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27 Jan 2016

RESEARCH: Global Trade Management Agenda 2016

Prof. Dr. Dirk H. Hartel and Dr. Ulrich Lison

Supply chain collaboration in practice and the key challenges in managing international supply chains

Collaboration in the supply chain: That is the focus as this year’s Global Trade Management Agenda examines a very intense form of partnership between companies – a partnership for which many examples already exist in business practice but for which there are no standard prescriptions (yet). The results of the survey, conducted in the summer of 2015 among 319 global trade and logistics experts, show that the topic has very positive associations and will become increasingly important over time. Businesses are also wary of the risks that this strategy presents, however. Like every year, the experts were also asked to share what they feel are the most urgent challenges in global trade management in the coming year. The study is a collaborative project of AEB Gesellschaft zur Entwicklung von Branchen-Software mbH and Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg, DHBW) in Stuttgart.

by: Prof. Dr. Dirk H. Hartel (*) and Dr. Ulrich Lison (**)

(*) Head of the Department of Business Administration Service Management at DHBW Stuttgart
(**) Member of the Executive Board at AEB and expert in the area of global trade, preferences and international customs processes


Global trade management – key themes in 2016

Speed is number-one issue
Shorter lead times and time to delivery – this goal tops the agenda for businesses in 2016. Nearly 75 % of respondents cite this as an important or very important issue – displacing last year’s top agenda item of “complying with embargo requirements”, which ranks this year down in the middle of the field. Other challenges of heightened urgency are also vying for the top spots, including “minimizing risk in the supply chain” and “implementing changes to customs laws”.

Increased focus on personnel management
The study also looks at how companies are equipped to meet the various challenges. Nearly 42 % of respondents see room for improvement or major shortcomings in lead times, for example – putting this topic in the middle of the field. Action is more urgently needed in lowering overall GTM costs, penetrating new markets, and establishing a tax-optimized supply chain. Nearly 51 % perceive the most significant shortcomings in the area of personnel management. The challenge to businesses here is to keep up with the increasing professionalization in global trade despite a worsening shortage of skilled labor in the logistics industry.

Collaboration in the supply chain

Strong common ground on definition
“Collaboration is a targeted, solution oriented cooperation between companies. The aim is a coordinated, cross-enterprise optimization of processes and workflows in which each partner retains entrepreneurial freedom.” This working definition was presented to participants at the start of the survey and put up for debate. In the English-speaking world, there is already a consensus on how “collaboration” is defined and applied in practice. Most companies now have a clear understanding of the term as well, and one that is largely covered by the above working definition. Participants also feel it is important that the benefit be shared by all collaborative partners and that all parties accept the need for compromise.

Collaboration creates competitive advantages
Businesses that collaborate closely with other businesses in the supply chain and work with them to optimize workflows gain critical competitive advantages, say four out of five global trade and logistics experts. First and foremost, the experts expect collaboration to bring optimized processes – 87.3 % of respondents called such benefits very likely or rather likely. A large majority also expects collaboration to enhance their expertise and accelerate their supply chain processes.

In practice: still untapped potential
The study also highlights the time gains and financial benefits that businesses achieve through collaboration: The number-one benefit of supply chain collaboration cited by respondents is lower transport costs (31.7 %). Businesses also report shorter lead times and fewer delays in customer shipments. The results still show a marked gap between anticipated and actually realized benefits of collaboration when it comes to speed, for example. It’s clear that businesses recognize the benefits of collaboration in the supply chain, but many still do not exploit its full potential.



About the Global Trade Management Agenda 2016
The "Global Trade Management Agenda" studies are a collaborative project carried out by AEB GmbH and the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (Department of Business Administration Service Management) in Stuttgart, Germany. The studies examine the global trade and logistics trends of the coming year, and each study focuses on analysing another key topic.

About AEB (
AEB is one of Europe's leading providers of supply chain logistics software and has been delivering solutions to customers for over thirty years. The company has over 5,000 customers worldwide, supported by offices in the UK, Germany, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, France, and the US. AEB’s core product - ASSIST4 - is the comprehensive solution suite for all logistics processes in global business. ASSIST4 offers a complete set of business services for end-to-end logistics, including international goods movements, making it possible to standardise and automate business processes in supply chain execution. ASSIST4 also creates transparency and provides a reliable basis for making the right decisions about the planning, monitoring, control and continual optimisation of supply networks, even beyond the boundaries of the business. The ASSIST4 suite offers full functionality via a wide range of modules including Visibility & Collaboration Platform, Order Management, Warehouse Management, Transport & Freight Management, Customs Management and Compliance & Risk Management.

About DHBW Stuttgart (
With around 8,800 students, the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW Stuttgart) is among the largest universities in the Stuttgart and Upper Neckar regions of Germany. In cooperation with about 2,500 carefully selected companies and social institutions, the dual partners, the Schools of Business, Engineering and Social Work, offer more than 40 nationally and internationally approved Bachelor courses. Their most important feature is that students regularly switch between theoretical phases at the university and practical phases at the dual training partner. Since autumn 2011, DHBW Stuttgart has also been offering cooperative studies, extending beyond the Bachelor degree with its career-integrated Master's programs at all its schools. The dual studies are designed according to the actual requirements of the job market and the companies or social institutions and guarantee a unique combination of theory and practice. Today, the DHBW is a nationally and internationally approved and accredited university with an exceptionally high level of quality, which also shows in the large number of graduates, namely 80 percent, who are taken on by their training companies after graduation.




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