APICS is the premier professional association for supply chain management.

Making International Connections

By Jonathan Thatcher, CSCP, CAE | July/August 2014 | 24 | 4

Discover how trade and export agencies can help you access new markets

Reader J.N. writes, “I am a supply chain manager at a small manufacturer. Senior management wants to generate greater sales in several international markets, and I am tasked with ensuring our supply chain can support them. What do you recommend?”

One way to start is by consulting your home country’s trade or export agency. These bodies are dedicated to facilitating trade and can offer credit when your country’s products are purchased. Frequently, nations use their networks of embassies around the world to promote domestic economic growth, offering networking and trade events for home businesses. Consider participating in these events, or find ones hosted by other nations whose markets interest you. It’s one way to help build demand, provide useful information, overcome local barriers, and enable connections with influential companies and business leaders.

Or, suppose you are seeking international markets for your remanufactured products. With free trade agreements beginning to cover remanufactured goods, it may be a good time to build demand and enter new markets. The following are four ways a trade or export agency can support these efforts:

Making connections. You can find specialists by country or industry through databases of local service providers, agents, distributors, sales representatives, and legal and business interpreters. Some agencies also will facilitate meetings and initiate introductions.

Exposing processes. Trade agencies can take you through challenges such as import and export licenses, taxes, regulations, logistics, and local certifications and standards.

Enabling resources. These bodies support financing, insurance, grants, and training that lead to increased trade and exports.

Providing data. Services can help you obtain trade data, fact sheets, and business prospects based on historic economic data; perform data analysis; and identify global risks such as forced labor, human trafficking, conflict commodities, bribery, and economic sanctions.

These functions represent a good start for performing due diligence into trade in international markets. Trade agencies also offer access to a network of people skilled and interested in advancing your goals. While you will not eliminate all the risks of performing business internationally, it is better than discovering some of those risks the hard way.

Trade agencies are increasingly familiar with the complexities involved in managing global supply chains. Supply chain professionals provide unique insights in terms of ongoing product flows, finance, delivery, quality, and relationships. As a supply chain manager, you know what to look for in terms of local inspections; distribution networks of potential partners; and the ongoing challenges, strengths, and weaknesses in the existing supply chain.

Start by asking about trade leads, events, contacts, and services that can build demand for your remanufactured products. If your business operates in several countries, you may be able to access trade and export services there, as well. Ensure you have information such as sales forecasts, marketing plans, and essential requirements for your company before it enters new markets—it will help you get the right details from the trade or export agency. A list of agency websites in several large markets can be found in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Trade and export agency websites for several major trading countries

A trade or export agency might not facilitate the closing of every single deal, but you will discover advantages. You will network with people the agency thinks are important, and you will see firsthand how business gets done in a new market. When working abroad, also consider visiting the local chamber of commerce and any existing local partners or customers.

How well will your organization’s strengths serve the new market? What are your complementary strengths and corresponding weaknesses? By consulting a trade or export agency, hopefully, this information will become a little closer at hand. 

Jonathan Thatcher, CSCP, CAE, is director of research for the APICS professional development division. He may be contacted at askapics@apics.org.

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