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Automation vs. Manual Processes in Customs Declarations and Customs Management Software

Automation vs. Manual Processes in Customs Declarations and Customs Management Software

Striking the Right Balance

In the evolving landscape of global business, certain characteristics distinguish the highly successful from the rest. The most successful companies possess a forward-thinking mindset, constantly seeking opportunities for improvement and performance gains to maintain an edge over the competition. In today’s rapidly advancing world, one strategy that stands out among the arsenal of successful businesses is automation. 

For a business, often having the ability to automate whether completely or partially can reduce operational costs, improve performance significantly and often overlooked, free up time for employees within the business to take on tasks more suited to their skillset. 

So, just how would automation vs manual look and work within the dynamic landscape of international trade and particularly within the role of customs declarations?

Automation of customs declarations and compliance

Customs management software plays a pivotal role in ensuring smooth transactions and compliance. With the advent of technology, the debate between automation and manual processes in customs operations has become increasingly pertinent. 

Why Automation?

  • Increase productivity – When all is said and done, an application that can complete a task in the moment with little to no human intervention creates valuable time that can be used elsewhere. 
  • Reduce mistakes – Automating a process drives not only speed but accuracy, less mistakes allows for less time and resources fixing errors that create risk and costs to the business.
  • Compliance – Accurate processes drives compliance, this protects a business’s resources and reputation, allowing trust to be built between you and your customers.
  • Future Proof the Business – Anticipating what lies ahead with ever increasing changes in business practices and regulation allows a seamless integration on any future changes. 

Automation: Efficiency and Accuracy: Automation in customs operations offers significant advantages in terms of efficiency and accuracy. Automated systems can process large volumes of data rapidly, reducing the time and resources required for manual entry. Moreover, automation minimises the risk of human error, thereby enhancing the accuracy of customs declarations and regulatory compliance. By automating routine tasks and processes, customs management software can streamline operations, expedite clearance processes, and improve overall efficiency in international trade transactions.

However, despite its benefits, automation also presents challenges. The initial investment in technology infrastructure and software development can be substantial. Additionally, customising automated systems to meet the specific needs of individual clients or adapt to unique regulatory frameworks may pose challenges, particularly in highly specialised industries. Moreover, there is a risk of over-reliance on automated systems, potentially leading to a loss of flexibility and adaptability in addressing unforeseen circumstances or complex situations.

What do our customers say?

Automation is not for everyone, the timing must be right, and the costs understood whether its commercially viable to push ahead with automation or understand what can be achieved through a minimalised manual process. Typically, our customers are often keen to automate but through consultation there have been times it is not the right moment. Having access to functionality that can reduce time inefficient processes and build towards a phased goal of automation can often be the right outcome.

Why stay with a manual process?

Manual Processes: Flexibility and Adaptability: Manual processes offer a level of flexibility and adaptability that automation may struggle to replicate. Human operators can exercise judgment and discretion, particularly in ambiguous or complex scenarios where automated systems may fall short. Moreover, manual processes allow for greater customisation to meet the unique requirements of clients or respond to changes in regulations effectively. The human touch in customs operations fosters trust and confidence among clients, knowing that their needs are understood and addressed by experienced professionals.

  • Greater Understanding – This is the first time a process of this type has been brought into the business and wanting to learn the fundamentals first can often help build a better comprehension of how to overcome potential issues when they occur.
  • Direct Impact – Automation can take time to build into existing internal infrastructure, access through a manual procedure can quickly open up to the benefits of bringing a solution into the business. 
  • Structural changes – Initial manual access can often be beneficial when businesses are changing or plan to change critical structure like an ERP or WMS and don’t wish to integrate until completed.

However, manual processes are not without their drawbacks. They are inherently slower and more resource-intensive compared to automation, potentially leading to delays and inefficiencies in customs operations. Moreover, the reliance on human operators introduces the risk of human error, which can have serious consequences in terms of compliance and regulatory risk. Balancing the benefits of flexibility and adaptability with the need for efficiency and accuracy is crucial in delivering effective customs solutions.

