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Blogs | 10 July 2024

The Next Generation of Customs Management

The Next Generation of Customs Management

Read the interview of our Chief Revenue Officer, Jo Buvens, with International Trade Magazine and discover our vision on the next generation of customs management, providing traders with greater control and visibility.

Could you tell us about Customs4trade (C4T) and its main mission?

Our mission is to streamline trade by enhancing compliance, efficiency, and speed. We aim to offer a comprehensive and interconnected customs system that complies with regulations in all the countries where we operate. Our focus is on traders who ship goods globally. We strive to eliminate as much friction as possible in customs handling and self-filing. Additionally, we provide Special Procedures that enable our customers to save substantial amounts on duties and free up working capital. In essence, our goal is twofold: to make life easier and better for traders while also optimising costs.

How is Customs4trade setting the standard for the next generation of customs management?

From the beginning, our vision has been to simplify and automate customs processes across different countries. Traditional methods often handle customs on a country-by-country basis. However, since trade involves moving goods from one country to another, we believe the process should be seamless and interconnected. For example, if you export goods from Dover to France or Belgium, you should be able to use the same data set for both export and import.

While this might sound obvious, it's actually quite complex in the world of customs, where numerous systems and solutions exist and many companies rely on third-party agents. Our vision is to make it straightforward for our customers to track their goods and respond to inquiries from regulatory bodies like HMRC. By simplifying data retrieval and ensuring all information is easily accessible, we help our customers maintain a clear understanding of their shipments. This level of interconnectedness and simplicity is not common in the customs industry, and we are proud to lead the way in this area.

What are the most common challenges when it comes to customs management, and how does C4T help traders overcome them?

One major challenge is the high cost of using third-party services for customs management. This has become especially true after Brexit, where prices in the UK have surged dramatically for managing relatively simple processes. Brexit introduced significant turbulence in the market, forcing traders to seek assistance for tasks they hadn't handled previously due to the unified market. The increased costs affect all imports and exports involving the UK, and the process often remains manual, expensive, and lacking in transparency.

For traders wanting better control and understanding of their supply chains, while also aiming to save money, our platform offers a significant advantage. We can help traders achieve savings of 40% to 80%. Unlike many systems that are local providers covering only single countries, our platform is interconnected, spanning multiple countries and systems.

Another challenge is managing special customs procedures. If these regimes aren't connected to a self-filing system, managing them can become very tedious. This is where we step in with our comprehensive platform that interconnects various countries and systems. We use the same data to help traders save on duties, which can result in substantial financial savings.

Many supply chain experts and senior leaders often view customs as merely a cost of sales. However, we advise our customers to work with specialised customs consultancies to uncover potential optimisations. For instance, by utilising tax regimes like customs warehousing, inward processing, and outward processing, companies can avoid many duties. We have helped companies save tens of millions of pounds annually through these standard procedures available in both the UK and Europe.

Even industries that seem straightforward, such as e-commerce or Fast-Moving Consumer Goods, can benefit significantly. Companies producing in the EU or UK and exporting a large portion of their products should consider these options, as they can make a substantial difference. This is where our platform excels, by facilitating operations across different countries and leveraging tax regimes to optimise costs.

How would you say that C4T's digital-first approach makes compliance more convenient and simpler?

Our digital-first approach offers several key advantages. First, we seamlessly integrate with our customers' ERP or warehouse management systems, ensuring a solid foundation for declaring imports and exports. By automating this process, we significantly reduce errors, as there's no need for manual data entry. Our system performs various validation checks and provides intelligent notifications, even guiding users through complex customs requirements. For instance, if a crucial detail like currency or licence plate is missing, our platform alerts the user before submitting the declaration to customs authorities.

This level of user-friendliness means that even individuals with minimal customs knowledge, such as warehouse staff, can effortlessly handle shipping tasks. We've embedded intelligence into our applications, minimising the need for extensive expertise within organisations. In fact, some of our customers rely on just one dedicated customs expert, thanks to our intuitive platform.

Furthermore, for larger clients seeking additional support, we offer support services to address any customs-related issues that may arise. This proactive approach ensures smooth operations and minimises disruptions caused by customs errors. As a result, over 98.5% of our customers' shipments—amounting to hundreds of thousands per month—flow seamlessly through our system without human intervention.

This contrasts starkly with traditional methods, where traders often face delays and uncertainties due to manual processes and reliance on third-party intermediaries. Our platform revolutionises this landscape, offering a streamlined, fully automated solution that saves time and reduces administrative burdens.

