Freight Forwarder - What‘s it all about ?
For more than 30 years I am working as an international freight forwarder. I have gained expertise specifically in international air- and ocean freight, dangeours goods handling in airfreight and customs clearance matters and worked mainly at the airports of Cologne, Köln / Bonn, NRW, Germany and JFK International, Jamaica, New York, USA for a total of 17 years. Following my return to Germany in 2005 I joined the Automotive Industry in the Customs and Foreign Trade section. A detailed listing of my employers and my functions over the years can be found here:
Freight forwarders organize the transportion of goods of all kind and some of them also do the actual physical move.
The products offered by modern forwarding companies not only include the purchase of transportation services by railway, truck, airplane, ships or feeder vessels from carriers but also the organization of complex service-packages that cover transport, handling, storage and other additional features.
Freight forwarding companies are also called ‘’logistic providers’’ nowadays.
Logistic is defined as a business planning framework for the management of material, service, information and capital flows.
It includes the increasingly complex information, communication and control systems required in today's business environment.
More pragmatic this is described in the ‘’Seven Right of Logistics’’ by E.Grosvenor Plowman:
To provide the right goods in the right amount, and the right condition (and quality), at the right location, at the right time for the right client at the right cost.
Logistic is a subject of economical and engineering sciences and was mainly used in the military in the past.
( Supply of the troops ) It’s origin goes way back to the old Greeks.
As a matter of fact '’one of the oldest professions’’ in the world.
So freight forwarding indeed is a sophisticated service profession that requires discipline, diplomatic skills, extended professional knowledge as well as common sense and dedication in accomplishing one’s goals. Also being patient can be helpful rather often.
Candidates for the job should be able to deal with people as well as with stressful situations. If not yet, one better manages to learn both things very quickly or will otherwise fail in this profession most likely.
A freight forwarder is expected to know and fully comply with the ethics of commercial trade and any commercial and other national and international laws and regulations, applicable.
I would also like to point out the importance of – and I would like to say that many of my colleagues & business partners have set an example for a better world
here indeed already – ''the importance of multi-cultural acceptance and tolerance''.
Trade goes on worldwide and pre- assumptions and prejudice are totally misplaced in the dealing with business partners overseas.
They are ethically unacceptable and may harm the business, often leading to an early career end.
Freight forwarding is also not entirely risk free. There are financial risks in connection with high value merchandise, dangerous or possibly perishable goods.
And there are also risks caused by operating close to dangerous goods, -machinery or -applications.
The freight forwarding business not only crosses borders but also branches of businesses.
Clearly a lot has changed in the past 20 years in this profession. The learning never ends, the development is breathtaking and not every detail can be foreseen
as change often comes ‘’overnite’’.
At the same time however I have also realized how important experience is in this business in order to keep an eye on the big picture and control the processes in motion – especially when a problem occurs.
It didn’t even look so good for the forwarding business for a while as there was a merciless price battle between competitors and many companies went down in it or had been bought out by big corporations.
But in recent years the transportation business ‘’exploded’’ ( due to the opening of the market place China, the growth of the EU, the opening of Eastern Europe and Asia and the development in the ‘’E-Biz’’ through the internet !)
Worldwide trade was booming but lately and due to the economic crises the business slowed down dramatically, unfortunately.
This world will always need qualified people that move freight and therefore the work in the transportation business is one not only with a history but also with a future.