As a logistics professional, you know all too well that all of the activities related to customs compliance are extremely important to get right... and that often means that they can also be terribly time-consuming. So many forms to fill, boxes to check. Tiny mistakes can cost you a lot. That’s where customs compliance software can help.

While specific business needs and Importer of Record (IOR) requirements will dictate the ideal technology solution for individual importers, there are general guidelines that apply across IOR operations — from freight forwarders to third-party logistics firms to customs brokers, warehouses, NVOCCs, and even self-fliers.

To find customs compliance ABI software that both meets current needs and delivers on emerging requirements, you should start with these four questions:

How are the current customs processes handled?

While it's often tempting for smaller firms that rarely import goods into the United States or deal with low-volume, low-complexity to handle customs compliance in-house, it doesn't take much for order volumes to ramp up and regulatory concerns to emerge. As a result, it's worth considering both your current need for a partner government agency (PGA) certified import processes and how they may evolve over time.

What features are essential for key processes?

Does your organization handle reconciliations? In-bonds? Do you handle eManifests as the IOR for multiple third parties? By identifying where current processes are working as intended and where existing frameworks can't keep up, it's possible to narrow your search for ABI software. Much like the move to the cloud, the goal here isn't finding a broad solution that offers more than you need and has a cost to match — instead, companies need to find ABI software that can be customized to both meet your current needs and improve ongoing operations.

What are the current — and expected — volumes of customs transactions across the organization?

How many import orders is your firm currently processing? What's the outlook for next month? Next year? While global markets are subject to ongoing fluctuation, reliable importers are never out of work; those able to navigate regulatory complexity are sought after by enterprises looking to move goods into the United States but that don't have the time or budget to handle complex compliance processes on their own.

Evaluating current and expected transaction volumes can help identify the best-fit ABI software for your organization. Ideally, look for a provider that can both handle current customs compliance concerns and scale up on-demand as volumes increase.

What level of support is required to ensure streamlined operations?

When it comes to support for customs compliance, companies must consider two broad areas: System and staff. System support is necessary when existing infrastructure or new software updates cause processes problems — as a result, it's critical to look for an ABI software vendor that provides both detailed documentation and ongoing technical support for its products.

For staff, meanwhile, it's essential to select a solution that's easy and intuitive to learn. Here's why: Front-line employees are familiar with current systems and processes and have a natural preference for what they've always done since it fits into their everyday workflow. Adding a new system can speed processes and reduce complexity — but only if staff can easily make the transition. If not, expect your ABI software to go largely unused.