April 20 - Do exporters, importers, manufacturers and others who ship goods around the world know what they are doing? Are they adding costs instead of adding value?

Dr Andrew Traill, Managing Partner of Shippers' Voice, says, unfortunately, some shippers don't know enough about the transport of their products to understand what they really need from their freight and logistics service providers.

"Some shippers are hugely professional and sophisticated in their understanding of the world of international transport, but many others, sadly, are too reliant on their logistics suppliers. They hand over this vital part of their business to a third party without really knowing what they are buying. This is bad for them - and often bad for the logistics provider."

Shippers' Voice (www.shippersvoice.com) is a free service that has been set up to help shippers become more knowledgeable and informed - so they can become better partners with their logistics providers and work more closely together to drive costs out of the supply chain.

"The role of the person who buys or organises the transport of goods around the world - the shipper - is greatly undervalued in most companies," says Dr Traill. "Yet the on-time delivery of a product is often the most important aspect in the customer's mind. An efficient supply chain can help to win contracts - and an inefficient one can just as quickly lose them."

He reminds us that, ultimately, it is the person paying the bill - the shipper - who is responsible for meeting the legal requirements of, for instance, ensuring Customs paperwork and the duty paid is completely correct. "Just because you pay someone else to do the work, does not mean you can forget about it."

So important is this to The Shippers Voice that it has designed a series of Master Classes on all three days of the Multimodal Exhibition, NEC,Birmingham, UK, April 28-30th with the aim of 'creating better shippers'.

"Our message to shippers is to make sure you understand the processes and take more control. Greater knowledge gives you the confidence to challenge the logistics provider and carriers to work to your needs - not force you to fit into their systems. It also helps you to work with your own colleagues to cut costs in all sorts of ways."

The Shippers' Voice website has just been relaunched to give shippers - and anyone else interested in the supply chain - a greater depth of information, with expert opinion, policy and insight. It also runs polls to gather opinions from shippers, and works ever more closely with Shippers' Councils and associations around the world to give shippers the insights into the next big policy developments that will affect the freight business. Dr Traill said, "If we can get them to take notice, shippers will be better equipped to do their job as professionally as possible and be prepared for what ever is around the next corner."