Category Archives: Global Trade

Need to Trade More Confidently? Maybe You Need Trademo to Monitor Your Supply Chain!

As you should be well aware by now (as we recently gave you a 10-part series on supply chain risk), supply chains are fraught with risks — that you need to manage, and that, in many cases you can only manage with visibility. In particular, multi-tier visibility down to the source raw material. You also need insight into key areas of regulatory compliance around H(T)S codes for trade (and ECCN for defense trade), sanctions and denied parties, and (known) forced/slave labour violations by any supplier in your multi-tier supply chain.

One application that can give you multi-tier visibility, detailed insight into key areas of compliance, supplier discovery, and even trade intelligence is Trademo. Centered around a global supply chain knowledge graph on over 5M buyer and supplier entities with over 100M relationships built upon public trade (import/export) data from over 140 countries, Trademo can provide unique multi-tier visibility and insight into your supply chain, and the supply chains of your competitors which can help you find potential suppliers who could also serve you and even identify other supplier locations that could be more relevant for you.

There are three main parts of the Trademo platform.

  1. Global Supply Chain Intelligence
  2. Supply Chain Visibility & Resilience
  3. Global Trade Compliance

We’ll discuss these in reverse order, as that is the typical order in which organizations generally seek out, implement, and use these solutions.

Trademo‘s Global Trade Compliance module supports an organization with

  • HS Tariff Search, Validation and Classification across 140+ countries
  • ECCN Search
  • Sanctions Screening across over 640 global sanctions list
  • (Import/Export) Controls (and Embargo) Search
  • Product Master
  • Landed Cost Calculator

HS (Code) Search is by country, trade direction (import or export), and partial code or product keyword. (HS codes could be classified either by referring to the built-in tariff tree structure or using the AI model to classify the HS Codes.) it brings up all the matching codes based on the product key word (or partial HS code), as well as the computed match relevance. You can then select the code of interest and see the associated tariffs and duties, controls, and any associated rulings.

ECCN search is similar to HS (Code) Search and is by country and ecn/ml number or keyword and brings up the relevant subcategories that you can dive into and get relevant details.

Sanctions screening can be ad-hoc, bulk, or advance. Adhoc allows a sourcing / supply chain professional to enter a person, company, or vessel name and screen against any set of sanction lists of interest (one, some, or all). Bulk allows the same, but against a list of uploaded persons, companies, and/or vessels. Advance screening is similar to adhoc, but allows the user to limit to countries, specific locations, and even set thresholds for partial match retrievals. The user can also setup blacklists, so that any attempt to associate a product in the master with a supplier that is blacklisted fails, any search on it returns its status, and any export includes the blacklist status. The user can also setup watchlists (for daily monitoring) and any time a new sanction, control, etc. is detected for the person, company, or vessel, an alert is created in the tool and sent to the user through e-mail.

Sanctions screening are against rules that define collections of sanction lists that are relevant to the user and the types of screenings they usually do. For example, if the organization only sources from and/or two 20 countries, they may not care about any sanctions or embargoes against the remaining countries for which sanctions and embargoes are encoded in the system. In the Trademo system, rules are sorted into list groups (global sanctions, PEP, OFAC, health & human service, banking & investments, enforcement, and maritime) and then sub-groups by source (country, entity, etc.). The buyer can select what interests them, a threshold for matching, define a rule name, and then easy peasy search just those lists going forward.

When a sanction is found, extremely detailed information is returned and generally includes the entity name, the list, the country, the authority, all known entity (operating) aliases, effective date, expiry date (if a limited embargo, for example), company address / vessel birth and identifiers / personage citizenship or address, etc. A user can also bring up the full citation and download everything in PDF if they desire.

Controls bring up, for an import country or ISO Code and/or export country and ISO Code and/or country of origin and ISO Code and/or a HS Code, all related controls and embargoes along with their type (such as import permit or export permit), the controlling authority, and the scope of the control. As with a sanction or HS code, the user can click into a control of interest and see the complete details and download the source (as a PDF) if they so desire.

