Wednesday, 30 November 2016

UK importers - 4 reasons you should seriously consider engaging a logistics consultancy




Afternoon All

Here's something well worth reading, especially as it is so well put and dispels a lot of the myths/concerns about appointing an external source of expertise.

It's written from a generalist perspective on any consultant, but I think it's particularly relevant to logistics, particularly as regards market knowledge, an objective viewpoint and actually getting the job done.

With everything that's happened following the BREXIT referendum, most notably the 20% fall in the value of sterling against the USD and EURO, which, for importers, is destroying their margins and causing them to have to raise their prices (and potentially lose customers) this is even more relevant.

If you can work with a consultancy who are true experts in their field and can deliver a real and measurable return on investment, now would would be a good time to act. 


I should add that we do operate using a gain share fee model for our freight review product and customers seem to like not only the financial savings but also the benefits of a refreshed, more responsive and robust supply chain model. The testimonials speak for themselves!

Our latest customer testimonials






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If you're looking to improve your supply chain, you may have considered using the services of a logistics consultant. You might be worried, though, about whether it will be worth the cost or bring any real benefits to your business. Here are some reasons to seriously consider using a consultant.

Product Knowledge

Working with a logistics consultant who has a broad knowledge base and experience working through similar issues to those you are experiencing brings a number of advantages to your team.

You'll probably have received loads of literature from sales people, for example, telling how great their products are, but how can you possibly choose between them? An independent logistics consultant is not selling products and does not get any financial incentives from the products they specify, therefore they can give objective advice.

A project run internally can often get sidetracked by everyday management issues. Bringing in a consultant who can focus on delivering results will ensure that the goals are achieved quicker.

Consultancy does not need to take project ownership away from the management. However, as long as management is clear about its objectives and is able to select, direct and manage the consultants carefully, real added value can be seen.

When Should I Use a Consultant?

All organisations at some time reach a point when they are aware that they could be doing things better or differently. It may be one or several areas of the operations that are not achieving their goal or not functioning as efficiently as they might.

The main reasons for using consultants usually focus around:

o Complexity
o Timescales
o Expertise
o Resources


Efficient Staffing

The issue or problem may be short-term. To manage the change effectively and maximize the benefits will require an intense effort, potentially jeopardizing the performance of the rest of the operation. Permanently increasing the headcount to handle a short-term project will increase operating expenses. A consultant can assist in managing the change until the introduction is complete and the operation has stabilized.

Often specialist knowledge exists within the company but a secondment cannot be arranged in the required time frame. Consultants are ideally suited to providing the skills that are not available from permanent staff.

Decisions which result in a large change or financial commitment from the company will frequently involve consultants to review any analysis before a decision is made. An outsider can ensure that an objective approach and attitude are taken and that all potential alternatives are known and explored. Often the consultant will know of additional alternatives which were not even considered previously. At other times just having the consultant confirm competent and thorough analysis can add additional weight to the business case.

If a project has lost momentum or is not delivering the expected results a consultant can quickly provide the input required to get it back on track.

Working With a Logistics Consultant

The use of consultants is unlikely to bring benefits if you dismiss the consultants' involvement as an expensive distraction from everyday operations. However, if you chose the right consultant or consultancy, clearly define the project objectives, provide the consultants with the information they require and set aside time to review progress and buy into their ideas, the benefits will be seen.


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If you read through that and found yourself agreeing with the article, then don't let the moment pass, just make contact (preferably with ourselves!) and I am sure that, provided you select a professional company, you will be so glad you took action, and so will your customers, colleagues and your bottom line.


Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched his own logistics consultancy, Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, working for companies such as DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles. 


Andy was part of the judging panel for the 2016 Global Freight Awards, his second year in this prestigious role. The awards recognize quality, innovation and performance in the field of international logistics.
Andy felt that in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support day-to-day. 


Monday, 7 November 2016

UK importers - is the strong dollar giving you a headache?

