Going global isn't just a growth strategy for businesses these days. In fact, it's often a necessity to stay competitive. Cross-border trade introduces a whole host of challenges for suppliers and corporate buyers, from logistics to risk to compliance.
These hurdles have given rise to an interesting phenomenon in a culture of international competition: a spirit of collaboration.
Patrick Maley, CMO at supply chain solutions provider BluJay, told PYMNTS the concept of a community of business partners working together to tackle these issues is critical to the success of a company stepping onto the international stage.
In part, it's a response to rising demands for end-customers, whether that be a need for greater transparency into the location of a shipment, or better customer service even when service providers are spread out geographically.
“Multinational global organizations like Amazon and Uber and Alibaba are starting to shrink the globe from a market standpoint,” Maley explained. “They're creating new expectations. And what this has done, in the view of the supply chain, is created a cost of delay.”
Companies can no longer afford to be late adopters of technologies that can enhance their supply chain efficiencies, he explained. The cost of a delay in making a decision to act could mean lost business to a competitor that is agiler in terms of international expansion and supply chain management.
But agile supply chain management has become more complex than ever before now that partners across supply chains are similarly globalized. From freight shippers and fleet management to warehouse management, customs and regulatory compliance and beyond, the list of partners required to ensure a seamless global supply chain has grown — and so has the list of factors that can expose a trading partner to risk.
Compliance is an especially critical component of going global, Maley said.
“As companies gain more access to different markets, one thing we deal with is regulation, and compliance in different countries — that can be a huge challenge,” he noted.
Brexit is a prime example of this complexity. With the U.K. now renegotiating trade agreements with the rest of the world, trading partners either located in the U.K. or with supply chain partners there have to ensure they remain compliant with these sudden rule changes. Other risks can include lost merchandise, incorrect orders, trouble at customs or issues that arise if one of your trading partners unexpectedly shuts down.
This is where the concept of a supply chain community comes in. BluJay's platform connects all of these partners — freight forwarders, suppliers, support for compliance and everything in between — through a single portal, meaning businesses can more seamlessly connect to, and collaborate with, one another.
“Companies that aren't investing in this kind of ecosystem find themselves with supply chains that are very rigid,” said Maley. “They have individual partnerships with different providers and face more risk, especially overseas. If they lose a vendor, or if someone goes out of business, or if some kind of disaster happens, it's very difficult to adapt to the situation at hand.”
A community of service providers makes for a far more flexible supply chain, he continued.
“It makes reacting to things like what's happening down in Houston a lot quicker,” Maley noted. “It makes accessibility easier. You can adopt new partners to get goods from Point A to Point B.”
A single portal through which this community can be managed can also facilitate the flow of money throughout the supply chain, too. Maley noted BluJay supports automated auditing for services like freight shipments to ensure the thousands of invoices that can be linked to a single shipment are accurately aligned with what's actually being shipped, for example.
A flexible supply chain and access to a broad range of partners are key to successful trade. Equally as important, though, is the ability to be an early adopter of the technologies making it easier to track the transport of goods and money across borders. Maley said BluJay is looking closely at mobile solutions to further enhance the flexibility of supply chain management.
“We see a heavy influence in mobility on enhancing supply chain management,” he said, pointing to cameras on mobile devices that can scan barcodes to more accurately and quickly track the exact movement of a shipment. “We see the emergence of artificial intelligence within mobile platforms so customers can simply ask and be told about the location of a shipment.”
Mobile technology, Maley added, is helping to not only promote a flexible supply chain, but also to meet those higher standards corporates have when going global and staying competitive.
“Supply chain mobility is really changing the way we think about everything with regards to delivery and interacting with customers,” he said. “To me, it's a very exciting time.”