by Dean Gionis
For brokers, the northern border of the United States operates far differently than the eastern, western, southern and central regions of the nation. Such differences give rise to the terms “border brokers” and “inland brokers.” The latter group primarily handles ocean and air shipments, whereas truck-based shipments are the focus of the former. The immediacy of truck transport, coupled with the high volume of shipments coming across U.S. borders every day, provides the essence of the challenge that northern border brokers must address: They have far less time to react when it comes to clearing truck-borne goods coming into the United States from Canada.
As an example, ocean cargo coming from Italy could take two weeks, while shipments by sea from China could require a month. Such extended schedules allow ample time for information gathering and document generation. Northern border brokers, however, may only learn that goods need to be cleared within a few days or even hours of the truck approaching the U.S. border. Border brokers thus face entirely different workflows and requirements when it comes to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – and everything must be addressed quickly, accurately and compliantly.
It goes without saying that a broker’s survival in this fast-paced environment depends on its ability to be responsive insofar as speed, accuracy and compliance are concerned. Otherwise, exporters will look to other customs house brokers that can handle the pressures of clearing goods along our nation’s northern border.
Business survival dictates the need for technology specifically developed to meet border brokers’ unique requirements. This raises the question: What technology features are well-suited to the workflow of border brokers?
- Web Native Is Essential. The need for speed is undeniable. And the Internet provides a fast, real-time ability to transmit information. In addition, a true web native system does not require any special software to be loaded in order to exchange data with a broker.
- Integration Is Vital. Integration allows Canadian exporters to enter information about the specific commodities in a shipment from their location and immediately transmit that data to the broker’s system for processing. For large, complex shipments, the portal also must possess the capability to upload data electronically (EDI).
- Automation Is Critical. Instantaneous data transmission fulfills only half of the broker’s needs. The technology must facilitate the creation of line items with automated compliance validations to assure that the entry will be cleared expeditiously. A platform with a product and transaction party database that is specific to the exporter is essential to completing the functionality needed to compete on the border.
- Real-Time Status Information Is Important. Exporters, like all supply chain partners, have a vested interest in knowing where their goods are at any given point in time. They want to meet or exceed commitments made to their customers, especially delivery times and dates. Thus, the web portal should be able to provide this visibility to the exporter.
- The System Must Generate Reports. Customers need information to be successful. Thus, the selected technology should possess the capability to produce reports in formats that address each customer’s unique needs. Plus, the system should be able to print copies of any forms submitted to CBP, at the customer’s request.
QuestaWeb understands the unique challenges that U.S. border brokers face, especially the need for speed in clearing goods shipped by Canadian exporters. Its latest product offering – Exportal – possesses all the needed technology features and requires no special software to run. It is a lean system that delivers the following benefits:
- Web-native technology that facilitates the instantaneous transfer of critical shipment information via the Internet. As soon as the exporter enters information via Exportal’s secure web portal, which is password protected, the broker can access it.
- Built-in intelligence that automatically populates the entry documentation, minimizing manual data entry that can slow the process and create errors. Exportal can upload spreadsheets of information, too, anticipating that the volume and complexity of some shipments precludes other input methods.
- Integration with the broker’s QuestaWeb technology allows full access to the exporter’s product database and customer list.
- Visibility via the web portal lets brokers know the precise status of the entry at any point in time.
- Automated report generation – and the capability to duplicate forms submitted to CBP – easily.
- Enhanced competitiveness. In fact, absent such technology, being competitive on the borders will be difficult.
Location is not just the mantra of realtors. Location is a criterion that literally changes the business landscape of brokers operating along our nation’s northern border. Technology is the answer, and QuestaWeb’s Exportal is the best solution.