by Wayne Slossberg
Automating and streamlining end-to-end import and export processes are vital in today’s world. Regulatory requirements are demanding more, while economics is necessitating that organizations get by with less. The answer is automation.
Global trade management software solutions simplify the performance of complex global trade management processes, while adding precision, rigor and speed.
Understanding the essential functionality your global trade management solution must possess is a challenge, even for experienced importers and exporters. Here are 10 must-have features to compete effectively and trade compliantly in today’s fast-paced world:
- A True Global Trade Management Solution. No, this is not a mistake. Many offerings in the marketplace are not solutions, but merely trade-related content. An apt analogy is buying fuel for a car, but not purchasing the car itself. Content = fuel, while a global trade management system = the car. Purchasing siloes of content and using spreadsheets is not a solution. It is a disaster waiting to happen.
- Multiple Deployment Options. A sign of modern, advanced global trade management software is the ability to deploy it on your terms – not the vendor’s. Look for the ability to install the global trade management solution on your premises behind your firewall or in your cloud environment, not just the vendor’s cloud. Such inaccessibility is often a sign of legacy software replete with workarounds to accommodate today’s requirements. Software written in C# .NET or Java is modern and offers many advantages. Look, too, for compliance with the latest version of the HTML5 standard. It means that user experience will be the same regardless of the browser or device employed.
- Web-Native Solution. Let’s face it. We rely on the Internet to conduct almost every facet of our business. We possess a website and a social media presence to tell the world who we are. We communicate via text, messaging and email. We rely on the cloud or other applications to access our files remotely and do work from wherever we are in the world. You want a global trade management solution with the immediacy the Internet provides, the visibility it allows and the no-cost, worldwide access it affords your supply chain partners.
- Centralized Database. Centralizing information is imperative for compliance. Importers and exporters create many documents and must maintain them and supporting documentation to substantiate actions taken. A centralized database affords better security, more storage capacity, ease of access to documents, query capability, more comprehensive reporting and keeps historical records intact. Oracle and SQL servers are the database technology of choice, so select a compatible global trade management system.
- One-Time Data Entry. Data input, regardless of global trade process, should be a one-time event. And, the entered data should be available universally for global trade management processes. It allows for better information flow, minimizes errors and prevents redundant information. One-time data entry, coupled with a central database, makes processes such as drawback and reconciliation more efficient.
- Document Warehouse. Every import and export transaction generates multiple documents. Keeping track of these documents and associating them with distinct transactions can be a challenge. A global trade management software solution with a document warehouse maintains all the documents in one place in an orderly fashion, eliminating the difficulty and cost of contacting manufacturers, brokers, freight forwarders and so on to obtain copies should an inspection or focused assessment occur.
- Complete Compliance Functionality. The global trade management solution must automate all import and export processes in accordance with Customs and Border Protection’s rules and regulations. All regulations and codes (Harmonized Tariff Schedule, Export Control Classification Number, etc.) should be resident within the global trade management system and updated as changes occur. The solution should possess a reliable means for maintaining ever-changing vendor and product information as well. In particular, the ability to co-manage this information when manufacturers in different countries are concurrently producing the same product is imperative. The global trade management system should link all supply chain partners and provide a trail of a product’s logistical path from sales/purchase order entry to end-user acceptance.
- Landed Cost Calculation. The selected global trade management solution should calculate landed costs – and do so accurately. The system must contain worldwide tariff, duty, harbor fees, transportation fees, special trade agreement provisions, quotas and more, as well as a means to keep this information current. Comparative cost analysis functionality using “what if” scenarios is vital. The global trade management solution should possess the capability to monitor all supply chain participants’ estimated charges and actual invoices so that final cost comparisons can be made and more cost-effective alternatives substituted.
- Maximum Automation. Managing by exception is a necessity. This means that the global trade management solution must have the built-in logic to handle most situations on its own and only bring items outside this logic to staff attention. The global trade management solution must automatically populate and generate required documentation and communicate to all parties in the trade process. That is, the system must produce the right document for the right product and for the right country along with the required PGA filings. And, the global trade management solution must monitor changes and adjust for them in documentation and filings. A global trade management should possess built-in reporting tools and query functionality.
- Configurability, Scalability and Ease of Integration. The only constant in life – and the business world – is change. We must constantly reimagine our business model and processes to adapt to changing times. A global trade management solution must possess the configurability to transition to new processes and the scalability to accommodate growing transaction volumes. Likewise, it must possess interoperability with other automated systems, such as the ERP and WMS. Ease of integration is paramount, as it will save untold dollars.