In the current global economy and political environment, there are two main concerns facing importers, exporters and the vendors who support them. The first is managing cost. The second is remaining competitive, given the rapid changes in international legislation.
In global trade terms, savings can be accomplished by managing inventories more carefully, reducing the time of transport, ensuring proper customs paperwork and minimizing tariffs. These opportunities require smart planning by the importer or exporter. They need comprehensive, up-to-date information and easy-to-use tools to make quick, accurate decisions as well as to increase visibility into their supply chain. Information must come from numerous third-party sources and be compiled in a comprehensive manner. The collaboration of the various trade participants and effective tools that support the multiple languages of global trade are critical areas in which I expect to see accelerated progress in 2009.
Another way trade organizations save money is by using more efficient tools and processes. Global Trade Management systems that operate as software as a service (SaaS) allow importers and exporters to communicate easily using a Web-based system managed by a software vendor. It is necessary to have the appropriate connectivity to the disparate business systems at multinational corporations as well as connectivity to partners up and down the supply chain, Customs and other government agencies regulating international trade in different countries. I expect SaaS to become a requirement for global trade management because it offers organizations with complex supply chains the flexibility to leverage a regularly updated knowledge base and pre-existing connectivity to supply-chain partners.
The second important concern for all global trade participants is to stay abreast of the perpetual changes in U.S. and international legislation. Regulations such as 10+2 create opportunities for companies that can adapt quickly. Bilateral and multilateral free-trade agreements provide savings for those companies that can manage the qualification requirements. Having appropriate information available to make timely decisions can mean the difference between imported/exported goods making a profit or not. I expect a tremendous effort from vendors to participate actively in government efforts and subsequently to proactively build the new requirements into useful commercial products to further optimize global supply chains.