Moving Cross-border Shipments

As your suppliers and customers become more geographically diverse, more of your supply chain and customer experience depends on moving shipments through Customs accurately and without delay.

1. Create a dashboard for incoming orders. A visual tracker of inbound shipments may help simplify the importing process. Tracking where orders and shipments are while in transit, and whether the required paperwork is in place, may help reduce delays. It also may help focus your team on a single objective—fixing problems that are not resolved on the dashboard.

2. Improve product classification accuracy. Classifying products with the correct codes is an important requirement; it not only determines the duty paid on the product, but also can impact whether there are clearance delays because of inaccurate information associated with your shipment. By accurately classifying your shipments, you can clear them faster to avoid delays.

3. Use correct valuation and markings. Two important issues in reducing delays associated with customs clearance are incorrect value declarations and insufficient/incorrect markings. Focus on both valuation and markings, especially when working with new products or suppliers. Making sure these are correct can help reduce shipping and clearance delays.

4. Set up alerts. Work with your service providers to set up automated email alerts when a shipment is delayed in transit, including at the border. It not only helps you resolve the issues right away, it also helps you know that everything else is flowing smoothly.

5. Score vendors on paperwork accuracy. Add paperwork accuracy as an element of your vendor scorecard, and make sure it has meaningful weight. A vendor that consistently causes shipping delays from incorrect paperwork can be costly and may not be the best overall provider.

7. Put outgoing paperwork on autopilot. Set up your shipping system and processes to print three copies of the commercial invoice, packing list, and any other needed documentation. Make sure the documents are firmly secured to the package, and, when possible, use digital invoice options.

6. Communicate with other departments. The day-to-day flow of your goods may be working seamlessly, but one-offs and new shipments can cause problems. Coordinate with new product development and other departments to make sure you’re ready for prototypes and any new product launches.

8. Stay informed on best practices. Subscribe to trade publications and attend professional conferences when possible. Learning from a network of colleagues in your industry can be helpful.

9. Focus on bright spots. While you focus most of your attention on problem shipments, don’t ignore the majority of shipments that arrive seamlessly and without issues. Celebrate those successes and use them as guidance on how to improve your supply chain.

10. Support your company’s growth in new markets. It can feel daunting when you get orders from countries you’ve never shipped to before. Reach out to your customs brokerage and transportation providers who can walk you through the shipping requirements. Not only will you be ready for the next order from that country, but it may also help grow revenue for your company.

Source: Alex Fuller, customs brokerage manager, UPS

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