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Small businesses account for at least 99% of the businesses in every main industry sector, and the significance of the strong exporting culture among this vital group cannot be underestimated.

The exporting activity of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) had a positive impact on the UK’s trade deficit in 2015, with globally-active SMEs each contributing an average net benefit of over £300,000 according to a FedEx report from 2015. With such sizeable trade volumes, now, more than ever, businesses need to ensure that their supply chains are as lean as possible to maximise profit margins and operational efficiency.

The importance of smooth and efficient supply chains cannot be understated. In an increasingly connected world, UK SMEs are doing business in every corner of the world and with this comes a need for local-level knowledge and understanding to ensure efficiency.

With that in mind, we have identified six strategies to help ensure supply chain efficiency:

  1. Review your supply chain
It’s excellent practice to review your supply chain, identifying potential pain points and finding workable solutions. Doing so on a regular basis – with the help of your transport provider – can help you to overcome challenges before they actually affect you.
  1. Find the right logistics provider for you
Fostering a strong relationship with your logistics provider is a crucial foundation of successful global expansion. Make sure you share as much information as possible, and be very specific about your needs and concerns. You should also make the most of their expertise by asking any and all questions you might have.
  1. Pay special attention to customs rules and regulation
Navigating the sometimes complex world of customs can seem like one of the most challenging aspects of exporting – but it certainly doesn’t have to be. It’s a good idea to have a solid understanding of the relevant customs rules yourself, but you should also lean on your logistics provider for their expert support.
  1. Increase supply chain visibility
The very best supply chains are powered by visibility – where shipments are tracked in real-time and where the shipper can make use of actionable information every step of the way. Visibility is particularly important when you are shipping critical, valuable or time-sensitive shipments where even small delays are to be avoided at all costs. If you think your business might benefit from more supply chain visibility, speak with your logistics provider to see what products and services they can offer to help with this.
  1. Integrate closely into wider business
Though important, the supply chain is just one part of the business machine. It should therefore be closely integrated with all areas of the company, such as sales and customer service. Cross-team planning ensures that the correct balance is achieved between customer demand, production and distribution capacities, and financial performance.
  1. Constant communication
Work together with supply chain partners to establish clear communication channels throughout the supply chain. If an unexpected order is placed, or if a blockage appears in the supply chain, it is vital that everyone is made aware of it as soon as possible, so that the supply chain remains functional

By David Poole, managing director of sales, UK South, at FedEx Express