The Product Master allows the organization to manage their product database down to a SKU level, along with all countries of import, export, and associated HS codes. This makes it easy for the platform to automatically monitor for relevant changes to HS/ECCN codes, duty rates, controls, embargoes, etc. and notify the user when these changes occur.

The Landed Cost Calculator is very useful for sourcing professionals as it allows them, for a lot, to enter some basic information and source unit and carrier costs and get a complete total landed cost based upon the HS / ECCN code and all import and export tariffs.

The user needs to simply enter:

  1. Country (of import, export, and origin), duties of interest (default, preferential, or both), and HS CODE
  2. Mode of transport, incoterm, currency, value (and, optionally, unit of measurement & total quantity)
  3. Freight, insurance, and any other known (sur)charges

The platform will then calculate the total landed cost that will include all the duties and tariffs on the lot, the known merchandise processing fees, the known vessel fees, the known port fees, and other known fees and give the user a total landed cost (where the user can see a 200K buy become a 250K or 300K or more buy and truly understand the cost of global sourcing). the user can also compare the landed cost across different sourcing markets.

Moving on to Trademo‘s Supply Chain Visibility & Resilience solution, it is essentially a supply chain mapping solution that allows an organization to see all of their 1 to n suppliers (3 by default, but more if they want) and filter into suppliers by tier, country, HS code, and associated trade lanes. They can create product groups by brand or region and just see the associated supply chains for those brands and regions as well. The default view shows them the supplier name, domicile country, HS codes supplied downstream, trade lanes used, tier 1 connection, and total shipment value. From this complete list, the user can select a subset of suppliers by country, HS code, and/or trade lane and see a graphical representation of their supply chain, augmented with trade value. It’s simple, but quickly informative and very useful to discovering just who is in your supply chain, as well as who is in a certain region / on a certain trade lane that was just impacted by a natural disaster or border shutdown and you need to react.

Finally, there is the foundational Global Supply Chain Intelligence intelligence offering (Trademo Intel) that is based on their core supply chain knowledge graph and all of the public trade data it incorporates. The entry point to Trademo Intel is the shipment search screen which allows the user to search across all bills of lading in all categories and retrieve all associated shipments, which can then be filtered by shipper details, consignee details, ports, cargo, and freight details, and see a summary, for the selected timeframe, of total shipments, total weight, and total value. They can then drill into (top) importers, exporters, and more detailed analytics. If the amount of data is overwhelming, they can limit to specific product categories, HS codes, shippers, or consignees before starting the search.

It’s a great tool for exploring your competitors’ supply chains, which, when limited to certain product (categories), allows you to discover potential suppliers you might not have known about otherwise. Furthermore, you can see the volumes they are capable of supplying globally and the trade lanes they are already navigating. While most risk solutions will give you credit, cyber, compliance, and/or sustainability risk, they don’t give you deep insights into products supplied, locations supplied from, lanes the supplier is using (which indicates which global regulations they comply with), and so on. When you click into an entity, you can see all of their trading partners, total shipments to/from each, HS Codes supplied, and associated shipments. They can then drill into any and all shipments of interest and see complete details. The analytics are super helpful in identifying the top HS codes, HS sections, modes of transport, and routes used by the entity.

It also allows an organization to keep tabs on global trade from a certain region and whether it is increasing or decreasing, which could signal tidal shifts that could affect future cargo availability, rates, and risks if there is over saturation or under saturation of a trade region predicted.

If you need global trade support around HS codes, sanctions or embargoes; supply chain visibility; and supplier discovery (and deep trade insight in this discovery), Trademo is a solution that should definitely be in your RFP short list. It’s easy to use, powerful, and already validated by a number of Global 3000 companies. Check it out and TRADE MOre confindently!

