the bottom line,” explains Matt Castle, vice president, Global Forwarding Products and Services at C.H. Robinson. “These costs need to be recovered at some point in time, regardless of what business you’re in. There’s always going to be a focus on ensuring a lean supply chain in terms of cost and the economy, as well as how to find that balance of also maintaining flexibility based on the needs of the business. Having that agility can be a major differentiator in delivering on customer expectations.”

Castle adds: “Another question to think about is how to approach diversification in your supplier base. There can obviously be restraints based on a particular importer or exporter in terms of where they’re sourcing or buying product and availability, but I recommend ensuring you have an outlet from a secondary supplier. It’s worth the front-end legwork from a planning perspective to ensure you have a multitude of choices.”

The advantages of agile supply chain go far beyond mastering efficiencies or recovering costs and requires taking a holistic look at all the moving parts of your business. Implementing this type of approach relies heavily on planning and thinking differently in approaching the management of customer expectations while ensuring your business can offer a level of flexibility your competitors can’t offer. 

“When I think about an agile supply chain, I think about having flexibility—the ability to adapt at a quick pace, speed and the ability to recover from a certain level of uncertainty,” Castle says. “I believe it’s important to collaborate with a company that has a diverse portfolio of services. This is so businesses are able to adjust quickly from an ocean service to an air service, from an intermodal to a truckload, or even breaking down at a warehouse facility, LTL or small parcel.

“Having a provider that can seamlessly move from one product to the next is extremely important. It’s also important to ensure you’re engaging with a provider that has a global footprint. There are different scenarios playing out in different countries, so your ability to have a presence that can engage a global environment is critical.”

Any business implementing an agile supply chain approach must ensure supporting providers and partners are a good fit. Choosing the right third-party logistics provider can determine just how quickly your business can recover from an unpredictable situation and continue operations. Uncertainties cannot be completely eliminated, but they can be managed in a way that your business and customer relations do not suffer with the right partner. Without this, an agile supply chain structure is limited. 

“When thinking about uncertainty in the supply chain, having a third-party logistics provider that’s multimodal or that offers a variety of products allows you to seamlessly move from one product to the next,” Castle advises. “That is one of the best defenses against being able to navigate any level of uncertainty–from speeding up or slowing down products. It comes back to having some level of a global presence, as it’s something a lot of importers and exporters are trying to navigate today.”

Technology is equally important when aligning operations with an agile approach. This also requires careful consideration of what works in terms of what kind of products and the regions associated with operations. The technology needs to provide a level of visibility that enables your business to react to a variety of disruptors–from weather to policy, disruptions can come in different forms and require proactive, quick solutions to mitigate additional risks. 

“Put simply, it’s a matter of having product available–whatever your business may be, to either sell or have within the production cycle so that you’re not ending up with a plant shutdown,” Castle says. “An agile supply chain creates an opportunity to deliver product on the shelf that a competitor isn’t able to.”

“For C.H. Robinson, Navisphere is our technology platform. Managing any kind of supply chain is about how you bring visibility to what’s happening with the movement of your goods. What’s changing in terms of expectations around technology is how do you start to weave different factors in so that it starts to align with more predictive elements.”

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Matt Castle is vice president of Air Freight Products and Services at C.H. Robinson. He joined C.H. Robinson in 1996 and has 25+ years of experience in the transportation industry. Castle is responsible for driving growth through global airfreight product. He received his degree in Aviation Administration and Management from the University of North Dakota.

ecommerce

In the Push for Faster Ecommerce Deliveries, How Can Logistics Stay Agile?

Today’s consumer isn’t used to waiting. They expect to get whatever product they want, wherever they want it, as soon as possible.  Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in the world of ecommerce. Customers look forward to their online purchases arriving faster than ever – sometimes on the same day that they click “purchase.” And with drone doorstop delivery on the horizon, compressed delivery timelines show no sign of stopping anytime soon.

