Blogs | 27 February 2020

Microsoft Envision for Manufacturing

In December last year, Microsoft held Envision for Manufacturing at the Wild Gallery in Brussels. This event brought manufacturing business leaders, practitioners, and peers together to share real-world strategies, best practices, and tips for success.

Envision for manufacturing

The event was kicked off by keynote speaker and China and technology expert Pascal Coppens of Nexxworks. Coppens expounded on how China has set the new standard for innovation and what manufacturing companies should be focusing on in the near future. During the breaks, there was plenty of time to see the latest innovations in manufacturing first-hand at the demo booths of different Microsoft partners.

Participants were able to choose from three “Envision” categories with breakout sessions held by Microsoft customers and partners. As a Microsoft partner, Customs4trade was honoured to speak at this event in the Envision a Smooth Supply Chain Category.

  • Envision Optimised Operations addressed how peers have transformed their operations to better react to market changes, reduce downtime, optimise productivity, and transform their offerings. Breakout sessions were presented by Etex, PTX, Bridgestone, and Bentley Systems.
  • Envision a Digitised Workforce relayed insights into Belgium’s stance in the war for talent, teachings on how to keep shop floor workers on board, and lessons learned from digitisation, presented by Spencer, LinkedIn, IntelliDocX, and Agoria.
  • Envision a Smooth Supply Chain demonstrated how to optimise and transform upstream, midstream, and downstream solutions, adapting them to customer needs in just a click while saving manufacturers money at the same time. Toolsgroup, Customs4trade,, and PROS-Schréder shared insights on this topic.

The Escalating Importance of Customs and Trade in Manufacturing

C4T’s CEO Pieter Haesaert and former Chief Revenue Officer, Maarten Laruelle, talked about customs automation, which is what we do best. With global trade continuing to grow exponentially and an erratic political environment worldwide, manufacturers are constantly having to adjust to new rules and regulations relating to international trade. C4T has built an automated solution, CAS, that can handle these rapidly changing situations.

Historically, customs compliance has been something that happens behind the scenes in a small corner of the warehouse, but circumstances like Brexit and trade wars have elevated it to a boardroom discussion. CAS gives companies the opportunity to shift the paradigm on customs—typically perceived as a cost centre—to an integral part of the organisation with the ability to wield streamlined customs processes and insights into international trade as a commercial weapon.

While customs declarations have come a long way, now standardised and submitted as electronic messages, gathering all necessary data elements from across the organisation remains a challenge. Synchronisation of business processes, legal compliance, and sharing information with business partners and third parties also lies in the domain of customs compliance, yet to date these have been riddled with complexity and manual tasks. C4T’s solution automates these processes, while at the same time gathering crucial data that gives the business insights and visibility that will help them optimise the entire flow.

The Importance of a Solid Platform

In 2015, we made the decision to build our customs compliance solution, CAS, on Microsoft Azure due to its scalability and the support Microsoft offers for a cloud service. This decision allowed us to grow CAS into a full customs solution, roll it out to different countries with more to come, and provide ever-increasing insights and added value to our customers.

Challenges for Customs Declarations

In order to lodge a customs declaration, lots of data spread across different departments, systems, and tools must be gathered. For this to work smoothly, systems need to be integrated end-to-end, enabling data to be shared with customs authorities, within the organisation, and with business partners and third parties.

To ensure that customs operations flow seamlessly as global situations change, we need to prepare by automating customs processes, so nobody is left scrambling. Brexit has almost happened three times, each time bringing changes and new challenges to businesses. Other organisational changes, such as mergers and acquisitions, can also introduce complexities which can be better addressed when an integrated, automated system is in place.

Three Use Cases

  1. C4T recently onboarded food and beverage manufacturer Alpro to CAS. With the Brexit clock ticking, Supply Chain Directors at Alpro wanted to find a solution, as they have 24/7 road transport to support. Their choice was between an automated customs solution and customs brokers. Because Alpro deals with fresh products, they can lose a lot of inventory if they encounter delays. With CAS, Alpro has a customs control tower that allows them to do more business and operate more efficiently, also in Switzerland. Next to that, they didn’t need to hire extra resources, since customs logic and legal context is already built in.
  2. Honda Motor Europe is one of the pioneers in customs compliance. They had a strong IT department that could develop tools for customs automation in the early ’90s, but it was a very costly process that needed a lot of maintenance due to often-changing legal context. They started to look for a partner that could help them take advantage of legal possibilities to optimise operations and save on customs duties. In partnership with Honda, C4T implemented the Special Procedures – Inward Processing Relief (IPR) module, which helped them save seven digits on customs duties. Everything is now automated and managed in-house by a small local customs team with no additional FTEs required.
  3. Agristo was aiming for 30% growth per year, yet an outsourced customs model would not allow them to realise that growth. With CAS, they gained the ability to own the entire customs process, reduce waiting times for trucks from 1 hour to 2 minutes, save on customs duties, and adopt their flows based on what the business needs – without having to hire more people. These factors were all crucial to Agristo’s growth and they have now started to roll out CAS in different countries.

Continuous Improvement

We are always looking at additional inbound and outbound flows that can be managed with CAS to improve and extend our solution. For example, when shipping containers, one day per container is lost on average due to inefficiencies in interactions between different systems. We have extended CAS to integrate with Portbase so our customers can now ship via Rotterdam using a fully automated flow, reducing this delay from one day to one minute.

For more information on our CAS solution and how it can help your business grow, we invite you to watch our demo video.

Watch our demo video

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