Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Andy Cliff joins the judging panel for the prestigious 2017 BIFA Freight Service Awards in London!

Good afternoon All

It's been a while since our last blog however there's a good reason - we've been extremely busy with two new customers who have significant volumes of air and ocean freight traffic from Asia and the USA. We're currently in the initial review stage for a food importer and following an RFQ process, in the implementation stage for a company in the printing industry, where we've revealed annual freight savings of around 27% / £ 130,000 and as you can imagine, they are extremely pleased with the results!




Back to the reason for this latest blog post. For the last 2 years, we have been on the judging panel for the Lloyds Loading List Global Freight Awards which we've thoroughly enjoyed, however this year, we've been invited by BIFA to join their judging panel for the prestigious 2017 BIFA Freight Service Awards in London.

Naturally, we're really pleased to be part of this process, especially as the British International Freight Association (BIFA) is the leading industry body for the UK logistics industry and most reputable forwarders regard membership as absolutely vital, given that BIFA often lobby government on transport and logistics issues and ensure that our industry has a professional voice.

Please do take a look at our Straightforward Consultancy website, it’s straightforward, clear and concise, we wrote it in plain English as there’s enough confusing logistics/industry terminology out there and it makes the task of managing your international logistics even more daunting!



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 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.

Andy was part of the judging panel for the 2016 Global Freight Awards, his second year in this prestigious role and now joins the judging panel for the 2017 BIFA Freight Service Awards in London. The awards recognize quality, innovation and performance in the field of international logistics.


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Straightforward Consultancy makes the front page of leading logistics publication, Freight Business Journal!

It's always a pleasure to meet up with Chris Lewis, the editor of leading logistics newspaper, Freight Business Journal, and when we arranged to meet in March 2017 as part of their feature on logistics and the freight marketplace here in the North West of the UK, we had plenty to catch up on. 


This was actually the second time Chris had interviewed me, the last time being in Spring 2016 for a similar feature. 



One of the main talking points this time was the double whammy which has hit UK importers from China in particular, as we had the large fall in sterling against the dollar (-20%) following the UK referendum in June 2016 and also a continued rise in ocean freight rates, which accelerated after the large shipping line, Hanjin Shipping collapsed last Autumn. I have attached a photo of the front page and please let me know if you would like a copy of the full article, it's well worth a read, with other contributors featuring too.
If you recognize the scenario that I describe, rising costs and a feeling that you’ve lost control of your logistics costs and/or service, not just from China but maybe the USA, why don’t you give us a call – we understand what it’s like to be an importer or exporter and more than that, we have a vast amount of knowledge and real world experience, have probably helped a company just like yours and could also take all that work involved with a review from you, reduce your costs, improve your compliance and tailor the service provided by a new logistics provider to your individual needs.

Not only that, we offer shared savings models which means that we do all the heavy lifting and you see the service, communication, financial and other benefits without having to become overly distracted from your primary role. It’s what we do and we’re good at it. So please do give us a call, as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Take a look at our Straightforward Consultancy website, it’s straightforward, clear and concise, we wrote it in plain English as there’s enough confusing logistics/industry terminology out there and it makes the task even more daunting!



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.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Visiting Multimodal 2017 at the NEC this week?

Visiting Multimodal 2017 at the NEC this week?

The Multimodal exhibition is well worth a visit as it’s very compact and you can visit the stands of many companies, be they logistics providers, shipping lines, freight publications or even port operators such as Liverpool or DP World.

Of course, if you’re an importer or exporter, you can talk with the people from the logistics providers who are there (there’s usually around 5-6 well known ones) although they will often be fairly senior and from their London office, so will rarely be the people you would need to meet and discuss your traffic, needs, frustrations etc.


So, it’s certainly worth visiting and you will no doubt come away with a carrier bag full of brochures and giveaways – and I think there lies the dilemma – you walk away armed with info, ideas and great sales pitches but what are these companies really like to work with and are they even competitive from a rate and service perspective.


Furthermore, you may do what many of us do, put the brochures in your “to do” tray, fall back into the cut and thrust of day to day operations within your business and do nothing and before you know it, a month has passed.

If that’s you, why don’t you give us a call – we understand what it’s like to be an importer or exporter and more than that, we have a vast amount of knowledge and real world experience, have probably helped a company just like yours and could also take all that work involved with a review from you, reduce your costs, improve your compliance and tailor the service provided by a new logistics provider to your individual needs.


