Most importers and exporters are careful to manage inventory, tariffs and compliance. In a recent survey of trade consultants conducted by Integration Point, every respondent (100%) indicated that their client companies perform denied party screening and recognize foreign trade zones. However, most outsource this work to consultants, freight forwarders or other third party service providers. The cost of internal automation and process control has been too high for most importers and exporters to do on their own. Acquiring and maintaining a trade management system and data has been too much of a burden for smaller companies to adopt on top of their core business needs within manufacturing, sales and marketing and supplier relations.

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In today's uncertain times, one thing remains certain: There will always be changing global trade rules and technologies. The following are 10 of the top ways we believe companies can ensure they are being as efficient, safe and cost-conscious as possible in the short run while building a sound infrastructure for future needs.

With the goals to reduce cost and risk in the supply chain, automation and working closely with partners are the two most practical areas of opportunity.

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As the economic downturn shrinks budgets for supply chain IT investments, companies turn to smaller projects with fast implementations and on-demand delivery models.

This means that vendors have to be more flexible and creative in their go-to market strategies. Those that already have adopted a SaaS model appear to have an advantage, based on reports of corporate spending plans. In a recent survey by Gartner Group, Boston, nine out of 10 companies said they plan to increase their use of SaaS or on-demand solutions this year. More than a third plan to replace on-premises software with SaaS to bring down total cost of ownership.

Reduced cost of ownership is the big reason that SaaS is quickly gaining traction, says Clay Perry, Senior Vice President, Global Markets at Integration Point, an on-demand global trade management software provider based in Charlotte, N.C. "SaaS allows people to buy the drink, rather than buying or building the entire drink machine, " he says, adding that it also offers fast implementation and is less expensive to maintain and upgrade.

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This year's Pros to Know is a tribute to those who have seen the importance of supply chain - both on the Practitioner side and the Solution Provider side - and have quietly been working over the years to strengthen the supply chain at their own companies or at their clients.

This year's Provider Pros to Know offer industry insights you can use when tough times call for you to wring ever last bit of savings out of your supply chain. Melissa Irmen, Vice President of Products & Strategies at Integration Point, Inc. offers this advice, "Be proactive in industry groups and initiatives aimed at ensuring trade regulations and requirements can be implemented costs effectively as well as in a timely manner. Understand critical current and forthcoming regulations and the importers'/exporters' roles and responsibilities in upholding them."

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The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency's Importer Security Filing (ISF) regulation has become commonly known as the 10+2 initiative because it requires importers and vessel-operating carriers to provide trade data (10 elements and two elements each, respectively) for non-bulk cargo shipments arriving into the United States via ocean. Melissa Irmen, Vice Presidents - Products & Strategy, at Charlotte, N.C.-based trade solutions provider Integration Point, offers these tips for complying with the new regulations.

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