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How to Import Medical Supplies Safely?
By Themedica on February 2, 2009 9:42 AM |
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A careful decision to import products from foreign nations has well-established economic benefits, which in a short time can steer a business in the direction of cost-savings, competitive advantage and profitability, and the medical marketplace is no exception. The caveat however is the risk of dealing with a supplier who turns out to be a sorry choice. Nevertheless, if as an importer you've done your homework well, and taken the necessary Unloading cargo from a ship. precautions, chances are good your decision to import becomes a stepping stone of success for your business.

Though not all embracing, the following tips are meant to help you safely and effectively complete an import transaction.

Decide upon what products you will import

First off, you need have a clear idea about the products you want to import. For many importers selecting products that can either be sold in large amounts or would let them build their own brand are a preferred choice.

Finding Suppliers

The Internet often serves as a fast and easy way to begin your search for products. You could either search for individual manufacturers or take the help of a number of businesses-to-business (b2b) websites and directories, which allow you to identify manufacturers, traders and suppliers for a range of medical supplies, e.g hospital equipment supplies.

Print and online catalogs also serve as important sources of finding information in 'black and white.' Also, advertisements published in trade and medical industry publications can provide you with a good idea of potential suppliers.

Visiting relevant medical trade shows, expositions, and trade events where you can meet the suppliers or representatives in person is a good option to find a match, and will provide you with information that an indirect contact such as that over the Internet, wouldn't. However, you may need to consider your budget as well.

Selecting Suppliers

Based on your requirements, you may shortlist a number of prospective suppliers. Further refinements to your list could be achieved by considering the country of import, or whether you'd want to deal directly with manufacturers, or traders, suppliers, etc. For instance if you want to import hospital furniture items such as hospital trolley, hospital stools, hospital tables, or patient transport systems, your search will be much easier if you have a clear idea about the quality, technology, design or its uses, before you begin your search.

You'd also need to establish a relationship. In order to establish trust and probe the potential suppliers and know whether they'd be able to meet your requirements contact and seek information from suppliers.

Teleconferencing, emails, referrals, certifications from independent auditors, registration and incorporation documents, etc can help you with that. You may further verify the credentials of suppliers from foreign trade assistance bodies of your own country and the that of the supplier's country. The point is to gather reliable information and verify the past records of the supplier.

In your communication with the prospects you may explore in depth, the  price and trade relationship that's acceptable and expected. Further, ask for product samples that will help you review product quality, packaging, instructions, collaterals. If you're satisfied then get all the information you need to prepare for placing a trial order.

Terms & Expectations

A clear idea about about how the transaction will unfold in terms of cost, payment & delivery schedule will help you set realistic expectations and also forestall any sour surprises.

For example, a payment of 30% at time of order with the remaining 70% when the product ships is common. The initial down payment helps the manufacturer/supplier to begin production, though you may need to negotiate customized terms.

In terms of landing cost estimates, a simple formula to get an idea would be:

Landing cost = cost of the goods Freight On Board (FOB) + transport costs by forwarder + import duties (if applicable) + local transport costs + cost of service providers (inspections, agents, etc.).

Keep in mind that this mathematical expression doesn't reveal anything about the hidden costs. And while a consultation with your import management company is one way to know that, a trial order with a small quantity should ideally spill most of the beans.

Legalities & External Help

To be clear about an import deal you may need to do both your own homework in understanding some basics, and also seek professional help on specialized issues such as foreign trade laws, compliance, etc.

Some common terms used to confirm with your suppliers about shipment are Freight On Board (FOB), Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF), in addition to payment terms. Since these terms are closely linked to the landing cost estimates and risk assessment, you may seek the help of your import management company and a freight forwarder for a detailed break-down of the actual costs and risks. Additionally, your import management company may also help with negotiating the trade terms, if needed.

As for compliance issues you'd need to understand the aspects relevant to import within you country. Understand the regulations of all the bodies which govern foreign trade in your country. For example, in the US, some of these agencies include the US Customs and Border Protection, FDA, DOT, USDA, and ATF to name a few. Also restrictions and allowances may be different for different products and/or countries.

Considering the specialized nature of compliance, it makes sense to hire the services of a good customs house broker before placing an order.  For that you may contact your local international trade organization and association, customs office to learn about the listed consultants. Shop for the one who can meet your needs and you're comfortable dealing with.

Your Order, Custom Clearance & Tracking

Place a written purchase order for trial. In addition to providing a detailed description of the products and trade terms, list all needed shipping documents required.
An on site inspection of the goods to be shipped takes care of the any surprises once the goods touch-down to your country. Returning back to the hospital furniture example you are better off by having an aid perform the necessary checks, as many specialized hospital furniture items such as ward furniture, hospital stools or hospital table could be quite costly, an could cost you a fortune if what you get isn't up to the mark.  You may avail the services of an inspection company for it, and ask for a detailed report. In the case of products such as pharmaceutical drug supplies you may need to take extra precautions for combating counterfeit drugs being supplied.
Keep a tab on the transportation and customs clearance. This is where your forwarder and customs broker will be of help. At the same time you'd need to track the process and assist them by providing any further products information and endorsing bill of landing. You'd also be required to issue a power of attorney to your broker and purchase customs bond for the import.

If you've done your homework right the deal is likely to be a success and  you may embark on a journey of cost savings, better profits and growth for your business.


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