Since the BREXIT vote, Sterling has fallen against the dollar by around 20%, which is a huge drop, especially if you are one of the 220,000 importers here in the UK. Given that most companies who source from outside the EU are buying from Asia or the USA, their suppliers are most likely selling to them in USD.
Understandably, most importers watch the sterling exchange rate with the USD like a hawk, and sometimes even buy forward, fixing the exchange rate to protect themselves against negative swings which is prudent, although of course it's hard to know how much to buy forward when you don't have a crystal ball...!
Although we monitor exchange rates each day in our business here at SCL, and we saw the rapid fall from circa USD 1.50 pre-referendum to around USD 1.30 shortly afterwards (and recently down to USD 1.20) it seems the public and media have only just realized that the weak pound will have a marked inflationary effect and so almost every day now, we see reports talking about the impact on UK inflation, and we see clear examples, such as petrol prices rising sharply, or talk about Apple jacking up the price of their latest Macbook to compensate for the weak pound.
To be honest, when I see these reports, I wonder whether senior management within these importers also realize that their freight costs, be that air or ocean, are also priced in USD, and so not only are their product prices rising, their freight costs are rising by 20% also. Furthermore, as import duty is based on the "built-up value", consisting of several elements, this includes freight costs and so import duty costs are also increased.
We've been trading since 2009 and we know the freight and logistics marketplace pretty well, and when we review a customers import traffic, we focus on several things.
  • Review the service levels to ensure they match the customers' needs
  • Assess freight costs and whether they are market competitive
  • Is the information flowing to the right stakeholders
  • Are the customers' shipments being correctly declared to Customs (duty could also be over-declared)
  • Is the pricing stable
The telling thing is that over the last 7 years, we have measured an average 35% freight cost saving across all the freight reviews we have carried out, and this is usually a shock (and also a pleasant surprise) for the customer. The reason is two-fold - we know what to look for when reviewing a customers' current logistics model - and we have strong partnerships with logistics providers who are competitive and reliable.
So, before you reach a decision about raising your UK selling prices, do yourself a favour and just make sure that your freight and duty costs are competitive, as you may preserve some margin, retain the customer or even give yourself an edge against your competitors who knee jerked into a large price rise - and still took a hit on their margins! As a consequence, you may also find that you are wasting money on a service which actually doesn't even meet your current needs.
So, just some advice really, business is hard enough as it is so just make sure you look at everything before you do raise prices and you'll not only be a leaner business, you'll also be better prepared if the business environment gets tough in 2017.
If you take a look at our customer testimonials, I am sure you will be impressed, companies large and small rate us highly and our very first client from 2010 is still on board today. I have also been a panel judge at the Lloyds Global Freight Awards for 2 years so we're known as industry and market experts.
Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched his own logistics consultancy, Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, working for companies such as DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles. 
Andy was part of the judging panel for the 2016 Global Freight Awards, his second year in this prestigious role. The awards recognize quality, innovation and performance in the field of international logistics.
Andy felt that in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support day-to-day. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

Hanjin Shipping saga continues - Federal judge paves way to arrest of off-charter Hanjin ships in US waters

Good afternoon All

Some more information regarding Hanjin and the knock on effects of its bankruptcy which was first announced on 31-Aug, over a month ago.

I really feel for customers who, for whatever reason, have been unable to take delivery of their cargo and in some ways I am also a little puzzled, as we resolved issues with our customers really swiftly.

As soon as we heard the news on 31-Aug, we ascertained that two of our customers were affected and had a clear plan to have the cargo released by arranging payment of significant deposits and there were no delays to deliveries as we made these plans before vessel arrival.

I suppose it also depends on the stance taken by the relevant ports however surely a port has a much stronger lever on payment of outstanding debts of the ship is allowed to dock.

Either way, it shows how unpredictable international logistics can be, and how it's always useful to have someone on side who can cut through the jargon and who has real influence with logistics providers. 

USA Journal Of Commerce Hanjin Story


Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, having worked for leading logistics providers including DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles. He has a unique understanding of this area and uses his knowledge and networks to dramatically improve landed cost, service and Customs compliance.

Andy felt that, in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support each day.

Please do visit our website here




Tuesday, 27 September 2016

SOLAS Container Weighing Regulations - Authorities Signal End To "Light Touch" Approach

Good afternoon All

If you recall we posted a few articles here on our blog and on LinkedIn ahead of the new SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) container weighing regulations which came into effect on 1-Jul-16.


Our article on SOLAS from July

During the first 3 months the shipping lines and port operators signalled that they would adopt a light touch approach to the new laws so that exporters (and all in the supply chain) had a chance to adjust their procedures so that international trade was not disrupted.

