The furniture industry has seen its share of supply chain challenges in recent years. High freight costs, surcharges, congestion and unpredictable weather events have all conspired to disrupt the smooth flow of furniture imports, impacting both bottom lines and customer satisfaction.
Today, as the industry grapples with rising material costs, lower market demand and excess inventory, there’s a pressing need for furniture importers to focus on supply chain strategy that enhances their ability to respond quickly to changing consumer trends. Even with volumes low and sales sluggish the “right” inventory is still moving. Manufacturers and retailers alike need to not only access accurate and dependable market and product data, but the data also needs to be delivered timely and in a usable format. This in turn allows for better purchasing and inventory decisions when coupled with improved logistics and transportation reliability as supply chain disruptions continue to heal.
A revamped supply chain import network can serve as the cornerstone of success in these challenging times. Such a plan can streamline cargo flows and give your company a distinct competitive advantage.
Logistics collaboration: People, process and technology
One of the most critical aspects of optimizing your supply chain is your relationship with your freight forwarder/NVO. Here’s what you should expect from this partnership:
1. A great human experience: Your global freight forwarder should provide you with a dedicated and responsive account representative who is backed by a knowledgeable team. This commitment will deliver a trusted partner that works beside you to develop a high-performing supply chain that adapts to your evolving needs.
2. Streamlined processes: Simplify the management of your shipments with streamlined processes that offer transparency and data quality. An effective, well-managed supply chain reduces errors that result in delays, ensuring that your products reach their destination in a timely and efficient manner.
3. Industry-leading logistics technology: An industry-leading logistics technology platform can be a game-changer for a furniture importer. These platforms offer unparalleled visibility into your shipments, pre-shipment, in-transit to final delivery, providing highly predictive and accurate container milestone information. This level of visibility allows you to manage your product flows and control costs effectively.
4. Data integration: Siloed data is inefficient and hampers decision-making. When data from different departments is integrated and accessible, leaders can make more accurate and timely decisions that consider the entire business landscape.
A logistics platform that is easily integrated with your businesses operational systems connects your shipment data to all relevant product and operational data, and complements the workflows your team already uses. But note, the quality of your freight data is critical. Accurate data that is correct and timely is a necessity to ensure it’s actionable and is a benefit rather than a liability.
In addition, businesses that can harness their data effectively are often better positioned to respond to market changes and competition. Data integration can lead to more agile and adaptable organizations, and cross-functional collaboration.
5. Exception management: Dedicated logistics partners excel at managing exceptions. They anticipate issues, address them proactively, and keep you informed every step of the way. This proactive approach reduces stress and minimizes disruptions in your supply chain.
6. Global insights: Your logistics partner should be available to offer valuable insights into global shipping trends and market dynamics. This can help inform the management and performance of your import supply chain network, contributing to your business’ success.
7. Pressure proofing breakage points: In recent years, we’ve seen several different supply chain breakage points. Taking these points into account, it’s important that you strengthen those known disruption conditions in partnership with your forwarder/NVO. Specifically, do you have alternative routing and service options? Do you have protection against upside pricing risks? It’s time to adjust supply chain planning to incorporate greater resilience and flexibility into your supply chain planning. Your forwarder/NVO can be a valuable partner in this process.
By increasing efficiencies, optimizing logistics networks and forming strategic partnerships with knowledgeable and reputable logistics firms, furniture importers can rise to meet today’s challenges to secure a competitive edge in the market.
Phillip Ousley is president of ASF Logistics.