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Hey shipper, speak for yourself! Since the late 1980s, when personal computers started appearing on every worker's desk, all industries have capitalized on the opportunities that technology has offered us to actually do more with less.

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The quest for efficiencies garnered through technology has yielded unprecedented productivity gains in each decade that followed. All positive advancements for sure, except for the fact that few of us have actually seen the reduction of paper that was promised.

Over the same period, management structures have been trimmed with more responsibilities and tasks added to the daily functions of senior staff members leaving them with little time to actually manage their teams, with all that entails, and engage in industry activities which have both direct and indirect effects on their own operations.

Exporters and importers have thus pushed many of their responsibilities onto their service providers, 3PLs, Customs brokers and forwarders. This outsourcing may allow the shippers to handle greater volumes than they could otherwise accomplish with their thinned staff levels. Bur the fact remains that for exporters and importers, they are still the beneficial cargo owners and responsible for their own goods and all costs associated with the handling of those goods until they have fulfilled their contracted delivery terms.

Cargos transiting through our ports are subject to the operational procedures and handling routines of the terminal operators, ocean carriers and the relevant government agencies involved. Any changes in operational procedures and the respective costs associated with those changes will usually be borne by the cargo owners. For many years now, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has been conducting a regular "Port User Group" meeting to engage all parties doing business within the port. These "PUG" meetings, as they are referred to, are run by the Port's Commercial Relations Manager, Sharon McStine, and are currently held on a bimonthly basis within the port area. Running about two hours long and bringing together representatives for various ocean carriers, terminal operators, Customs brokers, forwarders, draymen, as well as agents from U.S. Customs, FDA, USDA and other government agencies involved in the clearing of goods through the port. Regrettably, very few seats are occupied by the actual owners of the goods being discussed and who are clearly impacted by any and all changes being considered.

I don't know how many other ports around the country have similar forums. But these meetings are excellent opportunities for logistics managers working for the beneficial cargo owner to get in front of the people that are discussing their own freight. They are also excellent opportunities for representatives of the many trade associations to get early access to information that may affect their membership and to speak on behalf of their membership, all of which adds value to their association's membership.

There over 7,000 trade associations in the U.S., each participating in a variety of activities including lobbying, advertising and education. But they mainly focus on collaboration between companies and publicly representing the interests of its membership. Their strength generally depends on the level of participation of their membership. The more active the membership is, the stronger the association can be. Most trade associations have standing committees set up for dealing with specific functions. Individual members will bring product and operational issues to the attention of their respective associations and work to resolve problems or improve situations within their own charters and bylaws. Logistics committees may be populated by transportation professionals from within the trade. Often they include representatives from service providers such as truckers, carriers, warehouses, brokers and other associated members who welcome the opportunity to participate in the association and contribute to the benefit of their customers. The logistics committees tend to be one of the most active and valued committees within the association and one whose work products are very tangible and provide value added benefits to the membership.

Getting involved in these trade associations' logistics committees provide many benefits to the participants making it well worth the investment in time and nominal expense. It allows the participants to address issues of mutual concern, share information and experience with others members, establish best practices and trade guidelines. It also provides the members with professional development and networking opportunities.

Grumbling is seldom a solution to any problem or issue. It is up to the cargo owner to be its own most trusted, vocal and forceful advocate. Sometimes we just have to get from behind our computer monitors, push aside the piles of paper and take our rightful seat at the table. Take your Blackberry with you if you must.
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Title Annotation:Shipping
Comment:Hey shipper, speak for yourself! Since the late 1980s, when personal computers started appearing on every worker's desk, all industries have capitalized on the opportunities that technology has offered us to actually do more with less.(Shipping)
Author:Pisano, Don
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2011
Words:733
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