A reasonable stance by the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) who brought about the new SOLAS regulations however we're now a few days away from a firm approach on compliance, so that means no VGM (Verified Gross Mass) declaration, and the container will be rejected. Of course some ports around the world (eg DP World at Southampton, UK) are providing weighing facilities at the port which helps immensely, but for those that don't this change to 100% compliance may see some disruption for those exporters/forwarders who haven't taken SOLAS seriously.


Lloyds Loading List Article

Time for you to check whether you, if you're an exporter are compliant, and the same applies if you're an importer - is your supplier compliant? If not, you may see delays if containers are rejected.


Kind Regards



Andy Cliff



Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, having worked for leading logistics providers including DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles. He has a unique understanding of this area and uses his knowledge and networks to dramatically improve landed cost, service and Customs compliance.

Want to learn more about what we do? Please visit our website here


Andy felt that, in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support each day.



Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Latest update on Hanjin bankruptcy - US court gives go ahead to unload Hanjin vessels

Good afternoon All

The collapse of Hanjin is causing serious disruption for many importers and exporters as you may have seen on the news and our last blog post gives an in depth overview of the situation since the news last Wed 31-Aug.


We’ve just heard of some very welcome news as below.


Below please see our last blog post from yesterday with full background story.

If you import or export by ocean freight, be that LCL or FCL, you may be affected by the news that Hanjin Shipping filed for bankruptcy last Wednesday 31-Aug. Hanjin are number 7 globally so this is big news. Here's an excerpt from our LinkedIn post from last  Wednesday and we immediately wrote to forwarders involved with our customers' ocean freight movements to ascertain the exposure. I am pleased to advise that we have limited exposure and for any shipments which are caught up in this, we learned today that several LCL shipments in consolidated containers are already released so we're very satisfied with this outcome of course.

"Top 10 shipping line Hanjin files for bankruptcy after failing to secure USD 450 million cash injection. All goes to show that times are tough in the global container market, especially in the fiercely competitive Asia-Europe trade. Time to check if your freight forwarder has any cargo moving via Hanjin as creditors may seize vessels and ports may refuse to accept Hanjin vessels which may then make it difficult to take delivery of your containers/shipments. Contact your forwarder now to see if you're affected, and if so what they're doing to facilitate release"

Please be aware that your cargo could be caught up in this even if your full containers (FCL) or part containers (LCL) are moving on other shipping lines - why? Because it's common for shipping lines to share space on each others vessels. For example, you could have a shipment booked on a Hanjin contract but moving on K-Line or Yang Ming so either way, the cargo will get caught up in the bankruptcy. So what could happen? What we're hearing is that global ports are refusing to handle Hanjin ships as for example, they may be owed money for berthing and unloading charges and want to recover money whilst they have some leverage. I suggest the first thing you should do is contact your freight forwarder / logistics provider to assess what exposure you actually have - and then get a clear statement on their recovery plans.



Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, having worked for leading logistics providers including DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles. He has a unique understanding of this area and uses his knowledge and networks to dramatically improve landed cost, service and Customs compliance.

Please do visit our website here

Andy felt that, in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support each day.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Hanjin Shipping bankruptcy - are you affected? Time to take action.

Good afternoon All

If you import or export by ocean freight, be that LCL or FCL, you may be affected by the news that Hanjin Shipping filed for bankruptcy last Wednesday 31-Aug. 

Hanjin are number 7 globally so this is big news. Here's an excerpt from our LinkedIn post from last Wednesday and we immediately wrote to forwarders involved with our customers' ocean freight movements to ascertain the exposure. 


"Top 10 shipping line Hanjin files for bankruptcy after failing to secure USD 450 million cash injection. All goes to show that times are tough in the global container market, especially in the fiercely competitive Asia-Europe trade. Time to check if your freight forwarder has any cargo moving via Hanjin as creditors may seize vessels and ports may refuse to accept Hanjin vessels which may then make it difficult to take delivery of your containers/shipments. Contact your forwarder now to see if you're affected, and if so what they're doing to facilitate release.

Lloyds Loading List article here


I am pleased to advise that we actually had limited exposure and for any customers' shipments which are caught up in this, we learned today that several LCL shipments in consolidated containers are already released so we're very satisfied with this outcome of course. You should not assume however that every freight forwarder will adopt the same approach or be able to get their containers released. 

In our case, the forwarder made a commercial decision and paid an extra USD 3000 to secure release from the port. It was a wise commercial move as they will most likely recover the money down the line but it means their customers are not faced with delays or extra costs and they showed leadership.

