The Beast from the East appears to have cleared, fingers crossed, and we can almost glimpse the warmer weather of Spring approaching us across the UK. A delightful thought for many, but for freight forwarders the commitment to a professional, accurate service across every sector means that things are always a bit warmer for the hotshots amongst us.

The logistics sector has seen a plethora of developments in the last month, from the fallout of chicken distribution gone horribly wrong, and what this can mean for trust in the supply chain, the outstanding role women have played within our diverse industry, new technology continues to innovate the industry, the latest information regarding our ports and any other industry statistics that you need to know.

We do, however, start with the ever-present topic of trade agreements. Negotiations seem to never end, and April sees an interesting month for freight forwarders. Recently, the EU advised to expect negative economic consequences, after rejecting Theresa May’s demand for a bespoke trade deal. Influential industry practitioners have claimed that this, relatively speaking could mean that some freight movements will be affected more than others.

80% of our trade with the EU (both imports and exports) is moved by road, and due to this breakdown in communication we can expect to see new regulation and implementation of customs bureaucracies. International Road Licensing, Employer Certifications and Vehicle Technical Standards need to iron out if the road freight industry is to continue to supply Europe with a quality service. So far, these topics haven’t come up in many trade talks and this is a worrying sign for people within the industry. My advice? Make some noise and get some attention for a major cause within the road freight sector.

Aviation will require urgent legislative attention regarding agreements. UK flights movements will be incredibly restricted if we do not get governments to talk about the likes of linking in a European Community Aviation Area form of agreement. Neither side appear to be budging when talking about trade deals, which has put many on edge. However, Britain is currently exploring the possibility of joining a trans-Pacific trade bloc after Brexit in a bid to find alternative markets for exports that currently go to Europe. Whilst this isn’t going to solve all problems, but this is a step in the right direction to see the potential upside of recent trade agreements.

Steering away from Brexit and trade agreements we move on to women in the freight forwarding industry, which is something that needs to be celebrated. With Hollywood showcasing exactly why women need to divulge the brilliance and ignorance they face in modern society. Studies have shown that gender diversity in the workforce not only fosters collaboration, understanding, and tolerance, but also boosts competitiveness, productivity, and corporate social responsibility. Freight forwarding is an industry that, whilst it appears to be male dominated, women control some of the biggest parts of our commerce. Some stats that show the increasing involvement of women in the industry make for positive reading.

Since 2013 the number of women drivers has increased from 39,000 to 44,000 and 22% of the 2.3 million people currently employed in transport and logistics in the UK are women. Whilst this doesn’t bode well in comparison to other industries, we must remember that these are positives steps for women within the freight forwarding world, and a way for us to close the gender gap that has dogged the trade for some time.

Some have speculated that by marketing the freight forwarding industry to women and having more female CEO’s and top level authoritarian figures within companies, we will be able to stem the recruitment shortage crisis that plagued us for some time. Whilst this isn’t a sure-fire way to sort this complex issue, it is a way to shine a light on the incredibly talented women we currently have within freight forwarding and attract more with the same temperament in.

Having previously stated the importance that technology has had on the freight forwarding community over the past decade is something we can never overlook. Automation is something that is taking centre stage in many industries. We have AI tech that can prevent crime and even write the stories we read in the news, however, what can this kind of tech do for the freight forwarding industry? Using this high-tech automation will improve efficiencies, processes and not to mention add value to supply chains. Freightos found that 86% of industry specialists surveyed believed that leveraging technology was the best response to eroding margins in traditional forwarding.

Using AI to identify common documents such as bills of lading, proofs of delivery, and carrier invoices, aligning documents to the customer orders and carrier rate agreements is a way that the industry has made improvements through technology and I feel that the innovative nature of forwarding will mean we will continue to use these technologies.

Supply chain intrigue since the KFC blunder has led to many within the industry commentating on the overall state of the sector. Is it doomed to failure? Is this a sign of things to come? Will I ever be able to not get my chicken again? The answer is, realistically, there is no damage to the supply chain, and there is plenty of chicken to go around.

Whilst many have stated that the blunder could have been easily avoided and the reputational damage to KFC and DHL could be long-lasting, amongst both consumers and franchisees, others have stipulated that a mixture of rectification, warranty, indemnity and a clear incident response plan and communications strategy can sort out any supply chain mix-up. I always say that speculation is a fool’s game, but after an incident that brings as much attention to the supply chain as KFC did, we can start to presume that due to upcoming trends connecting and managing end-to-end with the highest possible level of customer satisfaction and efficiency – is finally becoming real.

Port information is a topic our readers have stressed to us is of major importance to both them, and their business. The latest information from some of the biggest ports around the world is always going to be a decisive factor in a carefully planned distribution methodology. Whilst giving you a round-up on all the current happenings for ports around the world is just a tad too ambitious, if we look at the UK we can see the latest stats from 2017 giving us a better indication of the current state of our ports.

Statistics such as Port traffic (-2.7%), RoRo traffic (+3.0%), Total ship calls (-2.3%) can not only give us a stark realisation on the economic gap between coastal and non-coastal communities, but also allow freight forwarders to look at the advantages to using one port over another. These statistics are, granted, hard to keep updated, but at least this gives us in the industry a way to look to the future of our ports with an informed decision process.