Supply Chain

Global Trade Excellence ... A Journey in Constant Improvement

Ned Blinick

April 13, 2017

Last week I wrote a blog entitled "Getting to Global Trade Excellence" and the number of people who clicked on the link was really amazing. It obviously hit a nerve and I certainly hope it provided valuable insight.Because of the response, I thought it would be worthwhile to talk about what is needed to be excellent. I believe that "excellence" is a moving target. It is subjective and aspirational and never really achievable in the abstract. In the real world, excellence is often measured against some objective criteria at a point in time; such as industry benchmarks, analyst research, consultant experience, and therefore can be reached, if only for the moment.Whenever a company or organization looks at improvement (whether large or small), they do it with the intention of enhancing their current processes. If the improvement is done in consideration of a strategy of excellence, it can be plotted on the company's roadmap to excellence (either intentional or not). If the improvement is done tactically there is probably not much thought given to organizational excellence.In last week's blog, I wrote about the 6 key elements that were necessary to achieve Global Trade Excellence - Desire, Leadership, Talent, Time, Effort, and Tools. In the section on Desire, I wrote that excellence manifests itself as a striving for "constant improvement and stretching corporately or personally to achieve better". Implicit in this statement is that excellence is never really attained, it is not a destination but it is a journey.For each company, the journey to global trade excellence is unique. Each company has its current processes and capabilities. Some are more sophisticated in the combination of tools and processes they implement. Others are early on in the evolution of managing global trade. What all companies share is the fact that they can improve the way they do global trade and derive greater benefit.Donald Rumsfeld, President George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense came up with the now very famous quote (though not totally original), "we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones."Applying Rumsfeld's comment to achieving global trade excellence at any point in time we know what we do and we have a rationale for doing it. But we also know that how we do global trade can be improved, although we might not understand or know what it is or how it can be attained. And then there are things that we have no idea are happening or are going to happen that will require the way we do global trade to change. Because change is constant, how we respond and the processes we put in place to manage change most effectively and efficiently determines the level of excellence at any point in time. And because change is constant achieving excellence requires constant adaptation to change.

Steps to Global Trade Excellence Improvement

  1. Organizational Awareness - This is where you "know the knowns". You know what works and what can be improved in managing the global supply chain. The company can do its own assessment of how it can manage its global trade better and the benefits that it can achieve. It requires time, effort, and leadership to critique the current processes and outline why and how things can be improved. It may also start the journey to understand what is unknown about the way the company manages its global trade. This might come from internal research, external discussion with peers or consultants or dialoguing with solution providers.
  2. Organizational Willingness to Change - Recognizing that excellence is an elusive goal is a critical first step. Because of that, the path to achieving excellence requires that individuals and organization embrace change. By extension, because excellence is a constantly moving target, it requires individuals and organizations to constantly embrace reviewing and altering current practices and processes to improve the way work is done and results are achieved. If the attainment of global trade excellence is the objective of the organization then the changes implemented must be looked at holistically. The functions of the global business must all be aligned to the over-arching trade objectives. Each specific area must, in turn, align its processes to achieve the greatest effectiveness and efficiency while synchronizing its efforts with the other functional areas.
  3. Organizational Resources for Global Trade Excellence - Without question excellence begins with people. The organization needs people that are talented, dedicated and motivated and have the understanding and skills in global trade. It requires leadership that understands that excellence is achievable, if an elusive objective, and encourages its team to constantly strive to be better.

A Final Thought on Achieving Global Trade Excellence

To achieve excellence the people require the right tools to support the work and the process surrounding that work. Global Trade is highly complex and requires the orchestration of many 3rd party actors (Suppliers, Carriers, Freight Forwarders, Customs Brokers, Drayage Companies, and Warehouses) and internal stakeholders (Product Management, Purchasing, Sourcing, Sales, Logistics, Trade Compliance, Legal, Finance). To do this effectively requires solutions. With any volume in global trade, there is a strong case for automation solutions. Today, there is a relatively large selection for the importer/exporter to choose from to support any aspect of their global trade.However, to achieve excellence in global trade it is really important to have a solution that maps to your view of what excellence looks like. It is really important to be supported by a solution provider that can help you extend excellence by explaining to you your known unknowns and be responsive to the organization's needs when the unknown unknowns present themselves.About 3rdwave:

3rdwave simplifies global trade through automation. 3rdwave is a GTM platform that delivers total global supply chain visibility, minimizes manual data entry, streamlines business process, and provides contextual information enabling its users to make informed decisions to reduce global supply chain risk. It's a cloud-based platform that requires minimal IT resources for quick implementation. 3rdwave ensures that companies meet the highest levels of GTM execution and Trade Compliance conformance.

Ned Blinick is Chief Product Officer of 3rdwave.co. He has been involved in global trade for too many decades and he loves making the global supply chain simpler for everyone. If you would like to engage with Ned he would really enjoy the opportunity of communicating with you or your boss. He can be reached at (416) 510 8800 ext 234 or at edward.blinick@3rdwave.co.