Please be aware that your cargo could be caught up in this even if your full containers (FCL) or part containers (LCL) are moving on other shipping lines - why? 
Because it's common for shipping lines to share space on each other's vessels. For example, you could have a shipment booked on a Hanjin contract but moving on K-Line or Yang Ming so either way, the cargo will get caught up in the bankruptcy. 

So what could happen? What we're hearing is that global ports are refusing to handle Hanjin ships as for example, they may be owed money for berthing and unloading charges and want to recover money whilst they have some leverage. 

I suggest the first thing you should do is contact your freight forwarder / logistics provider to assess what exposure you actually have - and then get a clear statement on their recovery plans.

Good luck and let me know how you get on.

Kind Regards



Andy Cliff


Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, having worked for leading logistics providers including DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles. He has a unique understanding of this area and uses his knowledge and networks to dramatically improve landed cost, service and Customs compliance.

Please do visit our website here


Andy felt that, in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support each day.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Going the extra mile - sure about that?

I realized something the other day about this time of year, when companies see their staff taking the bulk of their holidays between Jul and September to take advantage of the school summer break, and leaving departments pretty stretched.

Some would say, well, it's ok because business is quieter in summertime however, from what we see, working in really close partnership with UK importers and exporters, there's still plenty of business activity and of course there's always the urgent customer orders which need to be fulfilled regardless.

And this takes me to the light bulb moment, and how, sometimes, you can underestimate the value you add to customers beyond your core services or offering. In our case, we help companies to reduce their international logistics costs, ensure they're Customs compliant and act as a virtual logistics manager managing the logistics area so they can focus on their core activities.

Although this has happened many times, it suddenly became apparent to me last week, when the contact at one of our USA import customers advised he was taking his summer holiday which would span two weeks. We work very closely with this person day to day and are in the loop on communications with their USA suppliers so we follow each order from when it's placed to when it's finally delivered, measuring and monitoring service levels.

Mark advised me mid-week that he had 4 urgent orders from 4 separate USA suppliers on the go which would all be moving by air freight. These suppliers were in Texas, Tennessee, Illinois and New Hampshire however Mark would be on holiday with cover by a colleague who wasn't that familiar with the mechanics of the US shipments.

When Mark finished on Thursday 28-Jul, the most urgent of the 4 orders, which was needed on Monday 1-Aug was still not packed and the Texas one was just being collected that day. The other 2 were in motion and we knew they were set to arrive on Sunday so they were lined up for Monday delivery.
What we did here was fill the space Mark vacated and communicate directly with the factory in New Hampshire as we knew it absolutely had to be picked up Friday to achieve Monday delivery. At 2100 hours on Friday evening (1600 East Coast US) we got the reply we wanted and made sure the order was then assigned to a direct Saturday evening flight. 

To summarize, what is interesting here is that most freight forwarders work from say 0830-1730 so the UK office of the forwarder (the one who would generally update the client) had finished however they have their own holiday period challenges too, and our usual contact was on holiday on Friday which left another gap so we dealt with another less familiar contact until close of business Friday.
On Saturday morning, we wanted to ensure everything was still on track and checked that both the Texas and New Hampshire shipments were moving as planned, which they were.

So, on Monday morning (today) at 0730 we requested a status update for the customer, and Mark's relief contact came into work with some great news for their own customer, knowing that we had been working behind the scenes over the weekend to make this all happen.

I'm sure that many customers will experience not only the effect of their own departments being stretched, but also their freight forwarder sometimes struggling to maintain the service levels when they themselves are short staffed due to holiday breaks, or other reasons throughout the year, such as sickness, training, maternity or paternity leave.

I suppose the moral here is, if you say you care about customers, demonstrate this in your actions and secondly, don't undervalue what you do for your customers when you go above and beyond your core offering. For me, I don't think I've ever forgotten what I learned about going above and beyond in my days in forwarding operations and how doing something extra can make such a massive difference to a customer. That's why I love what I do.
If you take a look at our testimonials, I think you will be impressed, companies large and small rate us highly and our very first client from 2010 is still on board today. I have also been a panel judge at the Lloyds Global Freight Awards for 2 years so we're known as industry and market experts.
Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched his own logistics consultancy, Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, working for companies such as DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles. 
Andy is part of the  judging panel for the 2016 Global Freight Awards, his second year in this prestigious role. The awards recognize quality, innovation and performance in the field of international logistics.  
Andy felt that in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support day-to-day.