Successful businesses that import or export need a reliable supply chain. It is therefore essential that you choose a freight forwarder who can handle both your domestic and international shipping needs effectively and efficiently.

So, what should you look for when selecting a freight forwarder in the UK to meet your supply chain needs? Below are eight important factors to consider:

1 – What level of freight transport coverage does the company provide?

Any reputable freight forwarder will have extensive coverage to a wide range of destinations. A forwarder with these contacts will be able to provide you with high-quality service options and prices to meet your supply chain needs, whether you are moving part loads to China or full loads to Europe.

2 – Does the freight forwarder have an extensive network of international freight agents?

A network of international agents can help you avoid a number of difficulties associated with doing business if you are looking to import or export goods. Freight forwarders overseas agents offer local knowledge necessary to handle international shipments by understanding local business customs, languages, and cultural barriers.

3 – Does the freight forwarder belong to any trade associations or hold any accreditations?

Consider a freight forwarder who is a member of a trade association.  It is a strong sign that the company operates in an ethical manner and is in compliance with applicable legal requirements if it belongs to associations such as FIATA (International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations), BIFA (British International Freight Association) or IATA (International Air Transport Association).

The added benefit of being an AEO (Authorised Economic Operator) freight forwarder is the ability to take advantage of certain simplified customs procedures. The AEO status is an internationally recognised accreditation issued by customs. Holders of the status are considered to provide the most secure and efficient supply chain security standards.

4 – Expertise and experience are vital

In the case of a reputable, experienced freight forwarder, understanding and providing this information is second nature to them and they can provide you with advice on all that is required. Your chosen freight forwarder will help you determine the best deal for your shipment, advice on commodity codes, or ensure all the necessary documentation is in place to ensure smooth delivery of your goods. In the event that the goods you are transporting are a little more complex, such as those involving cold chain, dangerous or hazardous goods, look for a freight forwarder who has experience in these markets. In the end, as Einstein once said, “experience is the only source of knowledge”.

5 – Is the freight forwarder flexible?

If your chosen freight forwarder has knowledge and experience, as well as a strong network of agents and carriers, they should be able to offer flexibility for your shipments. No matter if you need to plan shipments around Chinese New Year or other cultural holidays, or if you are suddenly facing unforeseen circumstances such as port strikes, your ideal freight forwarder has the ability to provide alternative options to ensure your goods arrive at their destination.

6 – Is the freight forwarder able to provide value-added services?

If you’re seeking supply chain optimisation, wouldn’t it be preferable to have a one-stop-shop for all your logistical needs? In addition to handling air and sea transport, rail and road haulage, are freight forwarders capable of providing you with other services, like customs compliance or third party logistics? Utilising the same company to move your goods from point A to point B, as well as to deliver them to the final destination, permits a fluid and unified approach. You will also have the peace of mind that, at any point during the supply chain process, you will know who to contact for any questions or concerns that you may have.

7 – Levels of customer service

Any company can offer a service, but a good one invests time in building relationships and truly understanding your business needs. The foremost freight forwarders like Velta offer you a dedicated Client Relationship Manager (CRM) so that you only have to deal with one person for the whole supply chain process. There is complete visibility throughout the supply chain with a dedicated point of contact. In this way, the CRM will be aware of any issues that may arise and will be able to offer solutions to prevent delays in your supply chain, thus incurring additional costs as well.

8 – What technologies are available?

In order to have real-time visibility of your supply chain, hire a freight forwarder with real-time tracking systems.  With an online tracking system, you can quickly and easily access a wealth of information at any time.

If you’re tempted to use the service of the freight forwarder with the lowest rates, consider why they’re charging so little. Beware if it seems too good to be true! Although you might save money on initial costs, you’ll likely pay for delays, additional fees and poor customer service. Instead, look for a freight forwarder that offers a high-quality service at competitive rates for the ultimate supply chain service.