Not only that, we offer shared savings models which means that we do all the heavy lifting and you see the service, communication, financial and other benefits without having to become overly distracted from your primary role. It’s what we do and we’re good at it. So please do give us a call, as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Take a look at our SCL website, it’s straightforward, clear and concise, we wrote it in plain English -  there’s enough confusing industry terminology out there and it makes the task even more daunting!




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.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Rising fuel prices will feed into freight and logistics costs for UK importers and exporters

It's one of those very gradual changes that you may have only just begun to notice - but here in the UK, unleaded petrol fell to £1.00 per litre at the end of 2015, as crude oil prices fell to a seven year low.

Unleaded petrol falls to £1.00 per litre!

Since then the price has been inching up, to the point where we're now over £1.20 per litre - pretty annoying if you use your car to do a daily commute - but also remember that these increases are already feeding into logistics costs. I took this photo only this morning here in Warrington where our company Straightforward Consultancy is based.




With ocean freight, we are seeing rises in bunker adjustment factor (BAF) a variable surcharge applied on top of core ocean freight rates and this is at the same time that the US dollar is at a historic all time high - circa USD 1.20 - why does that matter?

Because freight rates and surcharges for ocean are constructed in USD so there's a double whammy going on here. Even after your container has landed (or before it's loaded for export) fuel surcharges linked to container collection and delivery costs are being affected as most shipping lines and freight forwarders will have a base delivery price (lump sum) with a variable factor for fuel surcharge, so another area where fuel prices are increasing your costs.




On the air freight side, fuel surcharges are affected as jet fuel prices have a direct link to the price of crude and again, most air freight rates are constructed in US Dollars.




So, do yourself a favour and find out exactly what you're being charged by your logistics provider - and if our experience since 2010 is anything to go by, you're probably paying around 35% more than we could achieve and you may not have proper controls in place to ensure your freight costs remain market competitive. 

Why do I say that? Because we see this, month on month and it's a shame, because you really should ensure that you have a tight control on this area, not just because of basic financials, but also from a Customs compliance angle too - you could be wasting money on unnecessary import duties because of a loose or out of date process. Or worse, under-declaring to HMRC and risking a large fine.






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. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

USA container port workers plan to march on Washington



Further to our last blog on Logistics Simplified "Clouds Building On The Logistics Horizon", the notoriously militant International Longshoremen's Association, better known as the ILA are in the news again. They have already signaled their intention to fight port automation and strike another generous wage and benefits deal in the upcoming 2018 contract negotiations but are now in dispute with the Waterfront Commission of New York harbour and state port operators in the South East over "government interference" and plan a one day strike – not good!

ILA planning one day strike

This doesn't augur at all well for the ILA master contract negotiations which the ILA have said they would like to conclude before the expiry deadline of September 2018.

Things could start to get fractious and disruptive and if the drama surrounding the last contract negotiations in 2012/2013 is anything to go by, if you export to or import from the USA, you may wish to watch this situation very closely and have a contingency plan.

If you think it won't affect you because you use non-union ports (for example Chester,PA which is served by ICL) then think again, because US importers and exporters will look to alternative options should the union start to strike and threaten disruption.

And the same goes for air freight, as customers will divert ocean to air, so certainly one to watch - as they say forewarned in forearmed!

Just drop us a line of you need any guidance or would like to lean up your supply chain in general, especially in these times of a very strong USD (which has ramped up freight costs for air and ocean).


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, 9 January 2017

Clouds building on the logistics horizon for companies trading with the USA - ILA sound a warning shot!

Some of you may remember our coverage of the dispute between the ILA (International Longshoreman's Association) union in 2012/2013 (whose staff man the container ports on the USA East and Gulf Coasts) when their hard line president Harold Daggett threatened to bring about a strike on the USA East Coast to bring their contract negotiations to a head.



In the end the strike was avoided but we came very close and so close in fact that many US companies made contingency plans to route their cargo into other ports and send a portion of their product by air to ensure they could continue to supply their own customers.

That new 6 year contract was agreed in 2013 as per the below article however we are now seeing the start of a new hard line stance regarding the new contract which will take effect in 2018.

New ILA contract signed in 2013

Latest news on ILA contract talks

So, one for you to watch and be aware of as we could see disruption as the negotiations begin and continue, leading up to Sep-2018

Our website - definitely worth a look

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. 

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.