Key operations performance factors on trade and transport facilitation

Batista, Luciano (2009). Key operations performance factors on trade and transport facilitation. In: Logistics Research Network Conference, 09-11 Sep 2009, Cardiff, UK.



Purpose: Greater participation in international trade is an essential element of economic growth. Trade and transport facilitation (TTF) measures and instruments are seen as important initiatives to smooth the progress of trade volumes. The measurement of TTF performance provides the basis for the development of initiatives aimed at accelerating the flow of goods across borders as well as optimising customs processes. A key problem is that there is neither uniformity nor standard frameworks or methodologies for measuring the operations performance of trade and transport facilitation. This scenario leads us to the following questions: which performance factors can be considered as general key operational elements for the facilitation of trade and transport? Can these factors be expressed in terms of performance objectives that are strategic for operations in general? This study focused upon operational aspects of TTF. Its main purpose was to identify and categorise factors that represent key operations performance aspects on the field.

Research approach: The research approach used to identify key TTF performance factors was Delphi study. This method was adopted because it allows the achievement of reliable consensus on complex issues, in circumstances where accurate information does not exist or is impossible to obtain economically. It also allows reliable and creative exploration of ideas as the basis for the production of suitable information for decision making. Delphi technique is an exercise of group communication interspersed with controlled opinion feedback involving a panel of geographically dispersed experts. In order to avoid influences, the group interaction in Delphi is anonymous. A knowledgeable group of eleven academics, consultants, and practitioners with large experience in the area of global logistics and supply chain management formed the group of experts in this study.

Findings and Originality: This paper reports the findings of a Delphi study involved in a research project funded by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) UK. Critical operations performance elements such as speed, dependability, flexibility, quality, and cost provided the basis for the categorisation of the key TTF performance factors identified in the study. Those performance elements are well established performance aspects in the operations management discipline. This classification framework provides clarification, sound referential basis, and a more structured and consistent way to represent key performance factors on TTF operations.

Research impact: The framework developed in this study can be a useful reference for regional comparisons, helping the assessment of trade and transport facilitation operations performance at port and country level. The study also contributes to the definition of more standardised indicators that can potentially assist in designing and implementing effective and targeted programs to increase agility, dependability, flexibility, quality, and lower the cost of moving goods and services across borders. Finally, it provides a basis for the development of further indicators for the analysis of performance aspect of trade and transport facilitation, as well as a basis for the development of further studies involving comparative analysis of operations performance aspects in the field.

Practical impact: The main outcome of the study provides a useful managerial framework for the analysis of the performance of trade and transport facilitation at the operational level. In practical terms, the framework can be used as a basis for monitoring, benchmarking, and detecting specific areas with poor operational performance. This way, port managers and government customs officers can develop more targeted and straightforward initiatives to improve the agility (speed), reliability (dependability), responsiveness (flexibility), quality, and cost effectiveness of their trade and transport facilitation processes. The framework can also be used as a common reference for the comparison of the operational performance of different ports, supporting strategic decisions such as government prioritisation plans to improve the infrastructure of ports with poor performance as well as logistics service providers' decisions to operate, or not, with a particular port.

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