March 2005 | Commentary | 3PL Line

5 Best Practices to Boost Import Efficiency

Tags: 3PL

In today's heightened security environment, where cargo entering the United States faces ever-increasing scrutiny, importers must tackle many challenges to keep goods flowing through international trade.

The complexity of moving commerce in a safe, quick, efficient, and compliant manner is frequently overlooked. The processes behind importing often cause confusion and frustration for all parties involved, resulting in costly delays at international borders.

It is imperative for companies to stay on top of new security developments as they arise; failing to do so can mean a loss of valuable time, revenue, and, ultimately, customers. Today's international trade world, where change occurs daily, is certainly not "business as usual."

Here are five importing best practices for increasing efficiency when moving goods across borders.

1. Periodically review and analyze all import data to look for supply chain opportunities. Using an analytical process, importers can look for ways to reduce duties by sourcing in countries subject to favorable free-trade agreements such as NAFTA. Importers also should analyze transportation modes to make sure requirements are being met. Identifying ways to reduce costs in the supply chain is a competitive advantage.

2. For non-restricted goods, work with a customs broker to create a paperless entry process that uses Electronic Data Interchange feeds. Managing information sent by multiple vendors can be a difficult task. Feeding all the necessary information through a customs broker, however, expedites entry processing and ensures accuracy.

It is essential to provider brokers with a database of imported items complete with item or part number, a detailed description of the item or product, and the appropriate Harmonized Tariff System United States classification number. Brokers use this information to make accurate classification declarations to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) on your behalf.

3. Centralize processing for nationwide entries using Remote Location Filing. This results in consistent processing regardless of port, offers a single point of contact for customer service, and mitigates compliance risks.

4. Conduct a compliance assessment to identify areas of possible risk. The assessment should focus on the same areas that a CBP assessment would concentrate on. Failure to comply with CBP is costly and can offer future ramifications for your company's supply chain, possibly triggering CBP to regularly conduct inspections of your company's shipments.

5. Join Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, which offers op­tion­al entrance in CBP's Importer Self-Assessment (ISA) program. Both programs will identify your company as a low-risk importer, which reduces customs exams, increases your paperless entry response from CBP, and speeds your product to market. Participating in ISA allows you to identify and correct errors instead of being subjected to the scrutiny of CBP audits, and being held liable for potential penalty actions.

Implementing best practices in your company's import program helps avoid unnecessary delays, keeps your supply chain running smoothly, and increases your efficiency in delivering goods to customers.

It is also a great opportunity to ensure that your company complies with CBP regulations, and to prepare for future changes in security measures and regulations.