Supply chain · 11 November 2016

How a small business can ensure an effective supply chain

supply chain
UK exports in June 2016 were said to be worth £44.9bn

Exporting offers a significant earning potential for small businesses, with a value of £44.9bn in June 2016 for the UK alone. Writing for Business Advice, FedEx Express UK sales director David Poole tells readers how to effectively streamline a supply chain for business success.

The exporting activity of smaller firms had a positive impact on the UK’s trade deficit in 2015, with globally active small to medium sized companies each contributing an average net benefit of over £300k according to a FedEx report from 2015.

Smaller businesses need to capitalise on the opportunities available to them, whether that be in countries near or far. In this increasingly connected world, it is more important than ever to maximise your supply chain to increase profit margins and operational efficiency.

The importance of supply chains cannot be understated, with poor logistics management potentially costing your company hundreds of thousands of pounds. While there are a whole host of considerations to think about when preparing to export, your supply chain should be at the top of your list.

At FedEx, we work with a number of small businesses that are starting to export, helping them improve their supply chains. With this in mind, we’ve put together our top tips to help a small business owner ensure supply chain efficiency.

1. Evaluate your supply chain

Reviewing your supply chain throughout the year will allow you to identify any potential pressure points. It’s an excellent opportunity to find workable solutions before potential challenges affect your business.

2. Find the right transportation provider for you.

Building a strong relationship with your transportation provider is crucial if you want to expand successfully and tap into new markets in the most fruitful way.

By sharing as much information as you can, and outlining your needs and concerns, your transportation provider will be able to adopt a tailored approach. Do not be afraid to ask too many questions, your suppliers are there to support and guide you.

3. Know your rules and regulations

If you’re not au fait with the complexities of customs rules and regulations, it can be a challenging time when you begin exporting.

It’s a good idea to have a solid understanding of the relevant customs rules yourself, but you should also lean on your transportation provider for their expert support.

4. Maximising supply chain visibility

The most efficient supply chains are powered by visibility – where shipments are tracked in real-time and where the shipper can make use of actionable information every step of the way.

This is particularly important when you are shipping critical, valuable or time-sensitive shipments. Shipments like this, often associated with the healthcare sector, can incur high costs if there are problems or delays.

Many transportation providers have products and services that can help with increased visibility so it’s worth discussing your business needs with them.

5. Integrating your business

With so many factors contributing to a successful business, integration between departments is key. Though important, the supply chain is just one part of the business machine which needs to work together with all areas of the business.

Cross-team planning – including working with sales and customer services – ensures that the correct balance is achieved between customer demand, production capacities, and financial performance.

6. Effective communication

Working with supply chain partners and ensuring clear communication channels will help you deal with potential challenges quickly and effectively. If an unexpected problem does arise, communicating the issue to everyone involved will ensure that it is dealt with as soon as possible, minimising damage to the supply chain.

Optimising your supply chain can boost your businesses quickly and efficiently, especially if you’re looking to maximise overseas opportunities.

There isn’t a better time to start exporting than now, so taking note of the above tips and discussing your business with your transportation provider will help you on your way to success.

David Poole is managing director of sales, UK South at FedEx Express.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

David Poole is managing director of sales, UK South at FedEx Express and FedEx UK. FedEx Express is the world’s largest express transportation company, providing fast and reliable delivery to every US address, as well as more than 220 countries and territories. 

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