Faster ecommerce delivery has created revolutionary convenience for consumers, but it’s also generated major transportation hurdles for companies to overcome. As a result, companies that want to deliver ecommerce shipments at the speeds that customers expect need to consider how to adapt all elements of their supply chains.

Managing more intricate logistics

Some companies that raced in to capture an early share of ecommerce market struggled to keep up while also keeping costs down. But that’s to be expected with a more complex distribution model.

Instead of shipping mostly to stores, companies now must determine if their supply chains can quickly move orders to many consumers in many locations. To do this, they must be able to proactively coordinate shipments whether they’re on the ground, on the ocean or in the air. 

Companies can help manage this complexity by taking a more hands-on logistics approach. They should draw on a variety of services and resources, while remaining efficient and visible. 

Many shippers, for example, choose to work with a third-party logistics provider to help facilitate the intricate details of shipments, provide visibility, and help freight arrive in a timely manner. 

Fixed or Flexible?

One of the biggest decisions a company in the ecommerce market will make is how they balance their supply chain. 

For example, a supply chain that’s more focused on fixed infrastructure than the fluid movement of goods can lower a company’s costs in the long run but also make them less agile. While a service-heavy, asset-light supply chain can make a company more flexible but also raise their costs.

Some companies are drawing a line in the sand. Some online businesses, for example, are rejecting ecommerce’s expectation of immediacy. Instead, they’re building supply chains that prioritize volume over speed. 

This has pushed ecommerce sellers to start providing more shipping time options. But it’s still unclear whether having more choices will lead to consumers changing their delivery expectations.

In any case, ecommerce fulfillment encompasses several, often-contradictory considerations of time, cost, and transportation mode. To bring these factors together through informed decision making is a challenging undertaking. But it’s essential for any company that wants to compete as ecommerce continues to grow and its barrier to entry continues to fall. 

Taking the first steps

Data goes hand in hand with ecommerce, so it can be a good area for a company to make its first key investment. 

Specifically, advanced business intelligence and predictive data modeling help companies better understand and forecast consumer demand, and they can then adjust their supply chains accordingly. Through access to this data and integration with service information from their shippers, companies can better identify their priorities and decide where to invest resources. 

Those that don’t know where to start should also know they don’t have to make these big decisions on their own. Industry experts like C.H. Robinson can offer a clear perspective—based on their scale and local experts in offices around the globe—and will understand their specific ecommerce business needs and translate them into productive logistics solutions. 

 

Uncertainty in Today’s Air Market: What it Means for You

Reoccurring annual events, like the holiday season, typically bring predictability to air shipping. But lately, out of the ordinary events have disrupted the seasonality we typically expect. The best way to deal with the ever-changing peaks and valleys in air capacity throughout the year is to know both the historical patterns and potential air market disruptors.

The cyclical nature of air freight

Air freight service predictably follows the law of supply and demand. When shipping volumes spike, space on airlines becomes harder to secure and prices go up. And the opposite is true, too. If shipping volumes diminish, space on airlines becomes readily available and the prices go down.

As you might expect, the holiday peak season is one of the busiest shipping periods of the year around the world—including for air. But there are other seasonal surges to be aware of as well. The graphic below visually represents the seasonality of the air market in years’ past.

New disruptors to the air freight market

We’re just over halfway through 2019, and already it’s quite a different market than we’ve seen in the past. Several disruptors are causing a great deal of uncertainty.

Tariffs on Chinese goods

The ongoing trade war is one of the biggest disruptors to air shipping this year. Earlier tariff changes did not make a huge impact on air shipping. But demand for air freight shifted significantly when enough shippers preemptively repositioned inventory prior to the June 1, 2019, deadline. On May 31, 2019, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced the deadline would be extended to June 15, 2019.

Ecommerce and high-tech goods

With the growth of ecommerce and high-tech products flooding our markets, air freight is quickly becoming the go-to mode of transportation for many shippers—any time of year. Combined with the promise of two-day shipping, it’s often the only way to meet customer demands.

