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Global Footprint Checkup: A Scorecard to Measure Success

global footprint

Global Footprint Checkup: A Scorecard to Measure Success

Modern business means global business and the fast-paced, competitive technology landscape demands technology OEMs have a global footprint capable of reaching new customer segments and global buyers. In fact, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), the global tech industry this year represents a $5 trillion opportunity for those manufacturers operating beyond their local markets to not only reach new customers, but also a wider selection of resources, expertise and innovation.

Establishing your organization’s global footprint is a key component in moving your globalization strategy forward. However, completing this step doesn’t mean your organization has completed or fully executed your global strategy. Establishing a foothold in the global marketplace is just one component of many in an OEM’s strategy to reach organizational supply chain goals. So, keep reading to see how your company measures up.

Your Global Footprint Scorecard

Once the initial groundwork has been laid, going global offers opportunities for expansion, optimization and even simplification. To assess how well your organization is doing, you’ll want to dive into a few critical areas and ask yourself these five questions along your global supply chain journey.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE – How customer-centric is your global supply chain?

All too often, OEMs focus internally-out when strategizing their expansion efforts rather than following one hard and fast rule that applies to all aspects of their business—you can never go wrong when you do what’s right for your customer. The same is true for your supply chain. It’s not about having the mindset that you’re simply delivering a product. It’s about giving your customers the ultimate experience wherever they are in the world. That means the right product or part at the right location, at the right time and at the right cost.

EXPERTISE – Have you established the right team of supply chain experts to support your current and future globalization needs?

The complexities introduced with such geographical expansion require a team that understands not just your products and customers, but the bigger picture of what you’re trying to accomplish. One of the greatest challenges in globalization is simply breaking out of what you already know and understand about your business domestically in order to think more broadly.

When you expand your operations globally, it means more than applying your current practices and simply shipping to an international address. As operations expand, it’s easy to overlook elements of your business that are vital to providing global markets with the same level of quality, service and speed currently delivered to domestic customers.

Additionally, if you have domestic challenges within management, manufacturing, supply chain or other core business areas, those are going to carry over into your new regions as well. That means ensuring you have the right team—or partner—to effectively handle all aspects of a global supply chain today and into the future.

OPERATIONS – Is your company still spending time and resources on basics like order taking, invoicing, procurement and warehousing?

This really comes down to whether you’ve been able to offload some of the more mundane supply chain tasks—say to a global distribution expert—allowing your staff to focus on what really moves the needle for your organization: continuing to innovate and deliver market-leading solutions to your customers. It’s a classic case of focusing on what you do best and letting others handle what’s left to drive greater business outcomes all around.

FLEXIBILITY – What ability do you have to flex up and down to meet changing regional market demands?

Whether you’re breaking into the global market or already established internationally and looking to expand, ensuring the right distribution model and footprint with the ability to expand as needed is critical. Markets change and demand fluctuates, which means your supply chain needs to have the same level of flexibility. If not, it might be time to leverage a supply chain partner that can.

ANALYTICS – Have you been able to incorporate real-time visibility into at least some parts of your global supply chain?

An international presence is often necessary to meet your customers’ demands. But to ensure success, one of the most important first steps is to identify your specific supply chain goals and what that success might look like down the road, which can vary from OEM to OEM.

Going global is not a one-size-fits-all undertaking. For example, are your service level targets going to be the same for abroad as they are domestically? If so, is that going to be enough to compete with local competitors that already have a foothold in your target regions? And ultimately, what triggers will signal global footprint achievement? These metrics will form your ongoing checkpoints to gauge your progress along the way but only if you are able to incorporate some level of data analytics and real-time visibility across your supply chain, a critical aspect of any globalization effort.

If you checked less than three of these boxes, you could be on the right path, but may benefit from the help of a global supply chain management expert who specializes in identifying the gaps and the best possible solutions to get you back on track. For example, the right partner can provide a single, easy-to-use portal into your international supply chain providing you with the real-time data required for course correction. Beyond providing an instant global distribution footprint, they can also give you the cultural expertise and guidance required in each region, including everything from language barriers to local regulations and tax implications.

If you checked more than three boxes, congratulations! You’re on your way to new levels of growth and success, confirming a global footprint was the right step for your organization. The key now is staying on course and revisiting this checklist again down the road to ensure further progress in the right direction.

On the surface, the idea of globalization seems simple—you want to sell your products to customers outside of your country’s borders. In practice, globalization is a complex set of initiatives, processes, management structures, communication streams, workflows, physical locations and more. All of which require checks and balances to ensure you’re achieving your initial goals. Whether you go at it alone or alongside proven partners who can help you avoid the pitfalls, don’t forget to check in along the way and adjust accordingly for success.

Jay Fraze serves as the Director of Supply Chain Management Services within Global Lifecycle Management, a specialized solutions business at Tech Data.

