For the past decade, digital transformation has been the core mandate for businesses across industries. Tedious manual processes are getting digitized to optimize operations, save costs, and leverage resources for more value-added, strategic tasks.
The export sector, with its huge stack of documents that need to be processed per shipment, is in dire need of a similar transformation. So if you are handling the exports, and wondering how to make it all faster and easier to manage while delivering significant operational savings, this blog is just what you need.
Challenges with Current Manual Documentation Process
Managing documentation for a huge number of export shipments can become really complex, really fast. Keeping track of all documents, permits, and approvals, along with properly filling them out across different portals can surely be overwhelming for anyone.
Some of the most common challenges with manual handling of export documentation are:
Takes too much time
If you look at the figures, export documentation teams are expected to accurately process as high as 40 documents per shipment. This includes 200 data elements, 30 of which needs to be repeated 30 times in various documents, and 60-70% data are retyped at least 30 times! Different certificates need to be filed in different portals, the same information needs to be copy-pasted across multiple forms, and even the most experienced teams need at least 4 hours to complete documentation for each shipment.
On top of all this, data is stored across different places and hunting it down when you need it just adds to the time. Even with the most efficient and organised documentation officers, manually completing documentation is time consuming, and doesn’t allow you to scale operations without hiring more people.
Is prone to error
All manual processes are prone to error, and when your team is handling an overwhelming number of documents and bound by repetitive manual processes, the chances of mistakes happening are quite high.
Some common scenarios which are prone to manual errors:
- Filling out the wrong product/consignment value on the commercial invoice
- Mislabeling of products or wrong payment information
- Incorrect use of HS/HTS codes or Schedule B codes included with consignment.
- Mishappenings in the know-how of “dangerous goods” form properly
- Change in the commercial invoice on any step of the import/export process
- Missing the filing deadline for a certain forms or not receiving approvals on time
But the nature of exports is such that even a minor error can cause huge financial losses. Shipments reaching the wrong address, delays due to missed filing or approvals, or fines due to incorrect documentation can total up to significant annual costs that could have been completely avoided.
Is difficult to track
With the sheer volume of documents involved, you can’t really find anything easily. Depending upon how your documentation operations are structured, different documents can be handled by different people. Or maybe each kind of export good has a dedicated person to handle its shipment. Whatever the case, the end result is a lack of unified data or any visibility into the export process.
As an export manager, this makes it difficult for you to have an informed overview of the export operations at given point in time.
- Which shipments are going out, what stage is a particular shipment at, when is a shipment likely to reach?
- Why was a particular shipment delayed, where did the documentation go wrong?
Yes, there might be members on your documentation team who know the answers, but what happens when they are not available? You cannot really be in control of the export documentation operations, let alone optimise them, if you cannot track it independently.
How a Cloud-based Software Can Help Overcome these Challenges
Using a cloud-based software for export documentation process can significantly optimise your operations. It eliminates a lot of the elements that cost you time and money, making the whole process most simple, fast, and cost-effective.
1. Accurate Export Documentation
A cloud-based software drastically reduces the chances of manual errors in your export documentation.
- Once you enter information into the system correctly, it’s just a matter of fetching it in all the required documents - there’s no copy-paste or repeated typing needed, so no errors made.The software ensures that the information is accurate and filled out on all the right places.
- The software also guides you to supply only the necessary information required to comply with shipping and customs regulations.
- It can flag any data inconsistencies is the documentation, saving you from costly fines and delays
2. Saves you Time
You can simplify your entire export documentation process with a cloud-based software and cut down on the time taken to process each shipment.
- Automate all repeated tasks and instantly fetch the right information to the right places
- Central repository of all data allows your team to quickly find what they are looking for
- Improved communication with certification authorities to track filings, approval timelines and more
And all this can cut down your documentation time from 4 hours to just 30 minutes per shipment.
3. Facilitates Easy Monitoring of Your Shipments
Cloud-based software allows you to keep track of your shipment by creating proper log-sheets for each activity. You can easily customize the checklist to fit into the process and generate different types of reports to monitor the key data elements.
Additionally, electronic software also allows you to store all your export documents at one centralized location and ensure that they meet the current export regulations.
How Does a Cloud-Based Export Documentation Software Work?
Cloud-based software that helps you with the export documentation process requires no installation on your premises. You can access the software and your data through any smartphone, laptop or tablet connected to the Internet, from anywhere.
All you need to do is Upload-Fill-Train and your documentation process is automated for your business growth
- Upload: You just have to upload all your export-related documents on the cloud-based software that acts as a centralized server.
- Fill: Next, you have to fill the templates which will generate documents like certificate of origin, health/phytosanitary certificate, etc.
- Train: The more you do the first 2 steps, the more you will be self-trained or train your export team to reap the benefits of the software.
Software offerings like ImpexDocs have the standard UN layout format, and can help you manage documents like commercial invoice, packing lists, bank draft, proforma etc.
The software can manage the following category of certificates:
- Certificate of Australian Origin
- Certified Declaration of Origin
- TAFTA/KAFTA/JAEPA/AANZFTA/CHAFTA etc.
- Any other custom certification requirement
And interface with various certificate-issuing authorities like
- Department of Agriculture - to request a permit and health/phytosanitary certificate
- Customs Department - to obtain the export declaration number
- Chambers of Commerce - for procuring the certificates of origin
Adopting a cloud-based software for export documentation is a key business investment and could be crucial to optimizing operations and increasing profit margins. So it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Hope this blog helps you identify the challenges outlined here, at your organisation, and evaluate the benefits making the shift from manual to cloud-based processes.