Adjust your air freight strategy based on the market

With air freight volumes lower than we’ve seen since the 2008 recession, now may be the ideal time to update your air freight shipping strategy.

Choosing air freight can be a strategic way to lower inventory levels in the United States. Finding a balance between inventory costs without sacrificing customer delivery expectations often requires expertise. The air experts at C.H. Robinson are available in offices around the globe to help manage your air freight and ensure any problems are resolved in real-time.

You may even consider that if air freight rates dip low enough, you could make up the difference (at least in part) of the added tariffs on Chinese goods.

The air freight market is a complex ecosystem that will likely remain uncertain for some time. While this uncertainty lasts, you may want to switch to a quarterly planning strategy to avoid a long-term commitment when you don’t know what’s coming.

What’s going to happen?

While inventories in the United States remain high, it’s likely that air shipping volumes will remain low. The best way to insulate your company and your relationships from today’s air market is to stay flexible. Adapt quickly to ensure you can take advantage of soft markets while still buying appropriately during peak seasons.

2019 Tariff Changes: Expectations and Supply Chain Strategies

If you’re currently navigating the impact of tariff changes as well as the potentially additional billions of dollars’ worth of tariffs on Chinese goods, we have the information you need to understand what’s changing—and just as important—what you can do about it.

What is a tariff?

In the United States, a tariff is a tax on imported goods. Tariffs are a major source of revenue and can promote/encourage domestic products.

How do tariffs work for section 301?

Tariffs can make trade with another country more costly. There are several types of tariffs, each with their own rules, but section 301 tariffs are based on a percentage of the item’s value. This is called an ad valorem tariff.

For example, plastic eyeglass cases in List 3 fall under the Harmonized Tariff Number 4202.32 1000, with the general rate of duty: 12.1 cent per kilo and 4.6% based on value. Now, with the Section 301 duties added in, there’s an additional 25% charge on top of the others. This simple product, which sells for less than $10 USD could be charged 29.6% plus 12.1 cents per kilo in tariffs.

What tariffs are changing?

Since we’ve previously covered the tariff changes from 2018, I won’t go into detail about them here. Instead, let’s focus on the most recent Section 301 trade actions that have taken place. There have been three major announcements regarding tariffs with China:

Section 301 List 3 tariffs

On May 9, 2019, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) formally announced Section 301 List 3 tariffs would increase to 25% from 10%, effective Friday, May 10, 2019. However, unique to how the Section 301 tariffs were previously implemented, this increase added some specific date criteria. The 10% tariff would still apply to goods exported prior to May 10, 2019, and entered into the United States before June 15, 2019. This was originally noted by the USTR as June 1, 2019, but updated on May 31 to extend an additional 15 days.

Proposed List 4 tariffs

In another major announcement, on May 13, 2019, the USTR published a notice requesting comments on a proposed List 4. The proposed fourth list of tariffs would impact about $300 billion USD in Chinese origin goods at a 25% tariff rate. This could go into effect as soon as late July or August 2019. If List 4 does go into effect, the Section 301 tariffs would cover over 96% of all U.S. imports from China. Public comments regarding List 4 are due into the USTR by June 17, 2019, when a public hearing will commence.

China’s tariffs on U.S. goods

These changes and proposals have not gone unnoticed by China. On May 13, 2019, the Chinese Government announced they will raise tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods. These increases in tariffs affect the three retaliatory tariff lists put into place by China in 2018, and raise the initial tariffs rates, depending upon the harmonized tariff code 10%, 20%, or 25%.

What do tariff changes mean for your supply chain?

At C.H. Robinson, we strive to be your Trusted Advisor® experts by providing you with information on matters affecting your supply chain. By leveraging data from 18 million shipments a year, we are able to deliver an information advantage to the over 200,000 companies that conduct business on our global platform, creating better outcomes for our customers, carriers, and employees.

That’s why we’ve recorded our top transportation, customs, and trade policy experts explaining the ongoing tariff changes. The discussion will help you understand:

-The current state of tariffs

-The impact on global and domestic transportation strategies

-What you can do right now

Watch the discussion and consider how you will manage potential disruptions to your supply chain as tariff developments continue to unfold.