Striking the Right Balance: The Hybrid Approach: In navigating the automation versus manual debate, a hybrid approach emerges as a pragmatic solution. By combining the strengths of both automation and manual intervention, customs operations can achieve optimised outcomes that prioritise efficiency, accuracy, flexibility, and adaptability. Automated systems can handle routine tasks and data processing, freeing up human operators to focus on more complex decision-making and exception handling. Meanwhile, human intervention remains essential for addressing unique client requirements, navigating regulatory nuances, and maintaining a personalised approach to customer service.

By harnessing the power of data analytics, customs management software can provide actionable insights to clients, empowering them to make informed decisions and optimise their supply chain operations.

Automation vs. Manual Processes in Customs Declarations: Leveraging Descartes Customs Management Software

Automation with Descartes Customs Management Software: Descartes Customs Management Software is at the forefront of automation in customs operations. Through its innovative approach, Descartes streamlines the customs declaration process by leveraging templates and automation tools. Templates serve as pre-configured frameworks that encapsulate essential data fields and regulatory requirements for specific types of shipments or commodities. These templates eliminate the need for repetitive data entry, saving time and minimising the risk of errors inherent in manual processes.

Furthermore, Descartes integrates automation tools that automate routine tasks such as data validation, classification, and document generation. By automating these tasks, Descartes ensures efficiency and accuracy in customs declarations, reducing the burden on human operators and expediting the clearance process. Moreover, Descartes’ automation capabilities enable real-time monitoring and alerts, ensuring proactive compliance with changing regulations and minimising the risk of delays or penalties.

Why Descartes Excels Over Manual Processes: Descartes Customs Management Software offers several advantages over manual processes, making it the preferred choice for businesses engaged in international trade:

  1. 1. Efficiency: Descartes’ automation capabilities significantly enhance efficiency by eliminating time-consuming manual tasks. With streamlined processes and automated workflows, businesses can expedite customs clearance and reduce lead times, enhancing overall operational efficiency.
  2. 2. Accuracy: Manual data entry is prone to errors, which can result in compliance issues and delays. Descartes’ automation tools ensure data accuracy through validation checks and standardisation, minimising the risk of errors and discrepancies in customs declarations.
  3. 3. Compliance: Compliance with ever-changing customs regulations is a complex challenge for businesses. Descartes’ software continuously updates its templates and automation rules to reflect the latest regulatory requirements, ensuring compliance and mitigating the risk of penalties or disruptions to supply chains.
  4. 4. Scalability: As businesses expand their global footprint, the volume and complexity of customs declarations increase. Descartes’ scalable solution can handle large volumes of transactions seamlessly, accommodating growth without compromising efficiency or accuracy.
  5. 5. Cost-Effectiveness: While initial investment in Descartes’ software may be required, the long-term cost savings far outweigh the expenses associated with manual processes. By reducing labour costs, minimising errors, and optimising customs operations, Descartes delivers significant cost savings and ROI for businesses.

In conclusion, Descartes Customs Management Software represents a paradigm shift in customs operations, offering a superior alternative to manual processes. By harnessing the power of templates and automation, Descartes streamlines customs declarations, enhances efficiency, ensures accuracy, and facilitates compliance with regulations. Businesses that embrace Descartes’ innovative solution can gain a competitive edge in the global marketplace, driving growth, and profitability while mitigating risks associated with manual processes.

Crucially if a platform works for your business offering built in features allowing opportunities to impact the business quickly and reduce time and cost it can be seen as the preferred choice before moving to full automation. The ability to bring in a new process via a phased approach has its benefits and can help a business transition when the time is right.

By combining innovative technology, powerful trade intelligence and the reach of our network, Descartes deliver the industry’s most complete offering of cloud-based logistics and supply chain management solutions. Ready to see the Descartes Customs & Compliance solution in action. Schedule a no-obligation demonstration today. or visit