The best forwarders share certain qualities that set them apart in the logistics industry. While individual preferences may vary based on specific needs, here are some characteristics often associated with top-tier forwarders:
1. Of course PRICE
This is a given, but you actually will find that prices among the biggest forwarders will not vary a lot as pricing is relatively transparent for your volume. Here I would steer clear of the smaller forwarders that do quote ridiculous prices for local trucking or warehousing in China.
Responses and service level is critical. It doesn’t seem like it when you are just concerned with price but the saying goes – “you get what you pay for” does in some ways apply. Make sure the company you work with can do what they say they can do.
Obviously, if you do find a recommendation from someone in the industry or another business that has used their service.
For majority of your shipments, it may be smooth and simple however that will be times that you need a forwarder to be flexible or be able to provide other services. This is when a 3PL (Third Party Logistics Provider) may be of more use. They will have a large enough network to help you with warehousing, trucking, final delivery whereas a forwarder will only be able to assist with your freight.
Technology is critical, it means the forwarder or 3PL you are working with is forward thinking. It also means they are lowering transaction costs and trying to automate parts of shipping. This in turn means cost savings that can be passed back to you as a client. Also provides you with more timely updates and systems and processes that are clear and precise.
BUT this is nearly non-existent in logistics, so if you find one that does implement this then stick with them!
Their ability to execute. This of course you will only know after they have executed. But in general from their size, experience and other clients you can gauge their ability to execute.
7. KNOWLEDGE OF CUSTOMS, TAXES, REGULATIONS
Especially if you are doing international cargo and shipments. Customs is something that is very unpredictable. It may not be in the hands of your forwarder but their knowledge in these areas is something you have to rely on. So if they show this then is it definitely an advantage.
8. ABILITY TO HELP YOU GROW
You definitely want to grow your business, last thing you want is to babysit a shipper. So if you can see that they can provide all the services that you need NOT just today but also TOMORROW, then this is a big consideration. As your business will not stay as it is today.