Next steps

Done watching the video? If you would like more information or have questions about the information covered in the recording, please connect with one of our trade experts.

This blog originally appeared on chrobinson.com. Republished with permission.

The Trade War Latest: What Supply Chain Professionals Should Consider

With the May 10 increase in duty rates on certain Chinese-made imports—and China’s subsequent retaliation on U.S.-made goods—I think we can all safely agree the United States and China are in a fully-fledged trade war. So, in an atmosphere of uncertainty, what are the key elements supply chain professionals should consider to stay ahead?

Impacts to cash flow

Over the last six months, increasing duty rates from both countries have impacted cash flows in several ways.

For U.S. exporters (especially in agricultural products), China sales are down, resulting in cash flow constraints on the income side. For U.S. importers, duty payments have increased substantially on certain products, leading to much higher cash flow consumption on the cost side.

The old adage that two things move in transportation, goods and money, has never been truer than in today’s climate. As I’ve been discussing the latest tariff changes with importers, a few recurring questions seem to be on most companies’ minds:

-Will our supply chain be more impacted by the policy changes affecting China-to-U.S. freight or U.S.-to-China freight?

-What ripple effects will those impacts have on other areas of our business?

-Will we need to increase our U.S. customs bond?

At C.H. Robinson, we’re constantly monitoring the situation and communicating with our customers on potential consequences for their businesses. Because we’re a comprehensive third-party logistics (3PL) provider—offering customs brokerage and trade compliance services as well as global ocean and air freight logistics—we use our unique market perspective to see end-to-end impacts and help manage our customers’ complete supply chains in unpredictable times.

Will there be a surge of imports trying to beat List 4?

In late 2018, many U.S. importers pulled forward inventory in anticipation of potential tariff increases threatened for January 1, 2019. That threat was ultimately delayed until May 10, but talk of a next round of tariffs has already begun.

This new list of tariffs would be known as List 4 and would affect almost all currently unimpacted Chinese-made goods. That list still must make its way through a formal review process, but the new tariffs could be implemented as soon as late July or early August. Whether we will see importers again pull forward their inventory to try and beat potential duty increases remains to be seen.

Changing U.S. domestic freight flows

One of the repercussions of the U.S.-China trade war that has not received as much attention is the impact of the dispute on domestic freight patterns.

Indeed, the trade war has disrupted some U.S. trucking lanes, including an out-of-cycle surge in demand in Southern California related to the pull-forward of inventory in late 2018. Additionally, frozen pork and chicken, typically exported to China, has been routed to domestic cold storage instead, straining domestic refrigerated trucking capacity.

Now that the cost to import from China has increased, companies may find it cheaper to fulfill product with pre-tariff inventory from a warehouse 1,000 miles away (instead of new inventory assessed a 25% duty). As a result, several questions are beginning to emerge: Will companies in fact try to draw inventory from far-away domestic warehouses with lower landed costs? Will new suppliers require the establishment of new lanes? How would these shifts impact carrier networks that gain or lose freight? Only time will tell.

When will this trade war end?

Whether your company has been positively or negatively impacted by the trade war, uncertainty abounds; current policies and rules (in addition to new ones) may or may not be in effect six months, one year, or five years from now. Therefore, for many businesses, scenario planning increasingly appears to be essential:

-What will your company do if current tariff levels are maintained for one month? Three months? Six months? Longer?

-What will your company do if tariffs increase? Are you making any process adjustments now to prepare for such a possibility?

-How would your company react to an announcement of a deal ending the trade war?

As you plan, make sure to bring your transportation provider and customs broker into the conversation to assess the transportation costs of new lanes, new suppliers, and shifting regulatory and compliance concerns. With close collaboration, deep business intelligence, and proactive planning, providers and businesses can make the most of these unpredictable times by mitigating risk and finding opportunity.


This originally appeared on chrobinson.com. Republished with permission.