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Navigating Challenges in Shipping: Insights from Industry Experts

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August 30, 2023
By Traci Hopkins, Account Manager, CHEMTREC

Thank you for joining us for our enlightening webinar, "Bringing Shippers and Carriers Together: The Give and Take of Shipping – Bulk Edition." As proven by the recent pandemic, it is clear that our way of life heavily relies on the continuous and uninterrupted transport of raw materials and finished products across our country and the rest of the globe.

During our discussion with industry experts, we found that the shippers and carriers who supply and transport those goods share many of the same challenges. They have also grappled with finding individual solutions that work well for their respective organizations. Here is a summary of the key obstacles discussed amongst our panelists: 

Labor Shortages: One of the prominent concerns we uncovered is the ongoing issue of labor shortages. While the pandemic exacerbated labor shortages, our discussions revealed that many of these issues pre-dated COVID-19. Our panelists shared their experiences regarding the impact on their companies, possible causes, and the consequences they've faced. The lack of experienced and trained personnel has heightened challenges related to staff management and customer service. If there is a scarcity of personnel trained in a particular area, that responsibility gets shifted to personnel who may not be as well-versed in those procedures. In some cases, this has led to preventable mistakes, such as missed delivery deadlines, mis-deliveries, and spills. These negative outcomes, in turn, make it more difficult to retain the personnel whom they have already invested time and resources to train in other areas. 

Training and Experience: The panelists also provided insights into the importance of training and experience. They illustrated how the loss of experienced staff due to retirement or job changes, has affected each company’s ability to effectively, and efficiently, train new personnel. They also discussed the broader changes in how people view the role of work and the workplace in their lives. There is now less interest in remaining with one company for extended periods of time – by the time the new employee has gained enough experience in the position to be effective and self-sufficient, they have decided to move on to other opportunities or to pursue other avenues of employment. 

Communication: Communication emerged as both an advantage and an obstacle on the shipping landscape. Our experts shared their experiences of good and bad communication practices, including the role of technology in this context. They discussed the challenges their companies faced - shedding light on the solutions they employed. They also shared valuable insights into the systems, methods, and tools that have proven useful in overcoming communication barriers.

Drawing from our roundtable discussion with our webinar panelists, we can distill a few key takeaways to enhance shipping operations:

  1. Being prepared: Developing contingency plans and ensuring that the right people and departments are equipped to handle unforeseen events is crucial. Recommendations and advice from our panelists offered valuable guidance for navigating challenges that may arise at any time. Performing regular drills to train staff in their operational roles and company procedures during an emergency is a vital component to keeping personnel safe and to minimize the impact on the overall business.

  2. Keeping lines of communication open: Carefully and thoughtfully establishing mechanisms to maintain a consistent flow of information in both directions between shippers and carriers is also vitally important. Our experts shared practical approaches to partnering with each other, such as embracing a culture of open dialogue, proactively reporting potential problems, and moving quickly to make changes when necessary. Some of the panelists engage in regular meetings with their respective shippers or carrier/logistics organizations while others have created entirely new departments to ensure that their relationships are prioritized, and solutions can be implemented quickly.

  3. Training and organization: Investing in comprehensive training programs and fostering strong internal organizational structures are fundamental to the success of both shippers and carriers. Ensuring that all parties understand the relevant regulations, emergency response procedures, and product identification is essential for a seamless shipping process. As you have seen in the first two points, the only way to be prepared is to have regular, specific training in place. Our panelists also pointed out that this training and education should not just stop with the carriers and shippers – outreach to the residential and local emergency response communities that house the companies where products are manufactured, stored, or have regular shipments moving through, would also be helpful in keeping everyone safe and minimize unwanted outcomes.

  4. Addressing technology and experience gaps: The transfer of shipping information between shippers and carriers can be prone to errors and omissions for many reasons – some having to do with human error, some due to systems that do not “speak” well to each other, and others due to inadequate internal policies. Thoughtfully programmed technology can help streamline and advance operations but ultimately, without experienced, well-trained people to utilize that technology and determine effective policy around its use, its positive impact can be muted or negated altogether.

By implementing these insights and lessons to address their respective challenges, shippers and carriers can overcome confusion, foster collaboration, and enhance the efficiency and safety of their operations. The many businesses involved in sourcing, creating, and moving the products that make our way of life possible are part of dynamic and ever-evolving fields. Consistent communication, knowledge sharing, and continuous improvement are essential to keeping the flow of products plentiful and uninterrupted. Let us embrace these lessons and shape a brighter future for these symbiotic communities.

CHEMTREC has developed programs to assist both shippers and carriers with the growing workloads carried by their in-house personnel due to some of the challenges discussed in our webinar. Here are some services CHEMTREC provides that can help companies both manage and streamline their organizations:

If you missed the webinar, you can still watch it on demand through the CHEMTREC Learning Academy. For more information on all our offerings, please contact our Customer Care team at 1-800-262-8200 or

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