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Five questions that high-tech companies need answered

Advice from experts for building your business.

You don't need to go back to the drawing board to find ways to get your supply chain running like a finely tuned machine. Take this expert advice.

Insatiable consumer demand for gadgets, combined with new technologies such as cloud computing, make high-tech a ray of sunshine among the economic doldrums. There's plenty of upside potential – yet there's little margin for error. Here are five key questions and answers to help you succeed in today's marketplace:

1. How do we identify new export markets, and which comes first, marketing or establishing the supply chain?
"In the recently released 2012 '
Change in the (Supply) Chain' study, many high-tech executives said they expect to take advantage of the rising middle class in emerging markets to grow their exports, with key markets for growth in product demand being Brazil, the Middle East/Africa and India,” says Alantria Harris, a UPS high-tech segment manager. One key tactic is to listen to your market, Harris says.  

"Another way to get started is to take advantage of UPS's partnership with the U.S. Commercial Service (USCS) to help you identify the best markets," Harris says. "USCS also links you with prescreened buyers, partners or distributors in those markets.

"Once you identify the markets you want to enter, you need to quickly put your supply chain in place," Harris says. "The two go hand in hand."

2. I work with many global vendors. How do I ensure orders are fulfilled and that I have status visibility?
Ask your suppliers to use WorldShip® and Quantum View® Manage so you can see where your shipments are in the pipeline, allowing you to track and precisely forecast arrival times, Harris says. Even better is UPS Import Control®, letting you initiate package shipments and pickups, specify the UPS service mode and e-mail shipping labels to your vendor.

3. What are other high-tech companies doing to reduce costs?
One proven method is sourcing closer to home, for example from Mexico, which can lower shipping costs. Companies are sourcing from more than one place, as well. "This reduces the risk of sourcing from a single geographical area," Harris says.

Finding the best shipping mode for your needs makes a difference, too. "If you have flexibility in timing when products arrive, consider lower-cost modes like Ocean Freight," Harris says. Another option is specifying freight collect, which takes middlemen out of the picture, reducing overall inbound freight costs.

4. How can we get returned products back on the market as soon as possible?
“Think of reverse logistics in strategic terms,” says Jim Gerard, a UPS high-tech segment manager. “There are many high-tech companies whose reverse logistics process is a revenue driver.” With UPS Returns® you can control a shipment’s mode of transportation, time in transit and delivery destination – all by sending your customer the shipping label beforehand. Without this control, which provides up-to-date visibility, it becomes harder to manage your overall supply chain. 

Even better: You can embed data when preparing the same shipping label that will let the recipient know what’s inside the package upon arrival. That person can then automatically decide what happens next with the package even before opening it.

“The idea is to get high-value product turned around quickly, because it’s a value driver, not just a cost container,” Gerard says.

5. I want to import and export more. However, my company has limited experience in this area. How can UPS help me?
"Many high-tech companies find import/export a real challenge," Harris says. In the "Change in the (Supply) Chain" study, more than a third of high-tech companies surveyed (38 percent) plan to rely on external partners for help with supply chain logistics in the next two years. "UPS has the global distribution expertise and innovative technology to serve as a total logistics provider," Harris says. "That way, companies can focus on what they do best."

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