How to Avoid Bottlenecks in Your Global Operations

You can’t just turn around a giant cargo ship. Even at some of the world’s best supply chains, redirecting chemicals and other products is a Herculean effort. And when shipping to volatile countries, it becomes even harder. For U.S. companies with global operations, one of the most effective ways to mitigate risk is to ship smarter.

In the current political climate, U.S. companies should be looking to partner with more stable countries where tariff changes aren’t expected. Take the Netherlands, for example. In 2017, the U.S. had a trade surplus of $24.5 billion.

I’ve been in supply chain management for more than a decade now. Supply chain flow has a lot of one-way check valves. Once cargo has shipped, there are no “backsies.” This is why supply chain managers are always stressing over demand forecasts — something that tops the list of most critical inventory management practices. And considering that our international tariff laws have been more dynamic in the past three years, shipping U.S. goods is more complex than it used to be.

Shipping Overseas

Anyone who has shipped freight by air or sea can attest to the fact that international shipping is complex — in no small part because of the rules and regulations around certain goods. Hazardous materials, obviously, can pose some problems. So can live cultures, a number of metals, and even telecommunication devices.

But it isn’t just international law that complicates matters. Everything from custom duties to cargo inspections can create bottlenecks within the supply chain. If even one item in a container is flagged, it could stop an entire ship’s worth of containers from making it past the terminal gates. It could then be held until a more thorough inspection can be made, which can come with an additional expense.

Complicating matters further, some countries will hold U.S. shipments for the sole reason that they’re coming from America. And in countries like Saudi Arabia, every container must go through inspection. Needless to say, these situations can add a significant amount of time to your shipment, creating inefficiencies in the supply chain that can sometimes be the equivalent of an additional tariff on your goods.

Being a former geo-marketing manager, I can tell you that a global view of operations can help you appreciate the people and logistics necessary to get goods from one location to another. It takes a great deal of coordination — and a great number of trucks, ships, and planes — to keep a supply chain running smoothly.

That’s why it’s so important to have some level of global operations knowledge as a U.S. supply chain professional. It can help you identify the potential “watering holes” of many products you need to buy for your operations. After all, the more you know about an item’s origin — and what it takes to get it to your warehouse — the easier it becomes to identify any middlemen that might be artificially elevating the price of goods.

This isn’t to say you should avoid international sources for goods. On the contrary, you should be exploring all your procurement options globally, nationally, and locally. Maybe you wouldn’t need to consider upheaving your operations and relocating your warehouse as a result of shifting trade patterns, like 48% of supply chain and transportation executives are doing now.

Getting a Global Perspective

The question then remains: What should U.S. manufacturers do to better understand global supply chain operations when exporting goods abroad? The following strategies should get you started:

Travel. To find the best prices for raw materials and the cheapest places to manufacture goods, the most logical answer is to travel. Knowing the origins of your raw materials can provide you with greater appreciation for the effort necessary to get an item to the production line. It also helps put the importance of quality in perspective. You understand why everything can’t be scrapped and reworked on a whim.

Study the local competition. Business is extremely competitive. The more you understand about local competitors, the easier it is to respond to changes. The U.S. e-commerce market has grown to $561 billion, making it the second-largest in the world. It didn’t take my first boss long to realize the value consumers place on U.S. brands, as they are willing to pay a premium for these goods — even over local ones.

Ask about tax reassessment and international ‘doing business as’ discounts.Many countries offer incentives for U.S. companies to do business in their lands. Free Trade Agreementsmake it much easier and cheaper to export goods to myriad foreign markets. The only problem: Most U.S. manufacturers never inquire about discounts on port duties or refunds for certain sales. Look at national government incentives for doing business in other countries.


Secure backup buyers. Regime changes, political turmoil, and bankruptcy are just a few events that can affect sales. In case your first buyer cannot purchase your goods, you need a backup buyer. Even at a price reduction, you salvage quarterly net income. To avoid tariffs on Chinese goods, companies bought all sorts of goods towards the end of last year. By February, all that changed. U.S. ocean imports fell 4.5%, and overall U.S. imports from China dropped 9.9%.

Chances are that the supply chain will become more central — and more global — to everything. In fact, activities associated with transportation and logistics account for anywhere between 10% and 12% of global GDP. As imports and exports ebb, it could disrupt not only the U.S. economy, but also the global one. But if you get to know the local competition, leverage business incentives from other countries, and take the time to formulate contingency plans for fluctuating demands, you’re more likely to weather the next storm.

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Ali Hasan R. is the co-founder and CEO of ThroughPut Inc., the artificial intelligence supply chain pioneer that enables companies to detect, prioritize, and alleviate dynamic operational bottlenecks. Ali’s unique experiences in onshore and offshore supply chain management in the United States, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bahrain, and Yemen have produced results for customers’ ongoing work, which is now featured at some of the world’s most recognized brands.