Sourcing Success in these Turbulent Times Require Long Term Planning and Cost Concessions

In a McKinsey article a few months back on How medium-size enterprises can better manage sources, McKinsey said that small and medium-size enterprises often struggle to find Procurement cost savings. Yet there are ways to do it while still pursing growth and providing a superior customer experience. The article, which concluded with an action plan for procurement cost savings, recommended:

  • establishing CoE teams
  • improving forecasting
  • expanding (the) use of digital procurement tools
  • gaining greater market intelligence
  • establishing a culture of — and process for — continuous cost improvement
  • incorporating supplier-driven product improvements

which, of course, are all great suggestions, and mostly address four of the five reasons that McKinsey give that prevent companies from reining in spending, which included

  • a lack of spending transparency (which would have to be corrected to improve forecasting)
  • talent gaps (which can be minimized with the right tools, market intelligence, and CoE teams)
  • underused digital tools and automation (which is directly addressed by using more of them)
  • exclusion of procurement and supply chain in business decision (which would hopefully be a byproduct of a corporate culture for continuous cost improvement that only happens when procurement and supply chain is not involved higher up)

but the fifth is largely unaddressed — the myopic focus on the short term which McKinsey claims could be addressed by putting more effort into planning and forecasting. But that doesn’t solve the problem.

Better forecasting will allow for longer contracts to be signed for higher volumes, which can lead to long term strategic supplier relationships, and better planning can allow this to happen, but this does not completely address the need for long term planning.

Supply Chains today are not the supply chains of the last ten to twenty years.

  • rare earths are even rarer
  • many critical raw materials are in increasingly limited or short supply
  • transportation can be unpredictable in availability and cost; even though most of the world declared COVID over in mid-2022, China still had mandatory lockdowns, ocean carriers scrapped many of their ships for insurance (and in some cases, post-panamax ships that had never made a single voyage), airlines furloughed too many pilots who found other jobs or just flat out retired, and the long-haul trucking in North America (the UK, and many first-world countries) has been on a steady decline for over a deacde
  • ESG/GHG/Carbon Requirements are escalating around the globe and you need to be in compliance (both in terms of reporting 1/2/3 and ensuring you don’t exceed any caps)
  • human/labour rights are escalating and you have to be able to trace compliance down to the source in some jurisdictions; you need suppliers who insist on the same visibility that you do
  • diversity is important not just to meet arbitrary requirements for government programs or arbitrary internal goals, but to ensure you have the right insight and expertise to solve all types of problems that might arise

And you can’t effectively address any of these problems unless you think long term AND accept that some of the solutions will cost more up front.

  • In mid November, the trading price for Neodymium (a rare-earth that is critical for the creation of strong permanent magnets, which makes it possible to miniaturize many electronic devices, including the [smart]phone you might be reading this on) was over $87,000 USD/mt. In comparison, hot roll steel was around $850 USD/mt. In other words, Neodymium was 100 times more expensive than steel. And while you can still buy steel for about the same price you could 10 years ago (it was around $900 USD/mt), Neodynmium is almost $20,000 more (as it was around $69,000 USD/mt in November 2013). It’s not the only rare earth to increase about 26% in 10 years, with further increases on the horizon. You need to have a strategy to minimize your need (which could include product redesigns that use more sustainable alternatives or recycling strategies that use recovered materials from older phone models). And when it comes to recycled materials, due to a historical lack of recycling efforts, or research into technologies to make recycling efficient and cost effective, recycled materials are almost always more expensive at first. Always. But as adoption increases, plants, technologies, and processes get more efficient, and the cost goes down (while, at the same time, raw material prices for materials in limited supply continue to go up). In other words, if you want to mitigate the ever-increasing costs for rare earths and other materials that are in limited supply, you have to incorporate the use of recycled materials, and maybe even invest in your own plants (and recycle your own phones you buy back because it’s cheaper just to buy them back and extract the rare earths yourself than buy the recycled rare earths from someone else).
  • Global trade is costly and unpredictable. Supply assurance is finally dictating near-sourcing and home-sourcing (which SI has been advocating for almost fifteen years, as inevitable disaster was the logical conclusion of outsourcing everything to China as eventually a pandemic, global spat, natural disaster, or other event would send shockwaves through the world when it severely disrupted the trade routes [because even though the chances of a pandemic, natural disaster on the scale of Krakatoa or the Valdivia earthquake, or another catastrophic event is minimal in any given year, over the course of a century, it becomes very likely]), and that is going to require re-investing in those Mexican factories (that worked just fine, by the way) you shut down twenty years ago, training appropriately skilled workers in low cost North American (or Eastern Europe) locales, and paying a bit more per unit (and even transportation until the carriers rebuild those routes). But in the long term, as global transportation costs continue to rise, and the local-ish resources get much more efficient (using the best technology we have to offer), your costs, and transportation risks, will go down while your competitor costs continue to go up.
  • if you don’t insist, and ensure, up front that your suppliers can report the data you need, how will you get it; chances are those suppliers need help and modern systems, which temporarily increase their operational costs as they install, integrate, and learn the systems; not more than a few cents here and there per unit, but a noticeable blip on the overall costs none-the-less
  • if you want suppliers that monitor their supply chain and insist on no slave/forced/child labour, appropriately treated and well paid labour, and, better yet, a community focus throughout the supply chain (so that the humans who mine the materials, harvest the food stuffs, weave the silk, or otherwise do the foundational work have a reasonable quality of life, health, and safety), you’re going to have to put the effort in to find them and the extra money to support them in their humanitarian efforts; since most of these workers in remote low-cost locales are paid pennies on your dollar, it’s another blip on the total cost to ensure they are paid every penny they deserve, but it’s still a blip; but you can’t afford not to do it if your jurisdiction has laws making you responsible for slave labour that later gets discovered in your supply chain
  • and while diversity shouldn’t cost more, since it’s the same number of employees, the reality is that the supply base embracing it could be a minority, and if these minority suppliers suddenly become in demand, market dynamics may kick in and they may charge a premium that your competitor will pay; but, as new challenges continue to arise, you will need the diversity to solve them; so, another blip in the cost you need to absorb

