If you can get on a plane in Hong Kong on Friday and arrive in Minnesota the same day, why does it take merchandise three days to get from here to there? Now that the world is one big global market, the transportation of goods should be easier and faster, right?

Tom Hamel can set you straight. The Minnesota global logistics manager for Artesyn North America—a division of Artesyn Technologies, a Boca Raton, Florida–based company that makes power conversion equipment, computer boards, and software for various communications industries—Hamel knows all too well that moving products across the world isn’t as easy as UPS and FedEx ads would have us believe.

What has been causing the delays? Not surprisingly, the big factor has been post–9/11 security procedures, including the greater detail required on shipping manifests, larger numbers of military vessels on patrol, and more extensive checks on cargo, crew, and passengers on vessels carrying international shipments. But Hamel has found that other factors also have been slowing down the movement of goods.

Take the ports, for instance. According to Hamel, they currently aren’t capable of handling the volume of goods being imported and exported, and a labor shortage that began a few years ago worsened the situation. (However, he also believes that the two biggest problem areas, the California ports at Los Angeles and Long Beach, are “getting their problems under control.”) Then, of course, there are the natural disasters—tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes —that disrupt the overall flow of global logistics and complicate the transportation picture.

Not exactly a scenario that would inspire a business to start an international division. But Hamel, whose company spends $7 million to $10 million annually on worldwide transportation, says there are programs and suppliers that can help businesses better navigate the global logistics waters.

The most noteworthy is the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), a government-private sector partnership developed after 9/11 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (formerly the U.S. Customs Service) and various private and public entities. C-TPAT’s goal is to create both more secure supply chains and faster overseas product delivery. Although the C-TPAT program is voluntary, Hamel believes that if a company is going to do business globally, it can benefit from participation, if it’s willing to invest the time and money to put the program in place.

A company that wants to work with C-TPAT must apply for certification by completing an application that details its supply chain and security measures. The next step is a validation process, during which officials from C-TPAT conduct on-site inspections. Once a company gets through that, it can expect a reduced number of inspections, reduced border wait times, access to fast lanes on the Canadian and Mexican borders, and self-policing of its security activities.

Hamel advises starting the process by talking to companies that are already C-TPAT certified to fully understand the process and the ongoing commitment it takes to remain validated after initial certification.

He also says that transportation suppliers, such as Expeditors International and UPS, can be valuable resources, and most have a fee-based evaluation to help businesses understand their current situation and identify needs and procedures to either initiate or streamline their global logistics.

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