The Relationship Between Technology & Intermodal Capacity

In a world where operations don’t have an option to slow down, capacity concerns are issues that will always be a burden in the back of any operator’s mind. Whether you’re running a rail, port or even distribution center, capacity options are vital to keeping operations running–and efficiently. The last thing you want to see is a competitor taking the business you could’ve easily handled, but didn’t, all due to capacity restraints. Even worse, capacity restraints you didn’t anticipate, leaving your company seeming to look unprepared. Not only that, it ultimately tells prospective, lifelong customers that proactivity doesn’t exist in the company strategy and day-to-day operations. Proactivity is equally important as visibility.

These two features are complementing elements to operational success, but it’s nearly impossible to tap into their potential the old-fashioned way. The good news is there are options in the form of technology and innovation that stay one step ahead of you–meaning you have a system completely capable of updating you on what’s going on and what needs to be addressed, all at the click of a button while taking the stress off you. Insight given from leaders in transportation all share a common theme: visibility is key.

“There is not any difference in the requirements for [handling] truckload versus intermodal in today’s market,” InTek Freight and Logistics President Shelli Austin recently told Intermodal Insights. “It’s now falling into the need for visibility and on-time service. Before, it was the deferred ‘it will get there when it gets there’ type of freight. All successful 3PLs need to have the same real-time information for intermodal that they do for [over-the-road] freight.”

“3PLs are being asked to do more multi-leg management, particularly of drayage at both origin and destination,” says Tommy Barnes, president of project44, which bills itself as the world’s leading advanced visibility platform for 3PLs and shippers. “It is a little bit harder, but they are providing a lot more value to customers.”

Automation continues to make news headlines with its unmatched ability to seamlessly connect almost every aspect of each industry, including intermodal transportation. The main takeaway from automation integration is the level of visibility and connectivity provided among workers and companies that partner for the bigger picture. This shows customers the level of expertise and preparedness your company provides for their needs, ultimately creating competitive advantage and ensuring business keeps moving. The theme of the solution in demand is an increase in more accurate information.

“The key technology for the intermodal product is the ability to capture real-time drayage information at pickup and delivery,” Austin noted in the article. “It is easy to get the information once the container is in the possession of the rail lines. The challenge is grabbing the information from all the different truckers that can and will be used to create capacity for these moves.”

With that being said, blockchain technology continues to provide the solutions, information and visibility necessary for providers and terminal operators to ensure the measures needed are in place to avoid operational hiccups such as terminal overload and miscommunication.

More recently, Kalmar Global announced how it would provide its SmartPower rubber-tyred gantry cranes (RTGs) to Norfolk Southern in an effort to extend capacity efforts through its integrated system.

Norfolk serves as a transportation industry leader, boasting 19,500 route miles in 23 states. The company can also brag about an extensive network at every major container port in the eastern United States. Kalmar’s SmartPower RTGs were specifically chosen to improve capacity at Norfolk’s intermodal terminals in Chicago and Rossville in Memphis, Tennessee.

“We are very pleased to be able to continue our collaboration with Norfolk Southern and to support them with the optimization of their intermodal operations,” says Troy Thompson, vice president of Sales at Kalmar Americas. “The proven Kalmar SmartPower RTG provides the perfect balance between productivity and cost efficiency in a variety of container-handling applications.”

Whether it’s partnering with a company that knows what it takes to keep capacity issues minimal or implementing a technology platform—or both—the bottom line is to ensure visibility, ability and operations are not compromised. In a C.H. Robinson blog, author Phil Shook, the director of Intermodal, explains that intermodal shipping will play a role in driving business growth for American railroads, citing that “the 70 intermodal ramps continue to expand.” With this expansion will nonetheless come capacity concerns, providing even more of a reason to invest in automated technology that can keep up with rapid expansion and demand without falling behind.

In his post, Shook makes a fantastic consideration by adding that, “Knowing exactly where a shipment is in transit has quickly become the expectation rather than exception. Companies and consumers expect near real-time notifications about every step of a product’s journey—including facility and town names. And just like the truckload sector, intermodal providers are working hard to deliver.”

This snippet from his blog reiterates the need for an uncompromising level of knowledge from when and where the next load is going. Because the market and its ever-evolving nature continues more demand, it’s imperative to invest in an all-in-one transportation management system that goes beyond what an average TMS provides. Why? Your business simply cannot afford to not have a reliable TMS in place. If you’re lucky enough to find a provider that can not only provide a robust TMS but also integrate new levels of technology, even better, albeit difficult to come across.

Beyond your company’s terminal capacity management, technology integration is now the new standard to global operations. Customer demands will continue to rise, at times becoming more complex and challenging than before. Consider the missing elements in your operations strategy that ultimately hinder providing the very best to customers. Additionally, don’t forget to thoroughly educate and inform employees of changes to come, showing them how to work smarter and not harder. Through this level of anticipation, proactivity and integration, you will foster an environment that motivates instead of overwhelming.