In other words, you need the long term focus to guarantee success, and you need to understand that, up front, it may cost a bit more. However, done right, your costs will decrease over time while your competitors’ costs skyrocket. So if you truly want success, in any high dollar, strategic, or emerging category, plan for the long term. And you will truly succeed.

Global Sourcing Agencies — The Hidden Evil of the Outsourcing World?

We all like to blame McKinsey and their ilk for the outsourcing revolution that put the whole world in sh!t when the pandemic started (because they spent three decades convincing every CEO and their favourite corporate lap-dog to outsource everything possible to China, a country that then proceeded to do mandatory city-wide lockdowns for three years every time a single COVID case was confirmed). Not only did sudden unavailability in a single geographic source break many supply chains, but the three decades of unnecessary outsourcing also significantly contributed to GHGs and hastened our trajectory to a global 2C temperature increase as transportation GHG emissions have approximately doubled over the last 30 years (and are now responsible for about 30% of global emissions, especially since just 15 older ships contribute more GHG emissions annually than 50 Million cars).

But it’s not just the Big X pushing us towards “low cost countries” on the other side of the world (where they have to help with the introductions, organizational transition management, on-site audits, etc. etc. etc. to pocket 33% of those ephemeral savings as consulting fees), it’s Global Sourcing Agencies that are adopting their fee models, tactics, and strategies to help you find the right “partners” with their “in-country” consultants who can help you on the ground, except at slightly lower costs and with slightly more focussed industry expertise.

And the truth of the situation is that if you can’t produce the products (assemblies, components, parts) you need at home, you need to outsource. But the reality is that, today, you should be outsourcing as close to “home” (where “home” is the market you’re sourcing for, so if you’re a true global multi-national, sourcing near the US for the American market, in/near Europe for the European Market, in/near Australia and New Zealand for the Australasia market, and so on). You’re not sourcing from Russia for Argentina or China for the US. It makes no sense (and, at the end of the day, when you compound the disruption costs on top of the outsourced management and super high logistics costs, costs too many extra cents).

And chances are, now that you are trying to move to a closer to “home” market, you have no clue what suppliers are there, what their real production capabilities are, how well they have served other customers in your industry, how easy they are to work with, what your chances of (eventually) becoming a customer of choice really are, and how much help you can get on the ground if you need it. So you need a Global Sourcing Agency to help you, just like you will often need a Big Consulting Agency to help you with Procurement Transformation. But in this situation, it is many times more critical you choose the right one. If you choose a Global Sourcing Agency that specializes in China manufacturers when you are trying to pull out of China sourcing for your North American Market (and thus need deep insight into the Mexican and Brazilian manufacturing market), you’re not going to get many (if any) good options and end up being convinced that, for worse or for even worse, you need to stay in China.