Many organisations, regardless of size, are recognising the inefficiencies of traditional customs processes and are eager to modernise. Customs remains one of the few areas within the supply chain that hasn't undergone full digitisation, presenting a significant opportunity for improvement. By embracing a digital-first approach, we're leading the charge towards a more efficient and transparent customs ecosystem.

Could you tell us about your latest products and their benefits?

We have our core platform, which is geared towards smart handling of customs procedures across various countries. Currently, we cover Western Europe, with plans to expand to non-European countries in the near future. This expansion is crucial for our major customers who also ship goods overseas and require assistance with self-filing.

Recently, we launched an excise module. Excise duties, compared to customs duties, constitute a significant portion of tax revenue. However, excise processes have been less automated and digitised, creating challenges for affected companies. Instead of relying on spreadsheet-based systems, we've developed a fully automated platform. This platform not only facilitates self-filing but also handles the entire EMCS (Excise Movement and Control System) flow seamlessly. For example, when shipping single malt whisky from the UK to the Netherlands, our system manages both the export declaration to HMRC and the accompanying EMCS message in Europe.

Additionally, we now offer a tax warehouse feature. Similar to a customs warehouse, a tax or excise warehouse allows companies to defer excise duties by storing goods in a designated facility. This offering is particularly exciting for us as we operate in regions with a high concentration of breweries and distilleries, enabling us to automate excise flows for these companies.

Another newly launched product is our AI-driven classification engine. Classification codes are essential for declaring goods during trade. However, the sheer complexity and constant updates in classification codes pose challenges for traders. Our AI assistant simplifies this process by providing accurate classification suggestions based on product descriptions. While it doesn't replace specialists entirely, it significantly reduces the time and effort required to determine the correct classification code. This tool is invaluable for traders dealing with a wide range of products and operating across multiple countries.

These new offerings demonstrate our commitment to innovation and addressing the evolving needs of our customers. While there are other classification platforms on the market, ours utilises the latest technology, including advanced language models, to deliver superior accuracy and performance.

In summary, our excise module and classification engine are significant additions to our platform, offering streamlined solutions for complex customs and trade processes. We have several other developments in the pipeline, but for now, these innovations mark important milestones in our journey towards modernising customs management.

How does C4T ensure data security and privacy in its digital solutions?

We are EU compliant. We operate on Microsoft Azure, a highly secure and GDPR-compliant cloud solution. This ensures that our data is stored in a hyper-secure environment, unlike traditional data centres. With administrative rights, you have access only to your own data, ensuring its safety and privacy. Leveraging world-class technology like Microsoft Azure has enabled us to focus on providing top-notch solutions without having to worry extensively about data security. Our platform, CAS, is a native Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, purpose-built with security in mind from the outset. Unlike legacy tools that may have a web interface but rely on outdated backend systems, we utilise the latest cloud infrastructure from Microsoft Azure, offering unparalleled security and reliability. This not only meets the stringent requirements of large consumer goods and automotive clients but also instils trust in all our users, signalling that their data is in safe hands.

Finally, what are your predictions for how customs management will develop, and how does C4T intend to remain competitive?

There are several dimensions to consider in the evolution of customs management. Firstly, finance and trade compliance are increasingly seeking integrated platforms to access comprehensive data easily. Customs authorities worldwide are also embracing digitalisation, expecting traders to have their affairs in order. This trend towards digitisation and automation will continue as new legislation further pushes for modernisation.

Secondly, supply chain management is becoming increasingly critical in customs management. Recent events like the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit have highlighted the vulnerability of supply chains to disruptions. Professionals in this field now demand greater visibility and control over their goods' movements to mitigate risks effectively.

Looking ahead, there is a generational shift in customs management, with experienced professionals retiring and a new generation stepping up. This new breed of customs professionals seeks to move beyond repetitive tasks towards optimising supply chain and duty management. To support this transition, access to accurate and real-time information is crucial for compliance and strategic decision-making.

Overall, there is a growing demand for digital solutions that offer enhanced visibility and control in customs management. C4T is well-positioned to meet this demand, as evidenced by the increased interest post-Brexit. Our platform provides the tools necessary for organisations to adapt to changing trade dynamics, optimise their supply chains, and ensure compliance in an increasingly digital world.

Do you want to know more about CAS, our customs management solution? Visit our website.

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