When a small business chooses a logistics company to send its products to customers, it must take exports into consideration from the start. Even if at the moment all it does is supply the local market.

Such is the pace of globalisation, many entrepreneurs who never expected demand for their products from anywhere more than about 20 miles away are caught napping by unsolicited enquiries from the other side of the world, prompted by a casual reference on social media in Peru or someone in China stumbling on their website.

And that is when the choice of the local white van man as the sole delivery channel will suddenly look like a very bad decision.

If this seems like an unlikely scenario, look at the sources of the raw materials, components and services that you buy to create your products, says Ivo Aris, VP Europe Global Forwarding at global logistics provider C.H. Robinson. "Your organisation may not ship product across the globe, but chances are you source from other countries. And thanks to the internet, you are competing against companies halfway around the world. Because of this, it’s increasingly important to align with providers that have global expertise." Aris points out. "You may need to reach those global markets sooner than you think."


Using a global supplier


Signing up with a global supply network right at the start allows seamless expansion as export opportunities occur, without the need either to add other local networks to create a patchwork with many transfer points where goods can be lost or errors introduced. Or being forced to change the logistic provider entirely with the disruption that inevitably brings in its wake.

A global logistics supplier will have all the high tech and data networking you need, to ensure seamless transfer over borders and between transport modes including ships, trucks, rail and air cargo, while enabling you to track your valuable goods almost from moment to moment.

Each region of the world comes with its own nuances that only people in the area can truly understand

Sending stuff round the world is incredibly complex, Aris explains: "From beginning to end, it’s possible for a global supply chain to have as many as 30 different hand-offs. Even with a network managed by expert people in all the right regions, it’s impossible to track all of those events without technology."

Emergencies such as storms, earthquakes and conflict need to be handled by systems that are flexible enough to calculate new routes and redirect shipments on the fly.

Global supply chain specialists take care to establish worldwide data networks that simplify and track every consignment every step of the way, and it is this feature that is at the heart of their success. At C.R. Robinson, shipments are integrated into one single platform, a proprietary transportation management system (TMS) called Navisphere, a single instance platform that spans all countries and all shipments.

But they will also have a priceless asset that is often overlooked, Aris believes: people. "Each region of the world comes with its own nuances that only people in the area can truly understand. While technology offers a lot, people with local expertise can often do more. Working with a third party logistics provider that has boots on the ground in strategic markets can make a big difference in streamlining your supply chain."


The Brexit effect


The new focus on exporting to the world outside the European Union when the UK leaves the trading bloc means that it is more important than ever that small companies choose logistics suppliers that possess demonstrable global reach right at the beginning of their export push so they will not stumble later. "In light of the recent political climate, now more than ever shippers need globally aware supply chains," Aris says.