So where’s all this coming from? China-sponsored business spam. For example, the Business NewsWire and the Big News Network are pushing an unattributed article titled The Role of Global Sourcing Agencies in Business across any business spam site that will accept it. (Courtesy of OwlSourcing, a China Sourcing Agent, as that is what “Global Sourcing Agencies” links to.) It’s a thinly veiled attempt to ensure that, with the current (long overdue) focus on “near-sourcing” (which you should have been doing since the initial rise of Mexican outsourcing half a century ago as a response to the introduction of Maquiladoras in the 1960s), that you stay in China (which is, of course, the LAST thing you should do unless you are also selling that product to China).

It’s yet another article making generalized good points about how Global Sourcing Agencies can help in theory, but whether they achieve that in practice depends on whether they have the right people, the right relationships, and the right technology — in the region you need them to be in. (Which, and we can not say this enough, is NOT China!)

So while you may need a partner, be extra careful in selecting one … because the wrong partner will lead you deep into the dark woods of fabled nightmares from which you will never emerge again.

2030 is too late for Center-Led Procurement!

Especially since 2020 was too late! And organizations should have been there by then since center-led procurement was being discussed as the next generation model in the mid-2000s and, more importantly, as the futurists were predicting that the future of work, and companies, was remote and distributed last decade, every company should be “center-led” by now.

(Note that we mean “center-led” and not “centralized” where one central office handles all major procurement projects globally. We mean center-led where a centralized function determines the best procurement path for each category — which could be centralized, distributed, multi-level, or mixed — and provides guidance to all of the global teams and makes sure they build the right procurement — and supply chain — models up front.)

In fact, by now, all organizations should be working off of a virtual center-led model where the “center” is the Procurement A-Team, where the members could literally be spread out over the 6 continents to “locally” absorb the situations in each geography before making decisions and to always have someone available to answer questions on not just a follow-the-sun but follow-the-local-business hours model.

And while virtual / remote / distributed work still seems to be an entirely new thing that most companies didn’t think of before the pandemic and that most companies are trying to eliminate entirely now that the pandemic has been declared over (even though the next pandemic is just around the corner and, yet again, no one is prepared for it), those of us in IT and Supply Chain have been doing it for two decades (and the doctor has been primarily been working remote for the past 19 years — the tech has been there, and has worked, for two decades … and now that high speed is in just about every urban area globally, there’s no reason a hybrid/virtual model cannot work and work well).

The reality is that the pandemic not only brought global supply chains crashing down but brought to light the high risk embedded in them a few of us saw a decade ago, which went beyond the obvious risks of “all your eggs in one basket” (even though Don Quixote was published in 1605) and “The Bermuda Triangle*1, but also included the risks of relatively centralized procurement where one team in one part of the globe made the all-our-eggs-in-the-China-basket*2 and managed the relationship with one team at one factory in another part of the globe; so if either team got completely locked down with little remote/virtual support (and we saw some countries limit people to 1KM from their homes and China lock down entire cities and not even let people leave their apartments), the entire chain was shut down even beyond the worst case that some of us were envisioning a decade ago (and made our definitions of bad — which was factory goes out of business, shipping lane closes, or ship sinks — look good by comparison because, at least then, you could still go to work and travel to find a new factory, organize a new lane, or spin up the factory 24/7 until you remade the order).

However, with virtual center-led, you not only have a team that knows how to work distributed and remote, and who knows how to use that setup to better mitigate operational risks, but who also has a risk-mitigation mindset that any supply base should also be distributed and different locations remote from each other (two factories in the same town is not risk-mitigation; an earthquake destroys the roads, the entire town gets quarantined, or political borders shut and its effectively one cut-off source of supply) and will help the different parts of the organization design more risk-adverse, or at least risk-aware, supply chains — tapping into local expertise in each part of the world to make the best decision and allowing the organization to move management of the chain around as needed and local teams (because you’re not sourcing your Canadian snow-plow and igloo building services from India, for example) to always have remote access to guidance and best practices in snow-removal services RFP construction (and know how from Norway and Japan).

