A thriller: European customs management
Happy ending?

A thriller: European customs management

Who said that international customs management has to be boring? We’re going to tell you a true story to illustrate that many cases have enough exciting material for a genuine thriller.

Our story is actually representative of many others. The point is to highlight current problems in European customs management. But don’t worry: Our story has a happy ending – and this worst-case scenario, at least, turns into a best-case scenario. Let's start:

The protagonist

Every story needs one: the protagonist, the “hero” that we can identify with. Even though our customs thriller is based on actual events, we have changed the name of our star: Universal Chemicals (any similarity to real companies is purely coincidental) is a global market leader in the production of environmentally friendly surface coatings. And as you would expect from a hero, he (or rather “it” – the company) is successful and well liked. Thousands of its customers in the automotive, aerospace, consumer electronics, and various other industries around the world expect fast, on-time delivery.

The plot

Things are generally going well: Universal Chemicals has offices in 50 countries. A standardized ERP system and the shipping solution used at many sites work hand in hand. So everything’s peachy, right? No, of course not – that wouldn’t make a very interesting story! The catch (which was actually there all along): Universal Chemicals works with different solutions providers in the various countries, since its shipments to customers around the world are sent out from multiple production facilities and the specific customs regulations of each country need to be taken into account. In other words: The German and Dutch offices of Universal Chemicals do not use the same customs solution. Uh-oh …!

The antagonist

Enter the “villain” of our story: non-uniform customs management. This treacherous foe makes life difficult for Universal Chemicals, spreading confusion and paralyzing internal processes at its international offices. What is especially insidious about the antagonist is that it cannot be contained or defeated overnight.

And it’s not only antagonizing our hero, it’s also standing in the way of more or less ALL businesses that need to manage customs from multiple sites in Europe. And who is always at fault in the end? That’s right: “the system” that produces such monsters (“system” in this case being the European customs system and the lack of any centralized management). That’s why it won’t help to call on the authorities. “That’s not fair,” shouts the sympathetic reader. A sense of unease spreads.

The turning point

So what do you do when the system itself is blocking the solution? Try to imagine how a genuine hero would handle this situation. Exactly: He would ignore the institutions and bravely seek his own path to stop the evil spreading across international borders. In the case of Universal Chemicals, a (software) solution that promised uniform customs management was deployed. Easier said than done, however: The details of what the national customs authorities require from businesses vary throughout the European Union. That’s why you can’t assume that an IT provider knows how to manage customs in multiple countries.

Happy ending: Customs management with AEB

But Universal Chemicals prevails against all odds, blazing its own path with its sidekick AEB. Together they work on a solution – starting with the key Dutch offices. Their courage pays off: After six months, the Dutch offices of Universal Chemicals go live with solutions from AEB's International Customs Integration (ICI), automating their customs processes. And before you know it, non-uniform customs management has been vanquished. A happy ending! You could even say: ALL’s well that ends well!

That’s because no modifications of the ERP system were necessary. All required shipping data is transmitted to the transport management system. The electronic messaging with the Dutch e-customs system works. And support and maintenance are streamlined, since the transport and customs management systems come from a single source. Now, nothing more stands in the way of an expansion to other countries, because the solution already accommodates the major international markets with direct filing solutions. 

And even better: If Universal Chemicals decides to step into markets for which they prefer not to self-manage their customs declarations, the AEB platform also offers a customs broker network to easily and seamlessly connect to customs agents for outsourced customs declaration. 

Author’s note: Universal Chemicals can put its fight against non-uniform customs management behind it for good, because AEB's customs management platform is automatically updated as soon as new customs regulations come along. And the countries both for self-filing and customs broker collaboration are added all the time. But as you well know: Evil is never truly conquered. Non-uniform customs management continues to wreak havoc around the corner with the next company. So stay tuned!

Global Customs Management with AEB

AEB software supports the smooth flow of goods across borders while generating savings. Learn more about solutions for customs processes including import, export, origin and preferences, broker integration, supplier's declarations, and product classification. In the cloud or integrated in your ERP.