In other words, center-led procurement (of which you can find a lot of guidance on in the archives here and over on Spend Matters, especially since, now retired, Peter Smith of Spend Matters UK was a guru on this as well as sustainability) of the virtual kind is what you need to be doing now if you want to last until 2030.


*1 which, while statistically no more dangerous than any other part of the oceans, exemplifies the fact that even the biggest ships, with an entire year of your inventory on board, can sink, especially when oceanographers have finally realized [even though mathematicians working with wave models understood this concept decades ago] that rogue waves are not a once a in decade occurrence, but a DAILY occurrence on this planet, it’s just that the ocean is so big that the fraction ever covered by ships is so microscopic that the chances of any ship encountering a rogue wave are infinitesimal on a ship-by-ship basis)

*2 likely thanks to McKinsey, although many of the Big 5/6/8 followed suit quickly thereafter and proclaimed China the future

Sustainable Supply Chains Sacrifice China! (Most of the Time.)

Last Friday we posted China is the Enemy because, especially where your supply chain is concerned, China has just demonstrated what SI has known for over a decade — it is the enemy. (This isn’t the only situation where China or the CCP is the enemy, but those are different rants. Note that we do NOT equate China or CCP with Chinese people. Most Chinese are NOT the enemy of your supply chain or democracy just like most Americans are NOT the enemy of intelligence and common sense.)

Long time readers will know that in the naughts, SI spent a lot of bandwidth telling your deaf ears that you should be investing heavily in nearshoring and home country sourcing because of the dangers of outsourcing in general, and, the dangers of oversourcing to a specific country, like China, in particular — which have finally become very apparent. It’s too bad it took a freakin’ pandemic to make clear how dangerous it is to outsource so many critical products and JIT materials to a country halfway around the globe, especially when such sourcing in bulk across the industry leads to the lack of capacity close to home due to factory closures and talent evaporation.

There’s a reason the doctor told you two weeks ago to remember the 80’s (and the early 80s in particular) … and that’s because that’s the last time most multi-national corporations in the Americas got outsourcing right … when they were near-sourcing to Mexico (who should build the wall just to keep Trump out, but that’s yet another rant for another day).

Let’s face it, some stuff just shouldn’t be sourced from home. Stuff that’s not critical, stuff that’s very expensive to make at home (but easily trucked across a single border) for various reasons (which can go beyond labour to energy costs if there are no affordable renewable sources nearby, transportation costs for raw or unprocessed materials are ridiculous otherwise, etc.), or stuff where most of the raw materials or necessary environmental conditions (for growing, mining, etc.) are just not present at, or near, home.

But when you consider a typical organization, how much stuff really falls into this category? First of all, you have to exclude any product for (re)sale that’s a primary profit line. Then you need to exclude any raw material or component critical to production unless you just can’t get it nearby. Then any product necessary for security or safety. And so on. At the end of the day, you don’t have much left, and if you’re doing the analysis right, you’re going to be left with:

  • raw materials and products just not available nearby (because you need certain growing conditions, large deposits of a mineral only found in certain geographies, etc.)
  • processed materials or chemicals where the raw materials are very expensive or dangerous to transport
  • products unique to a culture or region
  • novelty or other items not critical to your business

which (before the short-sighted wall-street loving common sense hating clueless and unskilled consultants of the late 80’s and early 90’s, like Steve Castle, put everything into the outsourcing bandwagon and blinged it out beyond belief) were the only products a company would outsource halfway around the world and still the only products a company should be sourcing from halfway around the world. Everything else should be near-sourced, and if really critical or the cost differential is small, home-sourced.

This also means that just shifting everything to another country in the BRIC, and India (which is ruled by a more open, transparent, and dependable democracy) in particular, is also NOT the answer. (They may not be the enemy, but they are still NOT the answer.)

So, unless you want your Supply Chain to completely collapse after the next global disaster, go back to basics, remember the smart outsourcing decision from the 80s, reopen those Mexican factories, and start near-sourcing again. And then, where you can, bring it back (close to) home.